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Image © Nettwerk Productions 2003

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Semantic Spaces

(05 July 2003) The Canadian master of female-fronted electronica, Bill Leeb, is back with his newest bevy of spectacular singers featured on the latest Delerium album, Chimera (Nettwerk (USA) 0 6700 30306 01, 2003).According to Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a serpent. It plagued the land until it was killed by Bellerophon who was riding the winged horse, Pegasus. The word chimera can also mean an impossible and malleable scheme or fancy. Appropriately, this mythological and mystical-sounding word captures the metamorphosizing and haunting quality of this most recent Delerium release.

Once again, Bill Leeb mans the Delerium vessel as producer and melody-shaper. This time around, one-time Delerium partner Rhys Fulber--who most recently released his own project entitled Conjure One (review) has returned to produce and program several of the tracks on Chimera. Carmen Rizzo also features as co-producer and programmer on the remaining tracks. As with Delerium's previous album Poem, live drums by Sarah McLachlan's husband Ashwin Sood, and strings arranged by Jane Scarpentoni are featured prominently, giving the album an even more organic feel.

Although some die-hard Delerium fans have resented the group's exploration of world and pop music, it is extremely gratifying to see Delerium progress and mature with each succeeding album. Beginning with Semantic Spaces--with its more disembodied, cold and industrial sound--to the present, each Delerium album has strived for a more functional song-based content. Chimerais clearly Delerium's most "proper" pop album to date.

Most of the tracks are standard in length--instead of the 8-plus minute tracks that used to appear on past Delerium albums--and contain the more common intro / verse / pre-chorus / chorus / bridge formula. Despite this move away from the experimental realm, Delerium's work continues to be fresh and exciting both lyrically and melodically. In fact, the songs on Chimera are more wide-ranging in mood and color than any of the songs on Poem, Karma, or Semantic Spaces. Suffice it to say that Bill Leeb and company do not disappoint.

Even fans of older Delerium albums will appreciate the two more epic and soundtrack-flavored pieces, "Serenity" and "Eternal Odyssey." Both are haunting, amorphous and visionary, relying less upon a structured vocal line and more upon intermittent ethnic samples and wails In fact, "Eternal Odyssey" cleverly weaves the melody from Samuel Barber's gorgeous "Adagio" within the fabric of steady beats and spectral electronic touches.

Some of the tracks on Chimera like "Love" featuring the fabulous voice of Faithless collaborator Zoe Johnston and "Returning" sung by the sorely-missed original Delerium voice, angelic Kristy Thirsk are highly pleasing electronic gems. Others, like the certifiably club-friendly "After All" featuring Jael of the band "Lunik" and the retro/disco treat "Truly" featuring Nerina Pallot push the album's energy up a notch.

Still, others like the spine-tingling "Just a Dream" sung bythe stunning Margaret Far and "Touched" with Rachel Fuller--and, incidentally, one this reviewer's favorite track on the album--are more mellow and contemplative in tone. Most suprising is Delerium's foray into the jazz/chill/trip-hop realm. "Orbit of Me" sung byLeigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer, "Magic" featuring Twin Peaks diva Julee Cruise, and "Stopwatch Hearts" sung by Emily Haines are all great songs that incorporate jazz chord progressions and hip-hop drums.

Although this is an entirely new genre for Delerium, Bill Leeb and the vocalists pull it off with class and panache. Most importantly, this triad of songs actually enhance rather than distrub the flow of the album. Another unique track is "Forever After" featuring Sultana which combines spoken word/rap and Arabic/Indian instrumentation to great effect. Finally, the emotional "Fallen" sung by Rani is a poignant song about an otherworldly being who loves a human and wishes to enter the material world.

It should also be noted that the Chimera bonus CD contains the extra track "Stopwatch Hearts" and a remix of "After All," as well as three videos of previous Delerium hits: "Silence," "Flowers Become Screens," and "Aria." In total, fans receive 14 new tracks, one remix, and three videos for the price of one CD--reason enough to be grateful to Bill Leeb and Nettwerk Records. This reviewer, for one, is most enthusiastic about Delerium's Chimera, finding it to be a worthy addition to the group's string of top-notch albums.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.comhere. Delerium continues to be one of the leading electronic acts making music today. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey like their previous material, this album is undoubtedly a must listen!

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