Gerrard, Lisa – Whalerider

Since the split of Dead Can Dance in 1998, Lisa Gerrard has been mainly occupied with composing soundtracks. The success of the thrilling “Gladiator” score (a collaboration with Hans Zimmer) has provided her with various offers from Hollywood. The work on the music for films like “The Insider” and “Ali” has postponed her solo-activities, but 4AD ensures there will be a new studio-album released later in 2003 – the first since “Duality” (1998) – with the provisional title “Immortal Memory”.

It seems only like a natural development that Lisa is currently producing such a string of soundtracks. The music of Dead Can Dance already awoke strong filmic associations and proved in a couple of occasions to be very suitable to accompany visual art, for instance in the movie “Baraka”. Besides Lisa’s music is often not based on a classical song-structure; her aim is to excite her auditory through rather spontaneous (vocal) sounds, creating atmospheres that can interact very well with images.

The movie “Whalerider” by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro tells the story of a young girl’s struggle to fulfil her destiny in a little coastal Maori township. The people claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider, who arrived on the back of a whale. In every generation, a male heir has succeeded to the chiefly title. When twins are born, and the boy twin dies, the chief is unable to accept his grand-daughter as a future leader (…). Apparently Lisa was drawn very deeply into the story as she writes on the inner sleeve of the digipak.

For “Whalerider” Lisa composed and arranged all music by herself, a couple of musicians helped with additional performances. The score contains some of the darkest and most intense pieces of music she’s ever produced. Instead of bombastic or orchestral, “Whalerider” sounds deep, slow and tragic. Lisa Gerrard’s very recognizable voice is less present; she rarely comes out of the dense mist of misery like a siren. Most of the – short – tracks pass away in a minor key, dominated by dramatic strings, sober piano tones and a few film samples. Only three pieces feature (tribal) rhythms, the others remain minimally arranged. The sound is less classical or ethno than Lisa’s previous outputs, sometimes almost electronic. One could state that “Whalerider” is Lisa Gerrard’s first real ambient album; an ambient album that is not merely atmospheric – moreover it is extremely moving.

artist: Gerrard, Lisa
label: 4AD
details: 15 tracks, 41:27. released in 2003. soundtrack for the movie