Brendan Perry

Ark

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Brendan Perry's 1999 album, Eye of the Hunter, was the meant to showcase his work as a songwriter. It was chock-full of acoustic guitar-based tunes, underscored gently by sparse orchestral and percussion arrangements. It seemed that he was deliberately trying to distance himself from his work with Lisa Gerrard in Dead Can Dance. Time has a way of shifting perspectives, however. Since then, DCD reunited for a wildly successful tour. So successful, in fact, that Perry reported on his website in 2011 (in preparation for the American release of this 2010 offering) that the pair had planned a new album and tour. 11 years after Eye of the Hunter, Ark shifts gears again, and feels like a preparatory move toward DCD's forte. It's a deep, dark, moody, and elegiac set, on which Perry performs everything, and uses electronics effectively and extensively. The set opener, "Babylon," employs a liberal use of synthesized brass and strings in a near-pastoral fanfare before heavy percussion -- with enormous gongs -- announce Perry's vocal. His confidence narrates with controlled prowess. His use of yang-qin is back, as are the various reed instruments in his global collection. The song addresses both environmental change as well as personal transformation; it is majestic. "Bogus Man," with its anger at politicians who pretend to be model citizens while leading the lives of warmongers, is introduced by sinister, trip-hop electronic pulses and percussion loops. Samples of a female backing chorus -- in full Gregorian mode -- contrast this, but ultimately add to the track's menace. Though Perry never has to raise his voice, the anger comes through directly in lyric and delivery. Interestingly, the use of keyboards and beats in "Winerspun" are actually offset by his gentle, vulnerable, organic vocal. It's a broken love song about the end of a relationship that contains regret, pathos, and defeat, despite the will of those involved to continue. Perry is absolutely soulful in his delivery. Other standouts include the strained, politically tense slowness of "This Boy," the sequencer-heavy "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," and the curiously, disquieting single "Utopia," where rhythms and textures (the liberal use of a synthetic harpsichord) build to a staggering crescendo that is kept in check only by the authority in Perry's vocal. DCD fans will no doubt delight in this offering, which brings Perry back onto familiar -- if wildly creative -- ground.

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