Review Summary: Rhys Fulber finally proves that Conjure One isn't just a cheap Delerium knock-off.
The reason for Conjure One’s existence has always been a mystery to me. It just didn’t seem to make sense that the man responsible for some of Delerium
’s best albums would leave in order to create the exact same music, albeit never as good, under a different name. Of course, there’s the artistic autonomy and all of the freedom that it brings – but the fundamental fact is that the music was never up to par compared what he had done in Delerium. Conjure One’s third album, Exilarch
, will finally change all of that. Exilarch
drops the overt pop references, the extended world music plod, and the blatant Delerium aping in favor of a sound that skirts the limits between darkness and beauty, and does so in a very direct and concise way.
For long-time Delerium fans, it would be easy to describe this album as a blend of Semantic Spaces
and the Spheres
albums, but that is just an easy reference point. The layers of dark, flowing synth and deep bass that make up the foundation of each track is just the beginning of what Exilarch
offers. Those electronic elements share time with chill, sensual trip-hop grooves, Middle Eastern influences, enchanting female vocals, and even the occasional bit of electro-rock. Lead single, “Like Ice,” offers all of those elements and displays just how seamlessly they work together. “Like Ice” features the vocals of Jaren Cerf (CMJ
) and spends the first few moments of its duration building an exotic and alien soundscape before moving directly into a smooth electro-pop beat with layered synths and gorgeous vocals. The surprising moment of this song – and the proof that Rhys Fulber has finally developed Conjure One’s own identity – comes about half way through when it suddenly introduces a distorted guitar riff and begins to feel more like the electronic rock of Essence of Mind
than the world music of Delerium.
That electronic rock element found on “Like Ice” makes additional appearances later in the album, but, Exilarch
isn’t just a one-dimensional album relying solely on hooks and guest vocalists. Songs such as “Places that Don’t Exist” display another side of Conjure One’s identity – a side that focuses on creating slow, trance-like grooves over which a variety of Middle Eastern and Turkish influences are allowed to shine. These types of songs still contain female vocals, but the voices are generally more abstract and used the same as any other sample or synth loop. All of these various elements come together flawlessly on the track, “I Dream in Color” – easily one of the best (if not the best
) Conjure One songs to date. That’s not to imply that there aren’t catchier or more atmospheric songs in the band’s discography, but as far as bringing together everything that makes Conjure One what they are, “I Dream in Color” is definitely near the top. It has the excellent layers of melodic synths, gorgeous and catchy vocals, the slightest bit of an electro-rock edge, and a pervasive atmosphere.
There are always going to be those that disagree or that believe that Conjure One has always been better than Delerium, but in my eyes, this is the album that finally proves that Conjure One deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Delerium’s best works. Rhys Fulber has finally moved beyond simply copying the formula that made Delerium great, and has also fixed a lot of what previously held Conjure One down. The songs are direct without a lot of needless build-up, they’re catchy without succumbing to blatant pop references, and the music is finally totally fleshed out thanks to a return to the electro roots of Rhys’ past.