Although they released their self-titled debut album in 1984, it was 1986's SPLEEN AND IDEAL which brought Dead Can Dance, the duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, into their distinctive style. The debut consisted of guitar-heavy 80s-mood pieces, but in SPLEEN AND IDEAL Lisa and Brendan make their first experiment in classical structures and unique songs.
The album opens with three songs centered around Lisa's voice over orchestral instruments, "De Profundis," "Ascension," and "Circumradiant Dawn." Then, Brendan Perry provides the first of his deeply philosophical songs in "The Cardinal Sin." The fifth track, "Mesmerism," features the last English lyrics Lisa ever sang with Dead Can Dance with her yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) accompaniment over a drum machine. "Enigma of the Absolute" is perhaps Perry's most lyrically perfect song. "Advent" is another Perry track, that features the most rock-like structure on the album. "Avatar" is Lisa's final contribution to the album, an Oriental trip through drums and yangqin that climaxes with a frenzy of Lisa's glossolalia. Finally, the album closes with "Indoctrination," which sums up well Perry's world-view during the early part of Dead Can Dance's career.
SPLEEN AND IDEAL is another one of the few albums that I own which is so consistent that I cannot name a bad track. It is one of Dead Can Dance's finest efforts, and definitely should be one of the first albums you pick up by this superbly talented duo.