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  Extraordinary Ways  
  Conjure One  


Release Date:


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Rhys Fulber has been making electronic music for, well, a long time. He was in Front Line Assembly and Delirium before striking off on his own as Conjure One. He is, musically speaking, a Somebody. And his label sent me a promo copy of this album, because i wrote a few favorable words about the first Conjure One album. That's pretty darned cool, really.

Conjure One make what i call "trendy coffee shop" music. That is, this is music with lots of mellow beats, tons of keyboards, assorted "world music" samples (tablas, strange drums, clanging Asian percussion, Middle Eastern singing), and strong female vocals. This is the type of stuff you hear in, well, trendy suburban coffee shops. That's not a bad thing, really, it's just not the edgiest music in the world. This is light, vaguely relaxing musical wallpaper. It's interesting wallpaper, in that if you pay attention, there are some cool things going on, but if you just let it subsist in the background, you won't mind it so much. That said, Extraordinary Ways is, remarkably, a better album than Conjure One. No, really.

The thing is, Fulber isn't afraid to try new things, and that's what i like about him. He never stands still, and although he hasn't ventured too far this time around, he has still tried something new. He sings. In all of the Fulber albums i have (and i own quite a bit of his work), the first time i have heard him sing is here on a cover of the old Buzzcocks tune I Believe. His version features some very old school synth tones, some funky little beats, and Fulber belting out this obviously very heartfelt and much beloved tune in a slightly breathy, highly digitized, and slightly embarrassed manner. The overall effect is something like the work of Her Space Holiday, however, the song is still rather interesting. I Believe was Pete Shelley's cry of existential angst in the punk world of the early 1980s. Fulber, however, has slowed it down, and when he chants "There is no love in this world anymore" at the end, he doesn't sound annoyed (like Shelley did), rather, he sounds resigned. If Shelley was screaming against the injustices of the world, Fulber is acknowledging such injustices with a shrug and moving on. It's a fascinating dichotomy, and if you are unfamiliar with the original version track down a Buzzcocks CD (i recommend the greatest hits compilation Operator's Manual) and compare the two.

I Believe is the most 1980s sounding tune that Fulber has been involved with, well, since the 1980s, but it's not the only such tune here. The keyboards that he plays to back up vocalist Poe on the tune One Word really sound like they belong in a lost Human League song. Poe puts in a great performance here as well.

Another experiment that i think is new for Fulber is the use of acoustic guitar. It starts off the song Beyond Being, and is shockingly undigital for an electronics guru like him. It sounds good though, i'll grant him that. (I wonder -- did he play the guitar here?) There is also a Spanish style guitar on Into the Escape.

However, this album isn't all experimentation for Fulber. The majority of the songs and tones on here would have fit in on the previous Conjure One disc. However, two songs, while typical of the genre, do really stand out to me.

Dying Light features a truly awesome bass riff. It is powerful and driving, and backs up the piano and wordless vocals nicely. However, just when you thought the song was in a groove, Fulber adds some kind of distortion, and the piano becomes louder while the guitar echoes and grinds away. It's a lovely moment of glorious noise.

Forever Lost starts with distorted guitar and fuzzy lite IDM beat. These meander along happily for a while before the voice (nice, whoever she is) and a bass riff seemingly stolen from a Massive Attack disc come in. (I wonder if Del Naja knows that Fulber is raiding his beats?) This song is, quite frankly, rather awesome.

Indeed, this is a really good album. It is the best that i have heard from Fulber in 8 years, and shows that he still has a lot of ideas, and still enjoys playing with new and different sounds. It also shows that he has absorbed contemporary music and filtered it through his own ideas. If you have enjoyed the work of Delerium or Conjure One, you need to track down this CD. If you are unfamiliar with this type of music, this is a pretty good introductory point.

Related Links:
  The first Conjure One album.  

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