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Orphée ~ an introspective descent into the male soul
Grief-stricken, Orphée descends into the underworld. Incapable of following any path but the one his heart lays before him, Orphée descends with a song on his lips. Lost within thoughts of pain, sorrow and longing, he seeks an audience with Hades to beg the return of his wife ~ his lost muse. "Those who go beneath the surface," Oscar Wilde once reflected, "do so at their own peril." Yet Orphée's descent is a journey into his secretive and well-guarded inner soul; for with his tender song, he hopes no less than to win the devil over. His song, of the most subtle and delicate nature, unearths the inspiration deep within.
Projekt's newest compilation explores the ethereal nature of the male voice. Bringing together an impressive array of well-known artists, Orphée venerates the sensitive, introspective inner soul of the singer and the song.
Check out Orphée's little sister: Seireenia
Orphee was mentioned in the December issue of the English music mag "Q". Q: "I heard that a compilation album has been released on an American record label called Projekt which includes a previously unreleased track by John Foxx and tracks by former members of Japan, but can't find any more information about it. Can you help me?" A: "The compilation in question is titled Orphee and was released earlier this year. Alluringly billed as "an introspective descent into the male soul," it re-explores the Orpheus myth via "the ethereal nature of, the male voice" and begins with a new John Foxx song called "Quiet Splendour". Centering on his wordless, meditative vocals, it certainly proves he hasn't got any happier since his days singing in the pre-Midge Ure Ultravox. Former members of Japan present, meanwhile, are David Sylvian (with old track "Nostalgia") and Steve Jansen / Richard Barbieri, who collaborate on "Ringing The Bell Backwards." The label, Projekt, specializes in ambient, goth-tinged electronica by groups called things like Ordo Equitum Solis, Vidna Obmana and Loveliescrushing. Isn't it getting dark early these days?"
The depth of male emotion is given little credence in an often hostle climate of subjective analysis. Men are often portrayed as the aggressors, makers of war and defilers of women. But the capacity for venality is a gender-neutral aspect of human nature, as is the ability to illuminate the shadowlands of the human spirit. Projekt's recent 'Seireenia' compilation was dedicated to the women of goth who walk bravely into the darkness with a sensual intelligence that makes the genre so alluring. Orphee serves as a companion disc that similarly showcases the men of goth.
Instead of expressing an inner rage with power chords and throat-wrenching vocals, the artists on 'Orphee' have devoted themselves to exploring the dark poetry of the soul in a more sublime manner. John Foxx (formerly of Ultravox) opens the album with a work of classical ambient brimming with beauty and sorrow. Gothic romanticism cries the joys and agonies of tumultuous affection in tracks by Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Human Drama, and Soul Whirling Somewhere. Bleak vision of life and death are put forth with a dreamy sense of dread by Unto Ashes, Judgement Of Paris and Audra. Tracks by David Sylvian, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, and Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook reach closer toward the surface of popular music, making for a rich and diverse compilation of darkwave gems, gender notwithstanding. -Mark Burby
That's really the best way to describe the latest PROJEKT Records (release number 102) offering, Orphée. This embodiment of work has brainchild Sam Rosenthal written all over it. Only a being such as Rosenthal could compile such greatness under the skin of one CD. In fact Rosenthal's own band, BLACK TAPE FOR A BLUE GIRL, has a song on Orphée as well.
There are so many wonderful musical ensembles on Orphée that I feel compelled to list them all from start to finish so I will: John Foxx, Jansen/Barbieri (ex-members of JAPAN), BLACK TAPE FOR A BLUE GIRL, HUMAN DRAMA, TONES ON TAIL, UNTO ASHES, AUDRA, JUDGEMENT OF PARIS, PETER ULRICH (percussionist from DEAD CAN DANCE), CHRISTIAN DEATH, David Sylvian (ex-frontman of JAPAN), SOUL WHIRLING SOMEWHERE and Pieter Nooten/Michael Brook (ex-CLAN OF XYMOX members). Each of these musical masters have one track each. The flagship track, of course, is Nostalgia, by David Sylvian. Orphée grows ever diverse in various directional facets. Sam Rosenthal should be eternally cherished for putting together such a beautiful and well-crafted collection of work. Even the sleeve inlay should be well noted as it was visually fabricated by former 4AD designer, Timothy O'Donnell. And if that wasn't enough of a reason to fly to the record store and secure yourself a copy, there's more! There's even a written piece about Orphée by author, Neil Gaiman at the end of the inlay. Gaiman is the word craftsman that brought to life THE SANDMAN comic book tales. Rosenthal also conjures up a few thoughts on Orphée with some interestingly written words at the forefront of the inlay.
The thirteen tracks of Orphée will leave you awe struck. About half way through I had already convinced myself to shut down my computer and take up roost on the entrance step to the FRIGHT X building. Inspired by the music of Orphée, there, I quietly sat waiting to see what Mother Nature was dishing my way. As Peter Ulrich's Life Amongst The Black Sheep spins in the CD player, I notice for the first time this season that the leaves are still green but they are aware of the fact that intense color, brittleness and severe change is just around the corner. I can smell Winter approaching. She is underneath the blankets of heat spells that August unleashes upon us. The window is open and I can hear CHRISTIAN DEATH winding down to the end of their song, Mother. This is my third time through Orphée and having already memorized the track order, I patiently, yet excitedly wait to hear the mythical voice of David Sylvian as a cool breeze brushes across my face, the sun hides - only for a moment behind a cloud - and I realize that I'm not getting any work done today, and it's probably better that way. Thank you Sam, I appreciate your non-stop efforts to make my world a more enchanted place to live in. - David Paul Wyatt Perko, FRIGHT X President & Creative Director
As you might expect, about half the bands included are or were Projekt artists, including Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Soul Whirling Somewhere, and Peter Ulrich. One of my favorites from the offerings of the Projekt camp was Unto Ashes' "Scourge," with its delicate acoustic guitar, jeweled xylophone sounds, and lovely synth paired with darkly twisted yet compelling lyrics. Audra's sinister "You're So Pretty" also earns deep darkness points for its description of a sadistic collector who keeps his prize perfectly coiffed and chained in the basement.
Among the outsiders, Christian Death (featuring the vocals of the late Rozz Williams) relates the chilling, Oedipal plea of an (un)dead man to "come back to/through/into" his mother with soft-intoned vocals/incantations, e-bowed guitar, slow-plucked bass, and spooky synth on "Mother." But the highlight of the album for me was John Foxx's awesome "Quiet Splendour," with its almost blindingly beautiful bright white starry synth and its heavily treated and layered male vocals in back like a chorus of angels chanting, all slowly unfolding over the course of the track like a dream of paradise, lighter than air yet graver than eternity. - Dave Aftandilian
The styles these men all cover range from the neo-classical area of Black Tape for a Blue Girl to more modern goth in the case of Audra to warm ambience and world music conscious styles, such as Peter Ulrich. The majority of the songs are impassioned and darkly tragic, most of which avoid melodramatics. No matter your taste in atmospheric, goth, darkwave or what-have-you, there is something on this album to discover. Some of my immediate favorites are Human Drama's "A Single White Rose", Tones on Tail's light and playful "Lions", David Sylvian's "Nostalgia" and the very serene Soul Whirling Somewhere. As anyone who read my reviews of the Judgement of Paris reissues already knows, "More" is of course another favorite.
On a whole, Orphée is another great compilation that is bound to introduce you to new favorites. Moreover, it is quite cohesive in terms of album continuity, which is a nice trick to pull of with compilation albums. Definitely recommended for those curious about some male vocal oriented Projekt bands and beyond. -- John Chedsey
Orphee showcases what seems to be missing at times from male vocals in today's music... beauty. Most male vocals today are aggressive, crude, or overly sappy. Orphee goes against those stereotypes and shows the flip side to the coin. Whether it be John Foxx's (former Ultravox lead) sedate atmospheric song "Quiet Splendour" or even Black Tape for a Blue Girl's "A Chaos of Desire" which is still one of my favorites from them.
Unlike a lot of other Various artist CDs that I've listened to in the past, this one flows so much nicer in comparison. One song seems to lead in right to the next. Which says a lot for Sam's compilation skills since the dates of these songs differ greatly.
All in all... I think that this is one of my favorite compilations that Projekt has put forth.
Rating: 8/10 Favourite Tracks: Splendour, Scourge - Sparrow
The track list alone is very interesting, as it expectantly houses a fair share of Projekt artists including Soul Whirling Somewhere, Black Tape For A Blue Girl, and newcomers Audra and Unto Ashes. But I was especially surprised to see Christian Death and Tones On Tail included, mainly as the songs chosen are quite old and I just never imagined that these songs would appear on a Projekt release. But when all is said and done, they fit in well with the standard dark ethereal atmosphere characteristic to the label.
There is a very personal vibe to the CD, and it could possibly be regarded as a mix CD delivered by Sam Rosenthal himself, if one were to ask him to pick some of the most definitive male vocalled songs of the past 15 or so years. That may put the unique track list into perspective.
With that aside, I will say that Orphee is certainly a good release. There is a universal mood to all the songs, despite that they all would appear at different marks on the ethereal and new age spectrums. The arresting potential and passionate sensitivity of the male voice is perfectly represented by the thirteen tracks chosen. It explores varying emotions, from traditional romantic pining, loneliness, love, and hints of black humour most perfectly captured by Audra's masochistic tongue in cheek track "You're So Pretty."
The main highlight for me was the offering from Unto Ashes, a very stark and simple track with warm acoustic guitars, chimes, and soft male vocals. It almost has a dark Christmas carol vibe to it, much like Dead Can Dance's classic "The Carnival Is Over." The other highlight for me was that I was CD introduced to Judgement of Paris, who to me sound like the perfect mix between typical 4AD and Projekt qualities, led by exceptionally movingvocals and a swirling hypnotic atmosphere.
Human Drama's sweetly melancholic neo-classical ode is delivered with the characteristic feverish passion of the band, and is a gorgeous song with beautiful piano and a string quartet. It appears on the newest release Solemn Sun Setting. Dead Can Dance percussionist Peter Ulrich appears with an eclectic blend of Celtic folk, Mediaeval instrumentation, and new age majesty, from his CD Pathways & Dawns.
Many of the songs are familiar to me, and will be to you as well. The Black Tape song is the title track from the project's fourth release A Chaos Of Desire, which is a wonderful album that new fans may not have had the opportunity to hear much of.
Who could ever forget Tones On Tail, the mid-eighties project of Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins after Bauhaus called it quits in 1983. The mischievous and psychedelic "Lions" fit in well on the compilation. A nice dive into the archives there, as well as with the 1984 David Sylvian track and the Nooten/Brook track from 1987.
And if ever Christian Death appeared on a Projekt comp, I can't think of a more fitting track than this one, "Mother" which first appeared on Rozz Williams' come back Cleopatra release The Path Of Sorrows in 1992. With swirling eboed guitars and subtle piano, it is one of the few ethereal type tracks Williams' ever did under the Christian Death moniker.
All in all, Orphee is a strong package of relaxing, introspective tracks from some of the most talented male artists in the dark music scene. The only drawback is that these songs are not rare or unreleased, and can be found rather easily elsewhere. Also, the CD might be too ethereal for some listeners, so be aware that this is a pensive collection of slower, melodic lullabies and laments, as opposed to Goth rock or club anthems. But I think that it is a great collection of songs, and its strongest asset is the convenience of having one single disc comprised of both new and familiar songs rich in atmosphere and transcendent beauty. - Matthew