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Delerium “Music Box Opera”: Album Review

Nettwerk (2012)

The 2000 Sarah McLachlan collaboration “Silence” remains one of the defining trance classics, but as anyone familiar with the rest of their back catalogue will already know, Canadian outfit Delerium’s usual sound is more meditation tape than Ministry of Sound. Recording half the album with Jeremy Inkel in Vancouver, and half with Rhys Fulber in Los Angeles, Bill Leeb continues on this spiritual path with the New Age pioneers’ first record in six years, Music Box Opera.

For those unconvinced by the concept of the studio album in the pick-and-choose era of iTunes and Spotify, this belated follow-up to 2006’s Nuages du Monde puts forward a pretty strong case. Taken out of context, most individual tracks fail to grab much attention. Opener “Consciousness of Love,” a blend of seductive R&B vocals and twitchy slow-motion electro which sounds like a mash-up between Enigma and early Sugababes, has a vague whiff of minor hit, as does the ethereal synth-pop of “Chrysalis Heart,” which could quite easily have fit onto Ellie Goulding’s recent LP.

But Music Box Opera needs to be experienced in its entirety for its lush textured soundscapes to properly reel you in. Admittedly, there are a few self-indulgent noodlings which will test the patience of even the most relaxed souls, particularly the meandering Middle Eastern instrumental, “Awakening.”

However, on the whole, Delerium infuse their mystical brand of electronica with enough twists and turns to prevent listeners from slipping into a coma. The gothic trip-hop of “Light Your Lights” and the Leftfield-esque “Sky (Tears From Heaven)” sees regular collaborators Jael and Kristy Thirsk respectively hark back to the nocturnal Bristolian sounds of the mid-90s.

The Michael Logan-sung “Days Turn Into Nights,” first male vocal featured on a Delerirum track since Matthew Sweet on 2001’s “Daylight,” merges a dreamy William Orbit-style production with the soft-rock melodies of One Republic. Several other newcomers to the fold also make their mark, from Nadina on the Middle Eastern breakbeat of “Monarch,” to US dream-pop duo Azure Ray on the seductive “Keyless Door.”

Arguably Delerium’s most consistent and immersive release to date, Music Box Opera proves that New Age music is capable of being captivating as well as calming.


3.5 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music