Following just months after its two predecessors Spheres and Spheres 2, Delerium‘s ninth (by my calculation) album Semantic Spaces must have come as a bit of a shock on its original release in 1994.
After five years of very chilled exploratory works, Delerium decided to take a more commercial turn which would eventually lead, an album or two later, to their enormous hit Silence. Whether this was a sell-out or a good move is up for debate, but if nothing else, it played a part in transforming Delerium from a largely overlooked chillout side-project to being – briefly perhaps – a hugely influential act.
Semantic Spaces begins with the main single Flowers Become Screens, with ongoing collaborator Kristy Thirsk on vocals. This is one of only a couple of full vocal tracks on this album, and while it may not be quite up to the standard of anything on the subsequent album Karma, it is a pretty strong start.
The more laid back Metaphor follows, mixing into the equally chilled sound of Resurrection, but there is still a marked difference from their earlier works – everything on this album contains considerably more layering, with obscure ethnic samples and chanting. Seemingly from nowhere, and in mere months too, Delerium seem to have found a quite unique sound.
Incantation is the second outing for Kristy Thirsk, and despite a fairly subtle opening, it quickly turns into a slightly odd mediaeval interpretation of early nineties dance music. It’s difficult to imagine this ever being played in a club, as it isn’t exactly what you might think of as contemporary, but it isn’t bad either. The chorus might not be as polished as some of their later work, but it’s pretty uplifting even so.
After this it’s largely instrumental all the way to the end of the album. The brilliant Consensual Worlds kicks things off in its full ten minute glory, starting off with a bizarre processed synth arpeggio and gradually building into what might actually be the best track on the album, full of dark aggressive atmosphere. The intrusion of dub about a third of the way in is a little unexpected, but it doesn’t really diminish the strength of the track.
Less notable are the unremarkable Metamorphosis and Flatlands, which has all the right elements – chanting, waily vocals, and an Enigma drum pattern – but is a little lacking in hooks. Penultimate track Sensorium turns things around somewhat with its pleasant wood block melody and rippling arpeggios. And of course the deep choir sound which sounds as though it might have been borrowed from New Order‘s b-side to Blue Monday, The Beach. It also features some chanting which was previously used by Deep Forest, so there’s been some interesting sample digging here.
After that, Gateway is a suitably laid back closing piece – it has all the power and energy of all the previous tracks, but also a certain gentleness. It still feels as though there might be something missing, but at the very least, this is the Gateway to the next album, the fantastic Karma (reviewed here).
Semantic Spaces is perhaps more important than anything else – good though it is, it’s far froom the most remarkable album in the world, but it did pave the way for the exceptional string of albums which would follow from Delerium over the next decade or so – Karma, Poem and Chimera in particular.
You can find Semantic Spaces at all major download and CD retailers online, such as Amazon.