(12 September 2002) Conjure One (Nettwerk (USA) 0 6700 30246 2 4, 2002)
is the the new solo project by Delerium
co-founder, Rhys Fulber. Rhys, along with partner Bill Leeb released several
albums under the Delerium pseudonym including Semantic Spaces (review) and
After releasing Karma, Rhys decided to go on hiatus
from the Delerium project, leaving Bill Leeb alone to work on Delerium's
most recent original album, Poem (review).
In the interim, Rhys travelled throughout the world, investigating
various indigenous cultures, focusing particularly on those cultures'
musical traditions. Although Delerium fans will be pleased to learn
that Rhys has returned to work with Bill Leeb on a new Delerium album,
those same fans will surely find Rhys' Conjure One release to be a
rewarding listening experience.
Working with top female vocalist/songwriters like Jane, Marie-Claire
D'Ubaldo, Chemda, Mel Garside, and Joanna Stevens (Solar Twins), Fulber
has created an album that is both musically stunning and lyrically
exceptional by joining ethnic vocals and samples, pop structures,
and vibrant instrumentation.
The production (Rhys Fulber, Rick Nowels, and Junkie XL) and mix (Greg
Reely) of this album are immaculate--the instrumentation is bold while
retaining a lush, exotic feel. In general, many of the Conjure One
tracks maintain a more straightforward song form than some of Delerium's
songs. Also, many of the various electronic textures are less apparent.
Instead, the Conjure One songs rely on strong percussion lines
(live drums and percussion provided by Ashwin Sood--Sarah McLachlan's
husband), piano (Chris Elliott), live strings (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra),
guitar (Jeff Martin) and the occasional synthetic element--and the end
product is absolutely absorbing.
A brief capsule review of each of the tracks follows. "Damascus" combines
mythic synth-pads and epic vocals by Chemda. This short introductory number
immediately inspires visions of exotic and hidden locales. "Damascus" would
work well as a soundtrack to any historical or fantasy film.
"Center of the Sun" is an inspiring and suprisingly touching track that
features Poe on lead vocals. A strongly Arabic-flavored melody leads the
verses. However, Fulber displays real genuis as the chorus modulates into
an affirmative, major-chord progression. Throughout, full orchestral
accompaniment provides a sweeping and grand flavor to the music. Jane's
lyrics are thought-provoking and her voice is distinct and passionate as
"Tears from the Moon," originally written and recorded by the band
for their debut release, has been reworked turning vocal
duties over to Sinead O'Connor. As is typical, the gifted O'Connor
infuses "Tears from the Moon" with Celtic hints of melancholy, desire,
and anger. "Tidal Pool" opens with a swath of otherworldly ambient sounds
and drifts soothingly until (after several minutes into the song) Rhys
brings in the Delerium-esque percussion. Chemda does a fine job of
vocalising at various intervals.
The superb track "Manic Star" is one of the highlights of the album.
Marie-Claire's unique vocals unfold a song that deals with issues of the
human condition. Although Ms. D'Ubaldo's lyrics display a leaning toward
the existential with words like "grains of sand is all we are, crawling
on our manic star," her expressions are nevertheless fascinating, poignant
and enhance the sense of beautiful loneliness created by the music.
Joanna Stevens provides additional vocals. "Manic Star" definitely
deserves to be a huge hit.
The vast and thrilling "Redemption" sounds as if it sprang directly
from a Persian mystic's visionary dream. Chemda's spine-tingling wails
are so primal and stirring that it is difficult not to be captivated by
her performance. Featuring dulcimer, ghostly vocal sections, mid-tempo
trance beat and phenomenal piano, "Years" is an unusual foray into Dead
Can Dance territory. Again, Rhys Fulber easily meshes the modern and
the ancient into a gripping and unified whole.
Poe makes her second appearance on "Make a Wish." Mellow yet colorful,
Poe gives a noteworthy performance as gentle piano and trip-hoppy grooves
highlight her seductive vocals and invite the listener to relax. "Pandora"
is a somewhat unusual track but one that continues the mood established
by "Years." Mel Garside supplies the lovely vocals elements.
Without doubt, the most sensual song on the album, "Sleep" is a heavenly
piece featuring the irresistible vocals of Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo. Entrancing
beats and synth throbs resonate throughout generating images of afterhours
desire. Reprising the melody from "Manic Star," Conjure One pulls all stops
in an string-fronted finale. Vocalists Jeff Martin and Joanna Stevens add
to this epic closing track.
With Conjure One, Rhys Fulber has taken female-fronted world
electronica to a new level. In particular, one is greatly impressed by the
loveliness of the melodies and the "clean" quality of the music. Although
hints of Rhys' Delerium days are present on this album, his Conjure One
project is a distinct and transcendent collection of beautifully crafted
songs that stand on their own.--Justin Elswick
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Like his work with Delerium, Conjure One is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!