Saturday, 7 June 2014

50 albums to take to my grave #7: Aion

Some things just don't make sense until you experience them in the right setting, or you're in the right frame of mind. Or both. When I worked at Our Price, 'Aion', the fifth album by Dead Can Dance was a store-play favourite. Several of my colleagues loved it and gave it an airing at any given opportunity. I didn't share their enthusiasm.

I'd never heard Dead Can Dance before then, but was pretty sure I would never choose to listen to them at all. It was just so... medieval. Of course, it's meant to be. The duo were reflecting their interest in early Renaissance music, employing the use of many instruments of the period. I, meanwhile, was into Madchester and grunge.

It wasn't until I went to a party hosted by a guy called Stu who worked at the off-licence next door to Our Price that something finally clicked. It was the early hours, most people had gone home. Candles were burning and everyone left was chilled - wine and 'exotic cigarettes' having played a big part in the mood. Stu put 'Aion' on and we just sat and listened. That was when I got it. 'Aion' was not an album to work to, it was meant to be properly listened to, in a darkened room by candlelight. Wow! That album went from never having a chance to figure in my life to becoming one of the most amazing things I had ever heard. And I had heard it several times previously, but this time it was so different. I bought it on the Monday back at work.

It's never going to be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no escaping its musicality and its sense of capturing a particular era. While most of the album was written by the band, there are some interpretations of genuine medieval pieces. Saltarello dates back to 14th Century Italy, while The Song Of The Sibyl is 16th Century Catalan in origin. The lyrics of Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book were translated from a poem by Luis de Góngora, a famous Spanish writer of the late 1500s/early 1600s. However, the original songs could very well have existed four hundred years ago, as Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard blended modern and traditional instrumentation with the styles and sounds of the past. The results are quite astonishing. I cannot listen to 'Aion' now like I did in my Our Price days, and I'm grateful for that. I can't believe what I might have missed out on had I not accepted that party invitation.

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