Music Reviews

Artist: Tobia Lilja (@)
Title: Delirium Portraits
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Don't be put off by the slightly creepy portrait of Tobias Lilja on the cover by Anna Moberg (of the band Fredrik, I presume); actually I think it's kinda cool. Be assured that Lilja doesn't quite resemble the undead in real life photos I've seen of him. Actually Swedish electronica composer/audio engineer Tobias Lilja might be a name some Chain D. L. K. readers are already familiar with. If you recall his 2007 'Time Is On My Side' album (no, not a Rolling Stones tribute) it was a somnambulistic ambient-like foray into the dreamy subconscious ala David Sylvian or Mick Harris & Martyn Bates Murder Ballads collaboration. Tobias is vocally less emotive than the former and musically less minimal than the latter, but you get the idea. What percussive elements there were on 'Time Is On My Side' were sparse, sludgy and lumbering.

'Delirium Portraits' is a quite different affair; wide-awake and very lucid with percolating beats and grooves. Although Lilja's vocals are still plaintive here, they are not nearly as drawn out and forlorn. The music, while entirely electronic, is so well integrated that it has an organic feel to it. In a way the mood is similar to The Blue Nile (circa their 'Hats' album) with at times a dash of laid-back Yello. 'Delirium Portraits' seems to be Tobias's bridge to synthpop, although I really wouldn't call in synthpop any more than I'd Pink Floyd hard rock. Perhaps progressive electronica would be a better suited term. Quite upbeat in comparison to 'Time Is On My Side' yet dreamy. Tobias is more vocally adventurous here as well warbling multitracked vocals with harmonies. The songs are story-oriented and though the vocals are melodic, the melodies are far afield from any conventional pop music, synth or otherwise. There is a meandering quality in that respect in comparison to the actual song structure which stays true to form for the most part. It takes a special knack to carry off this kind of pop-experimentalism (Laurie Anderson come to mind) without seeming pretentious or precious and Tobias Lilja makes it work on 'Delirium Portraits'. Undoubtedly his background in audio engineering has paid off immensely as well with all the nice little incidental sonic touches that permeate the album.

While a good number of the tracks are beat-propelled, they aren't really dancefloor material. Still, it makes for engaging, moody listening. The only track I didn't care for was the last ' 'Morocco,' which is somewhat of an ode to a dear departed friend of Tobias. I'm sure it was a personal thing he felt compelled to do, and ended 'Delirium Portraits' on a melancholy note, but as a whole this is still a wonderful album.

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