No one who witnessed Nick Cave’s unhinged performances with his band the Birthday Party in the early 1980s would have ever believed that, 40-odd years later, Deutsche Gramophon would release a recording bearing his name. In the catalogue of bizarre and horrific events that was 2020, however, this is one of the lesser shocks.

L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S is a collaboration between Australian singer and songwriter Cave (b. 1957) and Belgian composer Nicholas Lens (b. 1957), perhaps best-known here for his 1994 choral work Flamma Flamma – The Fire Requiem . L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S follows their earlier joint production Shell Shock (2014), an opera dealing with various manifestations of the trauma of war for which Cave wrote the libretto. With L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S , says Lens, “the notes came quickly, almost too fast to write down” as a direct result of COVID-19 and its ensuing lockdowns, restricted movements, fear and terrifying, ongoing confrontation with mortality.

There are 12 litanies (which, intentionally or...