Lisa Gerrard staying busy with ‘Burn,’ preparing to tour

Dead Can Dance stops in SF in October


Fans of Dead Can Dance diva Lisa Gerrard fans can rejoice. In May, the singer with a seraphic voice released “Burn,” a seven-track collaboration with composer and DCD keyboardist Jules Maxwell. She also has a tour schedule with an Oct. 3 stop in The City; she and bandmate Brendan Perry will be performing one of their immaculately-lit, sonically-precise Dead Can Dance concerts at the Masonic on Nob Hill.

Phoning from her native Australia to discuss “Burn,” Gerrard herself seemed surprised that she and British-based multi-instrumentalist Perry would be on tour again, to promote their 2018 Greek-mythology-inspired album “Dionysus.”

“At first, we were just talking about it,” says Gerrard. “But hey, now we’ve actually booked the dates, and you can go online and see.”

The Bay Area appeals to Gerrard’s aesthetics. “I always go to Chinatown when I’m there,” she says. “And there’s this fantastic museum where they have shark eggs, and you can actually see the little shark inside the egg. I can’t recall the name of the place, but I just love San Francisco.”

She had seen news reports on last year’s California wildfires, and how they had turned Bay Area skies to “Total Recall” red. Australia had experienced much worse, she said, during its 2019-20 bushfire devastation that killed 33 people, destroyed 3,094 homes, and claimed the lives of billions of animals.

It was part of what prompted her recent move from the Snowy Mountains to the foothills of her country’s Great Dividing Range, near a lake that’s home to kangaroos, wallabies, guinea fowl and several species of frogs, whose vocal rhythms inspire her. “The weather’s just gone crazy,” she says.

At 60, Gerrard has become one of modern music’s most popular collaborators. The trend started four decades ago with 4AD flagship duo Dead Can Dance, when she and Perry began writing together while sharing a house in Melbourne.

She went on to work with Hans Zimmer, Patrick Cassidy, Klaus Schulze, Pieter Bourke and on film scores before launching a four-album solo career.

In the past three years, she cut Dead Can Dance’s “Dionysus” and the Grammy-nominated “Hiraeth” with percussionist David Kuckhermann; sang in the native language of two Polish composers, Henryk Gorecki for “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” concerts and on Zbigniew Preisner’s “Melodies of Youth” anthology; and teamed up with the France-rooted Maxwell to write and sing on “BooCheeMish,” the 2018 album from Les Mystere des Voix Bulgares, or The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices choir.

After the Voix women selected only three of their dozen offerings, Maxwell decided to rescue and retool the rest for “Burn.”

“When you work with the Bulgarians, you can’t sing in Western scales. You have to sing in quarter tones and it’s a completely different philosophy,” says the Irish-descended Gerrard, who was brought up listening to Greek music in her immigrant-rich Melbourne neighborhood (which dovetails nicely into the Mediterranean textures and instruments that Perry favors on “Dionysus” and his new solo disc of Greek folk songs).

“So there were all these voices and harmonies, these beautiful things that were supposed to be for the Bulgarians, and I thought, ‘Well, those will just disappear.’ But Jules went back later and said, ‘No, I’m going to do something with these.’ And God bless him for doing that. It turned out great.”

“Burn” — which also is being issued June 1 as an NFT, or non-fungible token, one of commercial music’s first — swoops daringly from the operatic “Orion (The Weary Huntsman)” to the ectoplasmic “Deshta (Forever)” and the scenic title track “Noyalain (Burn),” which feels like a desert caravan just leaving a verdant oasis.

Maxwell’s instrumentation is appropriately cinematic, but Gerrard’s three-octave contralto is what really sets the images flickering, and what keeps her in demand for cinematic soundtracks and theme songs including for the upcoming movies “Bonded” and “Man of God.”

At the Masonic, fans shouldn’t expect new Gerrard/Perry material. With Dead Can Dance now a trans-Atlantic unit, the group doesn’t work the way it once did in Melbourne.

“I don’t think Brendan and I have done a proper album together since (2012’s) ‘Anastasis’ where he had already written all the music, and I just went in and did some singing,” says Gerrard, adding, “And that’s not a Dead Can Dance album. We should really be writing together, you know? Because if you’re not together, you can’t say, ‘OK, let’s spend the next month writing an album.’ It’s just not going to work like that.”

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