Not the Target Demographic: Conjure One

Not the Target Demographic Presents “What the Hell Happened Here?”, Volume One: Conjure One

Okay, far be it from me to be obtuse, but I don’t get Conjure One.

I mean, think about this a minute. Rhys Fulber, more-or-less founding member of Front Line Assembly, has been an integral part of the creation of some of the greatest industrial music ever made. For whatever reason, he tires of working with FLA exclusively and decides to take some time off from it to work on other music. In his time off he works on a number of side projects, one of which is the aforementioned Conjure One. For whatever reason, Fulber has managed to line up several vocalists (mostly females) to work on this project, chief among them one Ann Danielewski, AKA Poe, one of the better female singers alive today. Though her name isn’t as commercially viable as it once was (seven years is a long time to take a hiatus, and Haunted didn’t do so well), she’s still known and viable, not to mention talented as hell.

If you were Fulber, what would YOU have done?

I don’t know what your answer was, but I’m making a fair bet that it was NOT “Why Mark, I do believe I’d spend my time ripping off Enigma”. Because that would be a BAD IDEA.

And yet…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Conjure One, I really do. But it’s more like how one likes one’s car; I’m happy with the Saturn, don’t get me wrong, but if I was expecting to be driving off the lot in a Shelby Cobra, there’s no possible way I’m going to be happy with what I have. How could you be? The same applies here: a talented musician and a talented singer get together and produce music that is… well, nowhere near what one would have expected.

See, here’s the problem: both Conjure One albums (a self-titled record and Extraordinary Ways) are solid, structured albums that are well produced, well organized, and very, very boring. Now, me, I’m perfectly okay with boring. I own two Enigma albums, I own an Enya album, hell, I have a CD of Gregorian Chant music in my CD rack that I’ve listened to more than once. Boring is a wonderful thing.

But it all comes to a little something called “context”. Context, for those who’ve heard the word but are unaware of its meaning, is essentially the facts/circumstances/events/etc that, for lack of a better way to describe it, “surround” an event. For instance, if I say, “Someone kicked in the door of my house”, the listener would think “breaking and entering”. However, and this is important, the CONTEXT of the event is that the house was on fire, the person kicking in the door was a fireman, and he was trying to put the fire out.

And that’s context.

Now, back on topic, when I walk into the local Best Buy or FYE or whatever and I, as an example, pick up a Sven Vath CD off the rack, I have no context upon which to base this purchase, should I choose to buy it. I have no idea who Sven Vath is, I’ve heard nothing he’s made, and it won’t be until I get it home and listen to it that I will HAVE any sort of context on the album.

On the other hand, if I pick up an Aphex Twin album off the same shelf (well, okay, technically, it’s a different shelf, unless the alphabetization in the store has gone to hell), I have plenty of context to base this purchase on. Richard D James is an eclectic, oddball musician who I have much love and respect for, even if he did Photoshop his head onto a woman with huge boobs. Thus, the context of the situation tells me the CD would be a good investment.

The problem is thus: the context of Conjure One says “Poe making dance industrial”, while the final product is sleepy-time music.

Now, that wouldn’t even be SO bad except for the fact that it’s BORING sleepy-time music. Ambient tracks can still be interesting in their execution and presentation; witness the aforementioned Aphex Twin, specifically the “Selected Ambient Works” series that James started his career off with, and you’ll understand what I mean. Ambient music can be stylish and unique in its presentation, but Conjure One cannot even claim to be that. Out of two CD’s, only one song has a sound to it that touches upon being interesting. This song, “Forever Lost”, features vaguely interesting composition during the chorus and bridge sections, highlighted by uninteresting lyrics and a vocalist, Chemda Khalili, whose vocal range falls somewhere between Britney Spears and Free Dominguez. Poe, meanwhile, gets to sing over rejected Enigma beats.

The point I’m getting to, of course, is “What the Hell Happened Here”?

Hence the title.

Rhys Fulber is a very talented programmer who convinced several singers, some of whom are rather talented, to make some of the most boring and bland music ever created simply for his own personal amusement. I mean, Christ, Sinead O’Connor recorded a track for this man! He has been instrumental (no pun intended) in the creation of some really powerful music as a member of Front Line Assembly, but when given a chance to make music on his own, his final product ends up a boring, also-ran collection of stylistically devoid ambient music featuring uninterested vocalists, some of whom could have produced a better album if it were composed of armpit noises and the flapping together of their buttcheeks.

In the end, I’m glad Fulber is working with FLA again, because really… what the hell happened here?