Witness the split music personalities of Vancouver duo Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber. Better known for their work as the industrial-edged group Front Line Assembly, the duo's decade-old alter-ego, Delerium, fashions itself more on the lines of ambient world-beat. Curiousity-seekers who thrive on the beats of Enigma and Deep Forest would be well served to give the group's latest release, Karma, a spin.
Whereas claims of sanitizing third world music by western artists for western consumption are often accurate, Delerium delivers a substantive offering and lush presence that many of its sterile brethren lack. The addition of strong female vocalists Sarah McLachlan, Kristy Thirsk (ex-Rose Chronicles), Jacqui Hunt (Single Gun Theory) and Camille Henderson complements the duo's clever sampling and electronic landscapes perfectly to make for an album that simply doesn't sound like it's right off the world-beat factory floor.
Karma took about a year to piece together, and Bill Leeb found it was a lot more work than a Front Line album: "We put so many different elements into Karma... loads of synth-work and the whole world-beat feel. Then we put actual songs underneath it, vocalists on top. After that we added a 30-piece choir that we recorded in West Vancouver. The actual time we spent in the studio to mix the disc was about three weeks, but the pre-production was where it got time-consuming."
Considering Leeb and Fulber's fondness for sampling, it may be surprising that the duo took the time and effort to record a real live choir. "Nowadays, the whole sample clearance issue has become ridiculous," says Leeb. "Record companies ask for outrageous amounts of money for Gregorian samples. It's the whole Enigma 'thing.' They figure that their record sold 11 million copies, so now they want big chunks of money. It's still cheaper to pay a choir, rent a church, drag the equipment down there, transcribe the words to Latin and record it. It comes out to be half the price of clearing a 12-second sample, which I find totally bizarre."
The ironic image of the Front Line Assembly duo in a West Vancouver church doesn't elude Leeb: "Yeah, it was pretty funny. We had this ghetto-blaster cranked way up. Rhys and I were standing around looking trendy and the choir was all dressed in black. It was," he says with a laugh, "a moment to remember. It was the perfect setting. All these rich people looking out their windows probably thinking, 'Who are these guys loitering around? I hope they don't steal our designer garden dwarves.'"
Another wrinkle in the production of Karma was the handful of guest vocalists incorporated on the album: not only did McLachlan, Thirsk, Hunt and Henderson add their angelic voices, they also wrote the lyrics for the project. "We sent them demos of the music and they wrote around them. I know from my own writing experiences with FLA that you write the way you sing. I don't think I could write lyrics that Sarah McLachlan would be comfortable with. You know, death and destruction, evil lurks everywhere, that type of thing."
While his evil twin is doing phone interviews from his home in Vancouver, Rhys Fulber is busy moving house to Amsterdam. Asked if this will present any logistical problems, Leeb is nonchalant. "No, it's fine. Rhys travels so much, I don't think he can call anywhere home now. He has a whole other career going on with producing [current projects: Moist, Tea Party] that keeps him on the road. He'll be coming back to Vancouver in the next few weeks to produce the next Front Line Assembly album, and then we'll probably go to Germany to mix it. We have a pretty casual arrangement."
So the positive response to Karma doesn't spell the demise of the harder-edged Front Line Assembly in favour of Delerium? "I don't think so. I always wanted to do this style of music on the side. I think we were always dabbling with it. We used choirs on Front Line albums but always with dark industrial beats that scared a lot of people away. It's more like an evolution. You move on. You can only paint the walls black in so many different ways."
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