April 18, 2005

Peter Ulrich "enter the mysterium"

Peter Ulrich, who performs with the renowned World Music duo Dead Can Dance, is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist on his own, and over the past few years, he's quietly released a few solo projects. It would be unfair, of course, to compare his work with Dead Can Dance, but such comparisons cannot be avoided. It's best to note his role, and judge his work on its own merits. As you should expect, Enter The Mysterium is a ten-track journey into the past. Though there seems to be a bit of a Celtic influence in his work, this isn't an Irish record. Unlike Dead Can Dance, Ulrich's work isn't really dedicated to one particular moment in time.

Enter The Mysterium is, however, a focused folk record that's inspired by--but not overwhelmingly indebted to--Europe's vast musical heritage. At times, one might think Ulrich is melding electronica with the ancient melodies of the past. It's a risky endeavor; Dead Can Dance attempted this on their last studio album, Spiritchaser, and the results were surprising; it was poorly received and is perhaps Dead Can Dance's lowest point, simply because the elements were not right. It's to Ulrich's advantage, then, that he doesn't have a spotlight of expectation shining on his work; he can freely experiment within the genres of world music, folk and electronica.

The majority of the songs on Enter The Mysterium have well written folk arrangements. Ulrich's voice is not particularly strong--it's very similar in style to Brian Eno's--but he compensates with interesting lyrics, beautiful arrangements and a general intelligence that's lacking in music today. On songs like "Another Day" and "Kakatak Tamai," his mixture of sounds blends into a dark ambient style that's quite fascinating and chilling, while elsewhere, his jazzy "Through Those Eyes," is a catchy tune with ideas you'd wish he'd expand on further.
While there's an occasional chant here, a dulcimer there and percussion elsewhere, you won't find a full-blown foray into Medeval Europe on Enter The Mysterium. He comes close on "Across the Bridge," the Irish jig of "The Scryer and The Shewstone" and "Flesh To Flame," but he restrains those tendencies--which, in an interesting twist, is perhaps the album's weakness; maybe a song that's totally Dead Can Dance in style wouldn't be that bad after all.

Still, Enter The Mysterium is a lovely, sedate record. While it might not scale the grand heights as Dead Can Dance, it does fill the appetite for beautiful world music, and serves as a nice treat between now and the next Dead Can Dance record-which, apparently might not be too long of a wait.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.peterulrich.com
Label Website: http://www.citycanyons.com

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