This was a birthday present (well, bought with birthday money, but it amounts to the same thing). I'm a huge fan of Lisa Gerrard, as I've mentioned before, so I was keen to get her new album with Patrick Cassidy. It's a very spiritual album, with many of the tracks taking their lyrics or theme from religious works. There's a version of the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic ('Abwoon'), a prayer carved into the choir stalls of the Church of San Damiano in Assisi ('Psallit in Aure Dei'), and the feel of the whole album is reflective and reverential. For an atheist/agnostic, I'm strangely drawn to religious music of all denominations. I might not share the Faith, but I'm drawn to the passion (with a small 'p') and serenity embodied in religious music.
I wasn't too sure about the synthesised strings on these tracks to begin. One of the things that I always liked about Lisa Gerrard's music and that of Dead Can Dance was the fact that they used a lot of real (by which I mean analogue) instruments. However, it does improve with repeated listenings, and the similarity of the orchestration between the tracks gives the album a very integrated feel — a bit like an opera or a choral Mass.
'The Song of Amergin' is a striking and rather dramatic work, based on an ancient Gaelic poem. 'Maranatha' is a meditative chant based on the Aramaic phrase 'Come Lord' repeated over and over. A male voice (I think — it could be Lisa herself as she has such an astonishing vocal range) sings the phrase 'Maranatha' repeatedly as a mantra, and then Lisa's voice comes soaring in. Her style reminds me a bit of the Bulgarian womens' choir: wild but somehow celebratory and sorrowful all at the same time. If you imagine an androgynous angel who has witnessed all the joy and all the sorrow in the world, and is expressing it in song — that's sort of what she sounds like. This track made my hair stand on end. 'Abwoon' is quite gentle, and much less passionate, but very beautiful. 'Amergin's Invocation has an epic, filmic feel, and â€˜Sailing to Byzantium' is eerie.
The album is growing on me more as I listen to it. It's quite different from the Dead Can Dance albums, and even from Lisa Gerrard's previous solo albums, but it's an interesting departure.