Every now and again a release moves me so much I am forced to shirk off my sense of professionalism as a journalist, negate the third person voice and let mine own ring forth. Delerium's Chimera is such a release.
The partnered brainchild of former Frontline Assembly mates Bill Leeb and Rhys Fuller, Delerium released the noteworthy Karma back in 1997. After a momentary separation, Delerium has returned with a vengeance, a triumphant odyssey of expressionism that is, according to Leeb, "a record of a mystical journey that provokes your moods inside and your thoughts about your day and life; things that aren't driven by trends or time." However, Chimera is very much a pop recording, not a prefabricated hunk of boy band sludge approved by armchair executives, but one rich with intense melody and emotion that is so rare and so precious it is almost an insult to call it pop. I could possibly label Chimera as alternapop in general, but it is far more than that. Chimera is a massive group collaboration, a harmonious collection of both traditional and electronic components merged together with profound giftedness. With the guest players and vocalists that grace Chimera, the album rings as ultra-talented in the singular, breathtaking as a collective unit.
The opening track Love reminds me of the Cocteau Twins with its pleasing acoustic melodrama and agreeable assimilation of Zoe Johnston's vocals, while the ensuing track, After All, jumps into a mild dance groove with its hip-hop pulse and assertive bass. The satisfying acoustic guitars and the tender and tweaked vocals of Jael from Lunik rings like a Michelle Branch tune thrown through the remix cycle. Just a Dream opens like an Enigma composition that settles into a gorgeous rhythm, again nodding towards the Cocteau Twins. Margaret Far's sensitive singing leaves a sanctified ambience to the song.
Run For It reminds me of Nelly Furtado with its street smart beat and daring acoustic compositions. Not so much a rip-off of Furtado, but a personable facsimile, differentiated by the depth and richness of Delirium's synths and subversive undertones that even Furtado hasn't considered yet. Truly has a trip-hop rhythm with a soft but commanding bassline that quickly transfigures into a harder, dance-minded song, structured much like music by The Beloved. The instrumental Serenity features sweeping electronics and a conservative beat, with wispy, ghostly backtrack vocals. In a way Serenity rings like latter-day New Order.
Touched swaggers confidently in its pure popness. Rachel Fuller's assured vocals match the Natalie Imbruglia-esque sense of self-possession created by the bold mix of cello and other traditional band elements on the track. This is where Delerium succeeds to its fullest; the fully realized marriage of new and old sensibilities. Case in point, Forever After has a funky vibe with its sassy digital beat and scratchy turntables, merged with classical composition and spritely vocals by Sultana. Forever After is not altogether unlike a Deep Forest song, organic amidst its urban groove.
An astral flow to Fallen carries the song aloft by the shrewd acoustic work and flowery electronica, mildly akin to Yanni with its dedication to classical tones. Orbit of Me keeps things interesting with its jazzy piano coincided with the hip-hop tempo, similar to A Tribe Called Quest or The Roots, but given a yummy pop spin with its dreamy effervescence and Leigh Nash's succulent voice. Magic has a seventies pop orientation about it despite its updated rhythm. Julee Cruise's teasing, flirtatious falsettos makes one fall in love with both her and the track, similar to the breathy giddiness made popular by Lush in their early years. Eternal Odyssey is a nine-and-a-half minute opus that is rhapsodic as it builds momentum from an Enigma-based opening, brought to fruition with its swinging harps, swooping synthesizers and boastful chorals. Completing the disc is Returning, a flamenco-salsa influenced dance pop track accented by Kristy Thirsk's wholesome vocals.
Chimera features a bonus disk with two songs and three videos. The first song, Stopwatch Hearts, has a Nelly Furtado-like similarity to Run For It, although it is far more playful in nature, played out uncannily by Leeb and Fuller. The Andrew Sega remix of After All is pretty unnecessary to what is an otherwise perfect album, but that is not to be held against Chimera. The three videos, which are all dance-minded, are Flowers Become Screens, featuring vocals by Kristy Thirsk, Aria, featuring the Mediaeval Babes, and, most notably, Silence, guest-starring Sarah McLachlan. Each song is as much of a treasure as those included on the regular album.
The magnificence of Chimera is undeniable. In some ways, one might be tempted to call it a "chick record," as some moments on the album will feel like lost songs from the canceled WB show, Felicity, but Leeb and Fuller have enough prowess with their trance and hip-hop tendencies to jumpstart their artful melodies, hence Chimera's appeal is universal. That being said, Chimera, in my opinion, is easily one of the truly great albums of 2003 and even beyond.
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