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Aion ()

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Their reputation growing by leaps and bounds, including a huge underground following in the U.S. -- they were able to tour there even without one domestic release available, while at one point Dead Can Dance was the biggest selling band in 4AD's history -- Perry and Gerrard once again did the business with Aion. Its cover taken from Bosch, Aion's medievalism was worn more openly than ever before, with songs adapted from centuries-old material. The beautiful, entrancing "Saltarello," with lead performance by what sounds like an old wind instrument, comes from an Italian dance of the 14th century, while the mysterious moods of "The Song of the Sibyl" derive from 16th-century Catalonia. The group's command of not merely recording possibilities -- witness the exquisite layering of vocals on the opening "The Arrival and the Reunion" -- but of musical traditions, instruments, and more from around the world was arguably never stronger. Gerrard's vocals in particular have an even stronger, richer feeling than before, not merely able to command with its power but softly calm and seduce. Perry, meanwhile, is no less compelling, his ever-strong, wonderful voice perfectly suited to his choice of material. The standout track is "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" with lyrics from a Spanish poet. The musical combination of softly plucked guitar and buried organ drone is striking enough, swathed in reverb, but when Perry steps in with his vocals, matched by more sparkling keyboards, the result is yet another high point for a band laden with them. Guest performers once again assist throughout, including Perry's brother Robert on haunting, quite non-clichéd bagpipes for "As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins" and singer David Navarro Sust, returning again to contribute some fine backing work. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi Hide synopsis

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