Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy - Immortal Memory

Music Reviews Lisa Gerrard
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Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy - Immortal Memory

Listening to Lisa Gerrard sing is a lot like watching actress Cate Blanchett sweep through the film Elizabeth—it’s a stunning, flawless performance, alive with the trappings of royalty and tinged with the aura of bygone times. Try as you might, you just can’t fault it. Gerrard never missed a spooky sepulchral note with her former combo Dead Can Dance, and her recent soundtrack work on Gladiator and Whale Rider (she’s currently scoring Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion, as well) conjure up so many flickering visions they’re probably best listened to in complete dark—your pitch-black living room with perhaps a solitary candle burning. Gerrard is truly that dramatic.

From her base in the Australian outback, this sonic surrealist—with Irish classical composer Patrick Cassidy—has penned Immortal Memory, her first solo album in six years. Sung in Gaelic, Aramaic and various vocal intonations, the set is the equivalent of a young Queen Elizabeth, walking with preternatural grace and majesty into her own cutthroat-peopled ball. With a strong, confident heart beating just beneath the surface of that corseted gown. When she invokes a higher power in “Maranatha (Come Lord),” you can almost picture God cocking His ear up in heaven and gasping ‘Damn! What the hell was that spooky noise? I’d better get down to Earth quick!’ Similarly, when Gerrard evokes Milton in the lengthy processional “Paradise Lost,” you feel like you’re descending right down into Hades alongside her, like some lesser demon on a busman’s holiday.

And when Gerrard really gets down to ornamental business, you can almost feel the centuries-old dust rising up from the freshly opened catacombs. Backed by nothing save Gothic keyboard/orchestral arrangements, she morphs her “Elegy” into an ancient Christmas carol, and transmogrifies “Sailing To Byzantium” into some otherworldly captain’s log. All without murmuring one word of recognizable English. Some folks might find this a bit off-putting, a bit difficult to grasp. These are the same type of listeners who shift uneasily in their seat at the opera, no doubt—the kind Gerrard’s music simply was not meant for. But for those who comprehend her elegiac genius, any new recording is a Godsend, manna from Olympian high. Cate Blanchett fans most likely feel the exact same way about their on-screen idol.