Into the Labyrinth (1993) is the sixth album recorded by the Dead Can Dance duo, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. It marked a strong shift from the previous albums, putting ethnic music influences at the forefront as would be the case in the later albums. It was their first album completed on their own without the aid of guest musicians, and their first album to have a major label release in the U.S., thanks to a 4AD deal with WEA. It featured the alternative radio hit single "The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove".
Into the Labyrinth was a marked change on many fronts from the previous album Aion of three years ago :
- Perry and Gerrard were now living far apart and writing music independently (Perry was living on an island in the middle of a river in Ireland, while Gerrard lived in Australia with her husband and daughter). For the album, Gerrard travelled back to Perry's studio Quivvy Church (in County Cavan, Ireland) where they merged their songs and recorded the album over a period of three months together.
- After the predominance of Perry's medieval influences on the two previous albums, this one puts Gerrard's ethnic music influences at the forefront.
- This was the first album where Perry and Gerrard played all instruments, without guest musicians.
- As a result, where Aion seemed to bear the weight of Gerrard and Perry's broken amorous relationship, this one sounds more serene and spiritually uplifting. Perry said, " We make records because we still have a lot of demons to exorcise: we enjoy the therapeutic nature of making music and through that enjoyment we want to express that joy and pass it on to people. ".
- The growing popularity of the CD format allowed for a longer album, 55 minutes instead of the previous 35 minutes on vinyl LPs. In the UK, the CD album was simultaneously released along a limited edition double vinyl LP (featuring "Bird" and "Spirit", the two 1991 bonus tracks from A Passage in Time).
The title of Into the Labyrinth alludes to the classic legend of Greek mythology about Theseus going into the Labyrinth against the Minotaur. This is echoed in songs titles such as:
- "Ariadne" (the legendary Ariadne giving her clew to Theseus)
- "Towards the Within" (of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur being at the center)
- "The Spider's Stratagem" (waiting at the center of her web like the Minotaur waiting at the center of the Labyrinth, but also a Bertolucci film adapting a Borges short story from Labyrinths)
- "Emmeleia" (the Greek dance of tragedy)
While not a concept album, this link adds some conceptual cohesion to the album. See also track informations.
- About the 1st track, "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)": in Gerrard's native Australia, yulunga means "dance" or "spirit dance", apparently related to the verb yulugi (to dance, to play) in the Gamilaraay language of the Aboriginal Kamilaroi (Indigenous Australians). In an Aboriginal dreamtime legend, Yulunga is a variant of Julunggul, the Aboriginal mythological Rainbow Serpent goddess. (There is also a Yulunga Street and a Yulunga Festival in South Australia.)
- About the 2nd track, "The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove": Perry described him as his alter ego, " the abstract relationship of myself and woman ". This song was played during the stripclub scene in the 1995 Sean Penn film The Crossing Guard.
- About the 3rd track, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley": a late 18th century traditional Irish ballad that Lisa Gerrard wanted to do her own version of, " it was meant to be a rallying song, but it has such an intense sadness that it becomes an anti-war song ". The liner notes inscribed it as "dedicated to the memory of Maureen Copper", but no more is established about that person.
- About the 4th track, "The Carnival Is Over": described as a reminiscence of pre-teen Perry living in East London, visiting the circus. It also features a borrowed lyric from Joy Division's "The Eternal" in the form of "(The) Procession moves on, the shouting is over". The melody of the song is also very reminiscent of the final two tracks on Closer.
- About the 5th track, "Ariadne": the title refers to the Greek legend around Ariadne and the Labyrinth.
- About the 7th track, "Towards the Within": the title refers obliquely to the Labyrinth, because Theseus had to journey towards the within to reach the Minotaur at the center.
- About the 8th track, "Tell Me About the Forest": Perry explained, "When you live in Ireland you see the people who have been away for years returning to their parents, and you also see those they leave behind... the breaking down of tradition along with the uprooting and upheaval of tribes. In Ireland, and in the rain forests. If we could only keep the oral traditions going, and leave the clerical bull behind... ". Like the 4th track, this song also borrows a Joy Division lyric - the line "And we're changing our ways, (Yes we are) Taking (on) different roads" from "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
- About the 9th track, "The Spider's Stratagem": the title refers obliquely to the Labyrinth, via the 1970 Bertolucci film The Spider's Stratagem (La strategia del ragno ) adapting a short story by master of the Labyrinth Jorge Luis Borges, "Theme of the Traitor and Hero" published in English in Labyrinths.
- About the 10th track, "Emmeleia": the title (in Greek ἐμμέλεια, meaning "gracefulness" or "harmonization") was the name of the grave and dignified dance of tragedy in the theatre of ancient Greece (each dramatic genre featured its own chorus dance, being the emmeleia or emmelīa in tragedy, the kordax or cordax in comedy, and the sikinnis or siccinis in satyr-play). The "lyrics" derive from Lisa Gerrard's usual glossolalia, but because she had to write down a phonetic version for Brendan Perry to sing along with her, this song sounds much more like a structured language. Written transcriptions exist but no language could be recognized.
- About the 11th track, "How Fortunate the Man With None": for the lyrics, Brendan Perry picked 4 stanzas from Bertolt Brecht's 1928 poem "Die Ballade von den Prominenten", in the English translation by John Willett (Brecht used a similar version of this poem as "Die Schädlichkeit von Tugenden" in his 1939 play Mother Courage and Her Children, and a slightly different version as "Salomon-Song" in his 1928 Threepenny Opera, act III, number 18). Perry then set them to music for a Temenos Academy production of the play. It was only the second time such permission was granted by the Brecht estate, the previous one being in 1963.
The vocals' languages are:
- English lyrics on tracks 2-4, 8, and 11.
- Gerrard glossolalia on tracks 1, 5-7, 9-10.
The songs are a cappella on tracks 3, 10.
- "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" – 6:56
- "The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove" – 6:17
- "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" – 2:49
- "The Carnival Is Over" – 5:28
- "Ariadne" – 1:54
- "Saldek" – 1:07
- "Towards the Within" – 7:06
- "Tell Me About the Forest (You Once Called Home)" – 5:42
- "The Spider's Stratagem" – 6:42
- "Emmeleia" – 2:04
- "How Fortunate the Man With None" – 9:15
Tracks written by Dead Can Dance (Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry), except track 3 (words and music by Dr Robert Dwyer Joyce, traditional, arranged by Dead Can Dance) and track 11 (words by Bertolt Brecht, English translation by John Willett).
The limited edition double vinyl LP had / 1-3 / 4-7 // "Bird" 8-9 / "Spirit" 10-11 / adding:
- "Bird" – 5:00
- "Spirit" – 4:59
They were the two earlier bonus tracks from the 1991 compilation A Passage in Time, and have been collected again on Dead Can Dance (1981-1998) (2001).
- Lisa Gerrard – vocals (on 1, 3, 5-7, 9-10), performer (uncredited instruments)
- Brendan Perry – vocals (on 2, 4, 7-8, 10-11), performer (uncredited instruments), percussions, sound samples (birds, etc.)
Instruments include: bongos (on 9), sitar (on 2, 7), tabla (on 7, 9). Technical
- Brendan Perry – engineer, producer (at Quivvy Church) Graphical
- Touhami Ennadre – front cover image ("Hands of the World" photograph)
- John Sherwin – inside image ("Towards the Within" stage set)
- Ken Kavanagh – all other inside images (photographs)
- Chris Bigg – sleeve design (with Brendan Perry)
About "Emmeleia" lyrics