Delerium – Faces, Forms and Illusions

Three decades ago this week, Delerium released their debut album Faces, Forms and Illusions. It would take nearly ten albums and ten years before Sarah McLachlan would suddenly propel them to the upper reaches of the charts outside of Canada, but many of the elements that made them popular were already audible on their debut release.

Two years earlier, Canadian duo Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber had formed two-thirds of the dark industrial trio Front Line Assembly, and by 1989, they were already two cassettes and four albums into their career. Faces, Forms and Illusions

It opens with Monuments of Deceit, with a dark, punchy, industrial bass line that reminds me of the early material from Alan Wilder‘s Recoil

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Less respectful, it seems to me, is their use of one of the images of Thich Quang Duc‘s self-immolation for the cover image. It’s a stirring and shocking image reduced to yellow and black, and while it may have served an artistic purpose at the time in somehow reflecting the artists’ vision for the album, it’s hard not to see it as a little crass.

The music is, in general, surprisingly mature for a duo who were still in their early twenties, but it’s a little difficult to tell whether they were trying to convey a particular spirit of self-sacrifice and Eastern theology, whether it was just slightly misguided mysticism, or whether they were channelling something else entirely. The other images in the release don’t really clarify this, and the track titles seem to suggest they may not have had a clear vision in mind at the time.

But put all of that aside, and concentrate more on the music, and there’s a good album here – Inside the Chamber is a good, longer track; and Sword of Islam is haunting and dark. Then the second half of the album opens with the atmospheric New Dawn, never really breaking from the core sound of this album, but bringing the mood lower still.

Certain Trust breaks that mould, though, with a rippling arpeggio part that must have sounded dated very soon after its original release – the digital synthesisers of the late 1980s didn’t stay fashionable for very long. There are some nice vocal melodies on this track and well-placed chimes, but the drumming seems a bit half-hearted. It’s probably the best track on this half of the album, though.

Hidden Mask, curiously hidden from later versions of this album, is good too, as for the first time on this album the beats drop away, and give way to broad, sweeping pads, and warbling vocals. Then we’re on to Strangeways, a slightly dull but confusing track punctuated by synthesised machine gun fire that suggests that maybe this album wasn’t just about confused mysticism after all. It’s strange though – the riots at the prison of the same name wouldn’t happen until the following year, and would be unlikely to be well known to Canadians anyway. It’s difficult to know exactly what they’re channelling here.

Intriguing typographical errors and spelling mistakes seem to have always been a part of Front Line Assembly and Delerium‘s career, as the CD adds bonus track Subvert/Wired Archives/Sieg of Atrocity. Clocking in at just under twenty minutes, it’s an ambitious track to challenge the listener, and it does offer some nice new synth melodies, particularly during the first part. It’s an interesting enough additional track that you probably wouldn’t want to end up missing it by owning the vinyl version, anyway.

Faces, Forms and Illusions is raw, the sound of a duo who haven’t fully worked out what they’re doing yet, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, particularly for those who like Delerium‘s later work. It might be best avoided if you don’t, though.

Unfortunately Faces, Forms and Illusions no longer seems to be widely available, either in its original form (yellow sleeve) or its later reissue.

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Preview – Front Line Assembly

I’ve got a feeling that Front Line Assembly‘s AirMech was a soundtrack to a computer game or something, but I don’t really care. All I care about is that it was a really good album of instrumental industrial electronic music, and now they’re back with a sequel, WarMech:

Retro chart for stowaways – 21 October 2006

Here are the top albums from eleven years ago this week:

  1. Delerium – Nuages du Monde
  2. Front Line Assembly – Artificial Soldier
  3. Kings Have Long Arms – I Rock – Eye Pop
  4. The Future Sound of London – Teachings from the Electronic Brain
  5. Hot Chip – The Warning
  6. Electronic – Get the Message – The Best Of
  7. Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  8. Massive Attack – Collected
  9. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits
  10. Conjure One – Extraordinary Ways

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…

Music for the Masses 39 – 7 May 2005

For the final run of Music for the Masses, from April to May 2005, I had secured the coveted Saturday night slot, building people up to a stomping night out in Leeds. Or alternatively helping them to revise for their exams. Or potentially neither; it was rather difficult to tell. But looking through the playlist, I can see a slightly more uptempo seam running through the show, culminating with the Electromix at the end of the show.

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Show 39: Sat 7 May 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Shamen.

  • Morcheeba – World Looking In
  • Erasure – Here I Go Impossible Again
  • 1 Giant Leap feat. Robbie Williams & Maxi Jazz – My Culture
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Shamen – Comin’ On (Beatmasters Mix)
  • Sylver – Make It
  • Aurora – Ordinary World
  • BT – Orbitus Terrarium
  • Kraftwerk – Aérodynamik
  • The Shamen – MK2A
  • Depeche Mode – Freelove (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Stereo MCs – Connected
  • Technique – Sun is Shining
  • Felix – Don’t You Want Me
  • Yello feat. Stina Nordenstam – To the Sea
  • New Order – Jetstream (Arthur Baker Remix)
  • The Shamen – Indica
  • Binar – The Truth Sets Us Free
  • Talk Talk – Talk Talk
  • Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You [Electromix]
  • Elektric Music – Lifestyle (Radio-Style) [Electromix]
  • Front Line Assembly – Everything Must Perish [Electromix]
  • Fluke – Absurd
  • Bent – The Waters Deep

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Music for the Masses 35 – 9 March 2005

Kicking off a show with I Monster‘s Who is She? is a rare privilege, as is closing one with the extended version of The Beloved‘s Sweet Harmony. With Sparks as artist of the week, and including some of their highlights from the 1970s, this was definitely going to be a particularly special show.

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Show 35: Wed 9 Mar 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Sparks.

  • I Monster – Who is She?
  • Moby – Lift Me Up (Mylo Remix)
  • Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Télépopmusik – Stop Running Away
  • Erasure – Rock Me Gently (Bamboo)
  • S.I. Futures – Eurostar
  • Madonna – Nobody’s Perfect
  • Sparks – La Dolce Vita
  • Apollo 440 – Liquid Cool
  • Elektric Music – TV
  • Faithless – Fatty Boo
  • Sparks – It’s a Knock-Off
  • Adamski – Killer
  • Front Line Assembly – Prophecy
  • New Order – Krafty
  • Yello – Lost Again
  • Sparks – The Rhythm Thief
  • The Orb – Toxygene
  • The Beloved – Sweet Harmony (Live the Dream Mix)

Retro chart for stowaways – 24 July 2004

Here’s another singles chart from ye oldene dayse!

  1. Front Line Assembly – Vanished
  2. Faithless – Mass Destruction
  3. Rachel Stevens – Some Girls
  4. Girls Aloud – The Show
  5. Client – In it for the Money
  6. Basement Jaxx – Good Luck
  7. Kylie Minogue – Chocolate
  8. Kings of Convenience – Misread
  9. Air – Cherry Blossom Girl
  10. Orbital – One Perfect Sunrise