Dead Can Dance's Gerrard's Exquisite Duality

New album may expand audience for challenging, idiosyncratic vocalist and her partner.

LOS ANGELES -- When Lisa Gerrard sings, it seems impossible that a voice so unearthly could belong to a human being. Hers is the voice of an opera singer, at the least; the voice of a siren, if we're going to wax lyrical about it.

During a press party last Monday night at Luna Park, Gerrard and collaborator Pieter Bourke performed a few songs from their forthcoming album, Duality, due in stores April 14. It was the sort of event where one is expected to schmooze. But once Gerrard and keyboardist Bourke had finished their set, most of the small audience was too dumbstruck to do anything but gawk as the duo made their way through the room.

Gerrard, probably best known for her work as one-half of the progressive, world-music duo Dead Can Dance, has found it challenging to expose her music to an audience so accustomed to mainstream rock.

Of her work, she said, "It's so much a mosaic, so much a collage -- a collective inner consciousness ... of things that have moved you, things that have touched you, things that have fascinated you, that make up the ... alphabet that you create your words or your music from."

Everything about Gerrard's stage presence -- from the introspective

pauses where, with eyes closed, she feels for her voice in the music, to the flowing white robes and pearls around her neck -- makes her so fascinating that it's easy to ignore Bourke's contributions. In addition to supplying the symphonic framework for Gerrard's voice with careful keyboard wizardry in concert, it is his work with Gerrard on Duality, constructing and enhancing tracks such as "Unfolding," that gives the album its depth and life.

Bourke played both on Gerrard's debut solo album, The Mirror Pool,

and on the tour for Dead Can Dance's last album, Spiritchaser. After that tour, he recalled, "We both returned home to Australia, and after about six weeks off, Lisa gave me a call and said, 'I've got some ideas. Do you want to come and do some percussion work?' " From there, a passionate collaboration evolved, and Duality was born.

"The title ("Duality") comes from the working relationship we've developed by

accident," Bourke said. "We really put our egos to one side, and sort-of went

on a journey of discovery together. We were working at Lisa's home, without

pressure. In fact, no one really knew we were working. We came together with

one purpose, but ended up going off on another track. It was great."

Although it's difficult to put in words what makes Duality so much

more a cohesive record than The Mirror Pool, Gerrard points directly to

Bourke. "I found the experience [of this record] so liberating," she said. "If

it felt right for both of us, we'd follow that route."

One of those routes included the recording of one track, "The Human Game" (RealAudio excerpt), with lyrics in English. Gerrard often sings in other languages or no language at all.

"The Human Game" could fit well into a James Bond movie, full of dark intrigue. Both musicians were surprised by the lyrics, Gerrard remembers. "We were sort-of improvising ... and all of a sudden words started coming! They were so integral to that piece. That's why we kept them.

"Pieter and I could have gone and said 'Oh, (the English lyrics) won't fit into the rest of the record. Why don't we get rid of them.' But then I'm just becoming a parody of myself, and that's not true to the work."

Gerrard and Bourke just completed the filming of a video for "The Human

Game," the first single culled from Duality. Recently, they were invited to perform at this summer's Lilith Fair tour, a first for Gerrard. Although she regards a wider audience as a benefit, she's become accustomed to existing outside the mainstream. It has been to the point where most video channels refused to play the video for her last solo single, "Sanvean."

"You're better off," she said of being an outsider, "[as long as you] can encourage other people. You might not be earning any money, but you're telling the truth. And that's important for our kids, that they have somewhere to go where the truth is being told."