Artist of the Week – Delerium

As you probably know by now, a long time ago, I had a radio show, on which I had a weekly Artist of the Week feature. For some reason I never threw away my notes, and they’re vaguely fun to look back on and see what was going on in 2004-ish. The major downside is that they’re not especially accurate – sorry about that.

This week’s Artist of the Week is one of my personal favourite groups, but remain something of a mystery to most music fans. In the UK, they are known almost exclusively for one song, a song which has impressively spent over a year on the Top 200 charts. And they are… Delerium. Now, I warn you the story gets rather complicated, so I will be glossing over large parts of it in the interest of everybody’s sanity!

Originally formed in 1987, they have gone through numerous lineup changes, and now consist of canadian Germans Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber. They work simultaneously on the Delerium project and also release as Front Line Assembly. Rhys has a side-project called Conjure One, he’s about to release his second solo album; and Bill works as producer to numerous groups as well as making music of his own elsewhere.

But back to the Delerium story. After several years making low-key ambient albums, they parted with their original record company in the early 1990s. They signed to Nettwerk; and released Semantic Spaces. The following year, they put out Karma, which across the world would become their best selling album, Including numerous minor hits such as the original version of their biggest hit: Silence.

Over the following three years, they slowly started notching up hits in the UK, and at the end of 2000 Silence was reissued, propelled to the top of the charts by Airscape and Tiesto remixes. The subsequent album Poem was a minor hit, and also managed a couple of hit singles, followed by a remix album and compilations of their early material.

Their most recent album Chimera came out in 2003, and in many ways is one of their best to date, and following further minor hit singles, they remixed Silence at the end of last year, to promote their best of album. It’s a bit of an odd collection but it includes most of their better tracks, so is definitely an essential purchase…

Olive – Extra Virgin

History – and probably a lot of the people reading this now – will remember Olive as a one-hit wonder. They brought us the fantastic You’re Not Alone in 1997, got to number one, and then faded away into obscurity.

Unfortunately, none of that is entirely true, and history has definitely dealt them a raw deal. The trio finally managed that number one on the song’s second release, and follow-up Miracle never even managed the upper reaches of the charts, despite coming out on three separate occasions and being, frankly, brilliant.

It’s Miracle that opens the album, in a slightly more subdued, seven-minute form, and it really is the massive hit that never was. Maybe the timing was wrong, or perhaps everybody had already had enough of Olive by the time this came out for the last time in late 1997, but it does feel like a great shame that this wasn’t more of a success than it was.

This Time comes next, a softer, more laid back piece. If you haven’t already, it will be around this time that you reach the inevitable realisation that singer Ruth-Ann Boyle is a truly excellent vocalist, and a couple of years later would lend a hand on Enigma‘s fourth and fifth albums before working on him with her solo album What About Us in 2003.

Chilled is definitely the mood here, but with some pleasant dub and slightly trippy influences from time to time as well, and so Safer Hands was hardly likely to break any particular boundaries, but it’s good nonetheless. Then Killing is strange in a way, both excellent and also very repetitive – there’s only one vocal line the whole way through, but accompanied by a whole lot of dub reverb and effects, it’s rather brilliant too.

After which it’s finally time for You’re Not Alone. Make no mistake, the singles are the best things on this album, but there is more than just one. Of course, if you bought this album wanting just thirteen renditions of that one song, you would inevitably be disappointed – you might even be disappointed that this one isn’t quite as lively as the single was, as the drums, much of the energy in this track, don’t actually turn up until nearly two minutes in.

But it’s still a fantastic song, and the album version is every bit as good as the single you remember, just in a slightly different way. This more spacious version allows you to appreciate Ruth-Ann’s vocals a lot more, and to really get to the bottom of just how great this song actually is. Twenty years old, and it really doesn’t sound it.

Falling is one of the stronger album tracks, a sweet and understated love song, which carries us through to the third single Outlaw. This one was only released once, as the follow-up to You’re Not Alone when that had finally reached the top of the charts, and apart from that, this is probably the most contemporary track on here, with its trippy drum and bass rhythm and catchy vocals.

There is also, despite the descriptions here, plenty of variety. Not in an in-your-face way, but the gentle trip-pop of Blood Red Tears is followed by the harder (but still soft) drum and bass of Curious. Then You Are Nothing is pure pop – and probably would have been the fourth single, if they hadn’t been concentrating so hard on trying to turn the same couple of tracks into hits again and again.

That just leaves two tracks – Muted, a trippy instrumental, and I Don’t Think So, a great little song driven by acoustic guitar. The lyrics are brilliant – love the life you lead, just lead the life you love? I don’t think so. It’s an excellent way to close the album.

Well, not quite – if you leave it playing for a few minutes, you get the accompanying version of You’re Not Alone to the single – this time, all the drums have been removed to create something rather ethereal and wonderful.

Twenty years on, Extra Virgin still sounds fantastic, and it’s a shame that history only leaves us with this, and its song-laden follow-up Trickle (which never even saw a proper release in the UK). But if you can find it, Extra Virgin is still worth a listen. Even if the title is a little on the silly side.

There are a number of versions of Extra Virgin available – the original release, which features a different version of Outlaw, a double CD release, and the Extra Virgin+ reissue which came out later. That’s probably the one to go for, although it omits the bonus track.

Chart for stowaways – 22 April 2017

Not too many changes at the top of the charts at the moment, but here’s an update of the albums:

  1. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  2. New Order – Lost Sirens
  3. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  5. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  7. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  8. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  9. Clark – Death Peak
  10. Depeche Mode – The Best Of – Vol 1

Artist of the Week – New Order

My radio show Music for the Masses ran for a couple of years in total around fifteen years ago, and in its second incarnation I ran an Artist of the week section, which I’ve been trying to digitise recently just so we’ve got it as a vaguely interesting archive of where our favourite artists were back then. It’s full of errors and hyperbole, so once again, please accept my apologies for that.

This week’s artist of the week doesn’t need any introduction – in fact, I hardly need to say anything about them at all, as the story is already very widely known. They are New Order.

They formed in 1980 out of the remains of Joy Division, and initially continued in much the same vein. The debut album Movement was in many ways overshadowed by Ian Curtis‘s death, and was not especially successful.

The second album Power, Corruption and Lies followed in 1983, and was the first to see them experimenting with industrial electronic sounds, it was the first of many classic albums, and followed hot on the heels of the best selling 12″ single ever, Blue Monday, which sold well over a million copies.

They were always best known for their refusal to accept standard music industry practices, such as playing Top of the Pops and releasing singles that appeared on albums. The following albums Low-Life and Brotherhood are still some of their best, containing many groundbreaking tracks, and their almost universal compilation Substance added True Faith to their astonishing list of hit singles.

At the end of the 1980s they released Technique; which is arguably their finest album to date, which was followed by their first and only number one with the football hit World in Motion.

In 1993 they made their return with Republic. These days most fans regard it as a mistake, and it’s true that the album tracks have lost the exploratory feel of earlier albums – however, the hits Regret and World in Motion [sic.] are more of New Order‘s best tracks to date, so it should not be forgotten.

Against all odds, after spending most of the 1990s concentrating on other projects, they returned once more with 2001 ‘s Get Ready album, a much harder and darker offering which is still entirely listenable, and now, four years on, they are back again with a new album Waiting for the Sirens’ Call, due next week. Judging by the first single Krafty, it sees them return to their electronic roots, and looks extremely promising.

Well, of course as I mentioned at the beginning, their roots weren’t really electronic, but hey, I’ve already apologised for the errors in here – of which there are definitely many – so I won’t repeat myself again.