11/9 - Conjure One - 'Exilarch'

Conjure One is not a side project. Yes, you might know master-producer Rhys Fulber from a host of other musical entities – chart-topping electro-pop group Delerium and pioneering industrial band Front Line Assembly most notably. But when he strips away the samples, the collaborators, and the expectations, all that’s left is a man and his music.

“Conjure One is me working completely alone initially, traveling through countries, hearing new sounds,” says Fulber. “That’s the whole vibe I wanted to translate.”

From “Damascus,” the opening track of Conjure One’s 2002 self-titled debut, featuring world singer Chemda’s mysterious vocalizing; to “Oligarch,” the epic, string-laden instrumental which closes its third and latest album Exilarch, Conjure One is Fulber’s self-documentary, a collection of his most essential influences, his past work, and his deepest loves. Exilarch finds him returning to the heady darkness of Conjure One’s debut, back to what he calls its “initial idea”: To make “dirty, squelchy electronic, semi trip-hop with middle eastern elements.”

Fulber’s storied career has put him at the forefront of some of the most important musical movements of the last century. In the mid-’80s, he joined Front Line Assembly with former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb, marrying electronic beats and metallic synths, accelerating the industrial sound, and creating a blueprint for acts like Nine Inch Nails. Fulber collaborated further with Leeb on Delerium, a 20-plus-year project that ranges more toward the beautiful than the beastly, exploring lush and ambient sounds. It served as an inspiration for the trance style that has dominated global dance music for decades; and in 2000, “Silence,” a Delerium collaboration with Sarah McLachlan, became a worldwide hit and beloved classic.

Fulber has also lent his production and programming talents to a patchwork of diverse artists, from the rugged Rob Zombie and Fear Factory, to the smooth Rob Thomas and Josh Groban. World music and its unique sounds have always played an important part in the Conjure One palette, and Exilarch is no different. Fulber is a sonic explorer, following lineages to discover new musical relatives. “I’m obsessed with Central Asia; it’s such a mysterious part of the world. And I’ve always liked Turkish and Middle Eastern music,” he says. “You get into Turkish stuff and suddenly you hear Albanian, which has similar elements. When I lived in Europe I heard an Uzbek singer and that made me want to investigate Uzbekistani music further.”

You can hear all of these wide-ranging influences and experiences throughout Exilarch: The sounds of the Middle East on electronic symphonies “Nargis” and “Nomadic Code,” which nods to Massive Attack, but with a metallic smack that recalls Front Line Assembly. The Groban-like beauty of the vocals on the lavish and soaring “Zephyr.” The marriage of plaintive lyrics and elegant soundscapes on the haunting “The Distance” and first single “I Dream In Colour,” bringing to mind Delerium, but with a thicker synthetic cloud overhead.

For the live Exilarch experience, Fulber will manipulate the recorded music, “stripping it down,” he says, to create something different from the album. “The tracks will be altered, sped up, roughed-up, and constantly evolving, adding found sounds along the way. Because you’ve got to do that to have excitement and presence with electronic music live, I think.”

Whether it’s the album or its live extension, Fulber says that Exilarch is the closest he’s come to artistic purity. “I had no input from anyone. I like this album the best because it was the closest to complete freedom.”

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