Delerium is a collective of musicians who have been around much longer than many music fans might realize. It's also been some time since Bill Leeb's brainchild made itself heard, but in 2000, Delerium has shouted as loud as their Enigma-like trances will allow them, first contributing to the Bounce soundtrack, then to Christmas Songs, a compilation from Nettwerk artists.
Now comes Poem, the long-awaited return of Delerium. While this is my first full-length taste of their work, it proves to be good - though best taken in small batches.
Leeb (who may be best known for his work with Front Line Assembly) knows how to take a melody and wrap a trance-like beat around it, creating something that isn't techno or dance, but isn't alternative... or even classical, for that matter. In fact, to attempt to describe the vibe that some of the tracks on Poem create would be both unfair and inaccurate. This might seem like a cop-out to some people, but it is truly something you have to experience for yourself.
Poem pairs up Leeb and his collective of musicians with a wide variety of vocalists - not the least of whom include Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer ("Innocente" - a track which is good, though pales a bit compared to her solo effort on the Bounce soundtrack) and Matthew Sweet, who surprises with the gentleness of his delivery on "Daylight".
Other artists might be more familiar to our Canadian readers, but Mediæval Bæbes ("Aria") and Joanna Stevens ("Myth," "A Poem For Byzantium") turn in such wonderful performances that American listeners (or anyone else, for that matter) will want to discover other full-length works by these artists. Yes, it feels a little uncomfortable at times to keep hearing changes in vocalists, but it all washes out in the end.
There is but one problem with Poem - and, regrettably, it's not a small one. The music is designed almost to work itself into the listener's background, or even to relax the mind. The problem is that the listener can get so relaxed that they lose focus in the album - and when one does try to pay attention to the most minute details, the disc tends to drag. The one track that seems to fly by - the 10-minute "Amongst The Ruins" - doesn't have much to set it apart from the rest of the tracks, and its minimalism is eventually its downfall.
Some people might look at Delerium and call them a clone of Enigma. In a sense, that's not fair. Though both groups borrowed heavily from Gregorian chants (at least for one part of their respective careers), Delerium seems to be the more pop-friendly, working in more recognizable names. If only they could keep the energy level up, though.