A new, single-disc compilation from Dead Can Dance is not exactly a stop-the-presses moment, but Memento is nonetheless an interesting document. While 1991's A Passage in Time was a strong representation of the duo's earlier, more esoteric and darker material (as well as the first DCD album to be domestically available in the U.S.), this collection is squarely focused on the later, more song-based material that emerged during their tenure on 4AD/Warner Bros. in the mid-'90s. (The 2003 two-disc set Wake does a good job at presenting a complete picture.)
It was that relatively high-profile era that exposed DCD to a surprisingly wide cross-section of music fans: goth kids down with Lisa Gerrard's imposing yet ethereal ambience; sandal-wearing NPR nuts digging Brendan Perry's Leonard Cohen fixation; world-music nerds attracted by the duo's vaguely pan-global sound. More importantly, the international tours they undertook managed to wash away years of misclassification as morbid melodramatics and establish their bona fides as a thoroughly impressive live act.
The two parted ways in late 1998. Gerrard found surprising success as a film score composer (Whale Rider, Gladiator and, most recently, the Native American-inspired A Thousand Roads) while Perry was apparently content to remain locked up in the old Irish church he calls home. (He only released one solo album, 1999's Eye of the Hunter.)
It's not hard to figure out who called whom with the idea of a reunion, but even though it's only been seven years since they split, it's truly good news that Dead Can Dance is back together and focused primarily on touring. With a very limited edition of live CDs (500 per show) being produced from the shows (available at www.dcddiscs.com), it's even better.
The discs are produced by the same company that handled the Pixies reunion tour, and the DCD series is up to the same high standards of audio fidelity and impressive packaging. Yet none of that would matter if the shows themselves weren't worthwhile; judging from the European shows I've heard in the series, the weird, divergent chemistry that made DCD a unique entity is still in place, and the new material they're presenting is enticingly different.