Cye Wood & Lisa Gerrard: The Trail of Genghis Khan
Cye Wood

Though Lisa Gerrard will probably always be best known for her work in Dead Can Dance, the outfit she formed with fellow Australian Brendan Perry in the early ‘80s and with whom she released nine albums between 1984 and 1995, a collaborative project such as The Trail of Genghis Khan shows that her creative life didn't end with that celebrated project. Aside from her involvement in Dead Can Dance, she's issued solo albums (1995's The Mirror Pool, 2006's The Silver Tree, 2014's Twilight Kingdom), collaborations (with Pieter Bourke 1998's Duality and Patrick Cassidy 2004's Immortal Memory), and soundtracks (among the films and documentaries she's scored or contributed to are The Insider, Gladiator, Whale Rider, and Heat).

For the soundtrack album to the ABC documentary series The Trail of Genghis Khan, she found another kindred spirit in Berlin-based Cye Wood, a classically trained violinist and multi-instrumentalist who produces music under the Cave In The Sky name (Sönghellir was released on 1631 Recordings in 2016) when not contributing scores to film projects (the award-winning short film Piercing Silence and feature film Hello Forever) and composing for contemporary dance productions.

To a large degree, the musical terrain explored in Wood's collaboration with Gerrard (initially issued on Gerrard Records in 2010 and on Vitamin a year later, the soundtrack is currently available in digital form at Wood's Bandcamp page and scheduled to appear on Infinite Fog later this year) will seem like familiar territory to Dead Can Dance listeners. The ten tracks encompass a wide range of world music styles and instruments, with Eastern European and folk elements audible parts of the mosaic. As a child growing up in Melbourne, Gerrard absorbed the sounds of Greek, Turkish, and Irish melodies that flowed into the streets of her neighbourhood, and it's certainly possible to hear evidence of that background in the soundtrack. The film itself traces the journey undertaken by Tim Cope on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary, and the composers naturally drew upon the landscapes and their inhabitants for inspiration during the music production process.

Bowed strings (violin and viola), percussion, lute, and acoustic guitar figure prominently, and a mournful, supplicating tone permeates many of the settings, evidenced most audibly in Gerrard's emotive, oft-wordless vocalizing. Music of such evocative character lends itself well to a soundtrack application, and even in the absence of the film's corresponding visuals images quickly form in response to the musical design; during “Call of the Steppes - Part I,” for example, visuals are hardly necessary when Gerrard's voice conveys sadness so hauntingly on its own. The Trail of Genghis Khan is the kind of project that lends itself naturally to accommodating a large number of traditional acoustic instrument sounds, and it's also not unusual for earthy chants and folk ballads to work their way into the presentation.

May 2017