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The Silver Tree

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Album Review

One listen to Lisa Gerrard's The Silver Tree (originally available only digitally, then as an Australia-only import, and finally, as a U.S. release) is enough to convince anybody — who isn't already convinced — that there's a very specific reason she has been courted by directors to compose soundtracks. There are 13 tracks here full of wispy ambient soundscapes, on top of which the former Dead Can Dance vocalist places her almost otherworldly gift of a voice. Sung nearly as prayers or meditative mantras, Gerrard employs monosyllabic glimpses of other languages — and occasionally English — to create her own tapestry of dreams. Some may be tempted to call this "new age" music, but it's so much more melancholy than much of what passes for that trash, and it's nearly sacred in its approach to articulation, creating the feeling in places ("Come Tenderness," "The Sea Whisperer," and "Abwoon," to name a few) that she is actually singing inside a cathedral. In other places, such as "Wandering Star" and "Serenity," her voice offers a drone approach that is as subtle — yet powerful — as her instrumentation. In "Sword of the Samurai," the dissonance of both the sonic wash and her rumbling contralto creates tension and a near frightful intensity. This track is sheer darkness, without even the presence of a glimmer. The closer, a hidden bonus cut, is a curious offering, in that it is the only thing here that contains rhythm, and as a result feels almost cheesy. Slowly pulsing drum loops and synth strings (which almost sound like the opening of Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love") open up a space where Gerrard appears as if from the ether to allow the instrumentation to swirl around her as she moans and drones so far down in the mix that she is almost incoherent. It does serve to bring listeners back into the present realm, but it's a curious choice nonetheless. Gerrard's fans will find this irresistible, despite its lack of drama, and ambient music fans will no doubt appreciate its various textures, dimensions, and closely knit sonics. Yes, it is beautiful, and spiritual, and moving in places, but it is secretive, mysterious, and engaging on the aural level as a text as well.


Born: 12 April 1961 in Australia

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In collaboration with Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard is half of the duo Dead Can Dance, which started releasing arty goth rock on the 4AD label in the mid-'80s. Gerrard began her solo career with the 1995 release The Mirror Pool, which contained a lot of work that wouldn't fit comfortably into the DCD oeuvre. Combining these fragments with music that she composed and arranged digitally before reconfiguring them into scores that could be performed, it also draws on a composition by Handel and traditional...
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