I just got tickets to see the goth-world-neoclassical band Dead Can Dance in April 2020. This might be the seventh or eighth time since I’ve seen them. I’ve also seen solo tours from the Dead Can Dance members Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. Their somber, majestic and beautiful music has been a constant in my life. I discovered their music (and Cocteau Twins) around the same time I found the writing of Tanith Lee. Lee and DCD are forever linked in my mind.
They are indirectly responsible for my official coming out. I remember back in the late 80s debating whether or not to attend the local LGBT youth group. I was still in the closet (but not to myself). Joining a youth group was a big step for me. I had stood outside the place where the weekly meeting had been held a couple of times and been too chicken to go.
Then, one afternoon, I saw a guy wearing a homemade Dead Can Dance t-shirt. It was like a sign: I would be OK. I joined the youth group, and began the process of coming out.
Thank you, Brendan and Lisa.
I’m looking forward to seeing them live. This time, they’re delving deep into their catalog, performing older and rarely played tracks.
In addition to the reading on Oct 18 at the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division reading with Trebor Healey, I will also be reading for the Enclave series held at the actor Alan Cumming’s cabaret spot on Oct 20. The event now has an official poster.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was a fan of ‘goth’ music, particularly the brand of melancholic, elegant and often female-centered ‘etherealwave.’ I adored the music of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil—the whole 4AD label aesthetic of refined darkness. It was (and still is) a rarefied sound, full of poetic abstraction and shrouded in mystery. Azam Ali’s new album, Phantoms, recalls this dark and dreamy sound, though it’s filtered through the prism of darkwave, electronica and trip hop.
I’ve been following Ali’s music from the beginning of her career. She started out in the World/New Age duo Vas, where she put her own spin on glossolalia-styled vocalizations, a technique that Lisa Gerrard and Elizabeth Fraser mastered. Her next band Niyaz crafted elaborate electronic soundscapes using mystical Sufi poetry as lyrics. She also released an album of interpretations of sacred music (Portals of Grace), an album of Persian lullabies (From Night to the Edge of the Day) and was a member of the dark rock band Roseland (!) Ali’s voice is a beautiful instrument, a supple alto that can soar effortlessly into crystalline soprano heights. Her singing blends Persian, Indian and classical Western styles in a way that reminds me of the work of Sheila Chandra. An undercurrent of gothic melancholia runs through most of her work, even the more ‘world’ music pieces.
This gothic strain is front-and-center on Phantoms. (There’s even a cover of a Cocteau Twins song, “Shallow Then Halo,” from their gothiest first album Garlands). Ali’s lyrics are full of images of bleakness and regret, when you can understand them. Ali’s singing and enunciation treats English words as onomatopoetic devices, and she seems to be more interested in their phonemic qualities. Her use of her voice as an instrument really highlights the sleek electronic settings of the songs, which Ali programmed and produced herself. The sonic sculpture is as alluring as her voice, which is quite an accomplishment.
The Tanith Lee panel that was recorded by the Outer Dark at Necronomicon has just been posted on the podcast. Also, the author and critic Gordon White reviews A SPECTRAL before the panel recording (along with Robert Levy’s ANAIS NIN AT THE GRAND GUIGNOL).
I suspect that a great many readers will not appreciate the dense language and the non-linear structure a this loose prequel to Borne. Borne, for all of its hallucinogenic qualities, has a fairly straight forward plot that could be turned into a film, albeit one by Jodorowsky. Dead Astronauts, though, revels in its textuality. It can’t be filmed. Though it’s an ecological science fiction novel that plays with theoretical concepts like Time Travel and parallel Earths, it operates with dream logic. Vandermeer plays games with typography (though not in a House of Leaves way; it’s more like the beginning of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye with its use of repetition and claustrophobic line spacing) that underscore the surrealistic nature of book. The novel—prose poem?— is closer tone to Delany’s DHALGREN or even Lautremont’s Le Chants de Maldoror. This kind of visionary writing—full of beautiful nightmarish imagery—is one of my favorite forms of fiction. I hope it finds the right audience.
ENCLAVE Reading Series returns to CLUB CUMMING next month with a stellar lineup of authors gleaned from NYC and beyond. The program is an Enclave-patented eclectic mix of some of the most resonant voices in literary fiction, science fiction, personal essay, and creative non-fiction. It will be a a magnificent journey into the work and minds of five fantastic authors on a bill you will find nowhere else: Emanuel Xavier, Trebor Healey, Craig L. Gidney, Ricky Tucker, and Court Stroud.
October 30 @ 12:30 – 1:30PM
Library of Congress Panel “Modern Horror: Deconstructing the Genre”
Ruthanna Emrys, Marianne Kirby
November 1 @ 7PM
Reading at Rhizome in DC
Tales of Horror and Dread
Tales of Horror & Dread II, an evening of horror and spooky stories. 7pm November 1st. $10. Featuring readings from Nino Cipri, Craig L. Gidney, Marianne Kirby, Nibedita Sen, dave ring and Jay Wolf. Nightmare soundscapes by Joe Zeranski. Ambiance by Miri Baker. Also: tarot readings, a necromancer cotillion, and who knows what else! Creepy dress encouraged; when in doubt, put a skull on it. Boo.