SPLEEN AND IDEAL is a profoundly different sounding record than its self-titled predecessor. It seems to have been recorded in a completely different time, perhaps by the 14th century ancestors of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, if they had access to electric guitars and synthesizers. The tracks are all stately, muted affairs that actually managed to evoke the images that their titles suggest--the best example of this is the brittle, gorgeous "Circumradiant Dawn," which sounds like a hymn written to accompany Earth's very first sunrise.
Among the standouts here are "De Profundis (Out of the Depths of Sorrow)," where Lisa Gerrard's voice soars above the haunting, sustained chords of the music; "Ascension," with its moody trombones and a cavernous echo so deep you can feel the space around you expanding and contracting; and "Avatar," which makes traditional rock & roll instrumentation sound astonishingly alien. SPLEEN AND IDEAL really hits its peak, however, with "Enigma of the Absolute." Brendan Perry's soft, deep voice resonates around each syllable, accompanied by sawed violins, a muted bass drum thumping in the background, and an exceptionally bright-sounding hurdy-gurdy. If you buy only one Dead Can Dance record, it ought to be this one.