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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

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Semantic Spaces CD Cover
Image Nettwerk Productions 1994

More Kristy Thirsk
Interview and Photos
Dead and Gone to Heaven
Shiver
Happily Ever After
Semantic Spaces
Karma
Odyssey
BootLegs
Balligomingo
  (30 June 2002) Semantic Spaces (Nettwerk Productions (Canada) W2-30092, 1994) released in 1994, represents Canadian duo, Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber's first musical foray into the world of vocal-ambient electronica. Although the two had previously released numerous albums under the pseudonym "Front Line Assembly" as well as under the name "Delerium," these previous works were largely instrumental and more intensely industrial.

Enigma's 1991 album, entitled MCMXC a.D. was a musical watershed, combining trip-hop/downtemp loops, chanting monks, and seductive female whispers. Many groups, including Balligomingo, ERA, Mythos, Morana, Oceania, and Deep Forest, have been deeply influenced by Enigma's hugely successful formula that merges the old and the new as well as the familiar and exotic.

Similarly, with the album Semantic Spaces, Delerium moved in a more world music/ethereal direction. Part of this transformation was accomplished through the inclusion of Rose Chronicles' vocalist Kirsty Thirsk who--like Delerium was a Nettwerk artist at the time--provides lead vocals on both "Flowers Become Screens" and "Incantation." Additionally, the songs on Semantic Spaces feature wonderfully fierce tribal and ethnic vocal samples and eerie woodwinds and chimes. This structure is undergirded by intense and varied drum tracks and loops and sinuous electronic flavorings.

Delerium's two subsequent albums, Karma and Poem reveal a development in the songwriting ability of the band. Whereas both of those albums feature more recognizable pop-song patterns, the tracks on Semantic Spaces are more divergent and lacking in concrete form. This is not to say that the songs on Semantic Spaces are lacking in interest. In fact, the melodies of these songs are incredibly attractive in their own right. However, Semantic Spaces definitely provides listeners with a more instrumental/ambient aural experience than either Karma or Poem (review).

Standout songs on Semantic Spaces include both "Flowers Become Screens" and "Incantation." As noted earlier, Kristy Thirsk provides lead vocals on these tracks. "Flowers Become Screens," the strange and compelling opening track, is a mid-tempo stunner. After its ominous and aqueous opening--during which Kristy's whispered vocals circulate--the song modulates into a positive major-key melody that utilizes Kristy's voice to the fullest. The chameleon-like "Incantation" begins with swirling synths and and rattling beat, but suddenly moves into the trance/techno realm with a pounding bassline and Gregorian male vocals. Again, Kristy's soprano voice provides a lush counterpoint to the dizzying electronic pulses. "Incantation" recieved impressive airplay and club play upon its release.

Other impressive tracks include "Consensual Worlds" and "Flatlands." The baroque-feeling "Consensual Worlds" opens with a synthetic organ-styled melody that could have been penned by Bach himself. In typical Delerium fashion, all of this disolves into mysterious ethnic chant and carnival-esque instrumentation creating a sense of playfulness and wonder. This reviewer particularly appreciates the clever homage to 80's band Yaz at the 6.06 mark in the song where a creamy lead synth breaks into a musical phrase quite like the one found in Yaz's "Don't Go."

"Flatlands" actually incorporates the main percussion line from Engima's "Sadeness." Although no lyrics are featured in this piece, Kristy does a fine job emitting her trademark banshee-like wails with thrilling results.

While the average music fan might find "Karma" and "Poem" more musically accessible, Semantic Spaces is well-stocked with lovely tunes that will appeal to most fans of electronica. For those who enjoy music with a "visual" element, Semantic Spaces is certainly an album that will open up the avenues of the imagination.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Worth a transAtlantic journey, this one is a must listen!

 
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