(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 Karma (review). 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 ever.
"Tears from the Moon," originally written and recorded by the band Lunascape (feature)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 establishedby "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 stopsin 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.comhere. Like his work with Delerium, Conjure One is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!