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Music Review: Lisa Gerrard – The Mirror Pool

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When Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance released The Mirror Pool in 1995, it was not even available on vinyl. Thank goodness for the resurgence of the format 15 years later, because the depth of sound inherent in the music is served in a manner that the original CD could never duplicate. Over the course of two 180-gram virgin vinyl LPs, her solo debut has never sounded better. The depth of the arrangements is stunning, and her vocal abilities are spellbinding.

The Mirror Pool was the culmination of work she had been accumulating for a number of years. Clocking in at nearly seventy minutes, The Mirror Pool looked like a clean break from her Dead Can Dance partner Brendan Perry. While that was not actually the case, as the duo released their final DCD album Spiritchaser the following year, The Mirror Pool did signify a major departure for Gerrard.

The first four songs on The Mirror Pool were recorded with Australia‘s Victorian Philharmonic. The lush sound of the orchestra, in conjunction with her brilliant vocals is a marvelous combination. As anyone who is familiar with Dead Can Dance knows, Lisa Gerrard does not really sing, but emotes in a language all her own. She describes the results as, “The language I was born with.”

In any event, the sounds she evokes fit the music like a glove, and only add to the mystery inherent in each song. “Violina: The Last Embrace” opens the record, and it is a gorgeous introduction. The sweeping orchestral arrangement draws the listener in immediately, and Gerrard’s voice sounds almost Gregorian in it’s chant-like cadences.

“Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow” closes this initial suite, and brings to mind the glorious “Silence, Sea And Sky/Perfume Garden” from the criminally under-appreciated Chameleons. I doubt that this was intentional, but then again, she always showed impeccable taste.

Moving into the main body of The Mirror Pool, we see Lisa exploring a very deep interest in the music of the Middle East. This was foreshadowed with the Philharmonic on “Persian Love Song: The Silver Gun,” which is a traditional Iranian work, arranged by Gerrard. But originals such as “Glorafin,” “Werd,” and “Celon,” mark the artist as 1995’s true Bedouin Babe.

The whole thing with Dead Can Dance was their earnest pretentiousness. Lisa Gerrard lives up to this legacy with tracks such as “The Rite.” The song was pulled from her unpublished operetta of Oedipus Rex. There is also a heavy Nico influence throughout the album, most especially on the closing “Gloradin.”

In interviews at the time of release, Lisa explained that the songs had been written over the course of the previous decade, but simply did not fit on any Dead Can Dance recordings. In many ways the “group” had run its course by the time this collection was released. But she would find a second career as a composer of film scores. In fact, three of The Mirror Pool’s songs would find a home on the soundtrack to Heat (1995), which kick-started this next phase in a definitive way. An Academy Award nomination was to follow in 2000 for her work with Hans Zimmer on Gladiator.

The Mirror Pool is the first and best of Lisa’s solo efforts. In many ways it does sound like the soundtrack to a non-existent movie. Record label 4AD has always been known for their extravagant packaging, and this limited vinyl edition is no exception. With a deluxe gatefold sleeve filled with incredible graphics, the presentation alone is a work of art. Thankfully, the music contained inside lives up to all expectations. The Mirror Pool is the perfect record to test out that new turntable you may have just gotten.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • http://emm-media.blogspot.com/ Emm

    I think “Sanvean” is officially the most played song in my collection. I just used to play it over and over again but strangely enough did not like much of the rest of this album. This is a good review though and definitely makes me want to go take another listen.