According to the liner notes, this collection is “an introspective descent into the male soul” through the medium of the ethereal male voice. Although all the songs were previously or are soon-to-be-released on various albums, a number of the tracks are from older, hard-to-find recordings, such as Tones on Tails’ Everything or David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees from the 1980s. The quality of most of the tracks, together with the fact that the disc offers almost 70 minutes of music, as well as an exclusive modern retelling of the Orpheus myth by Neil Gaiman (of Sandman fame), makes Orphee well worth having for any fan of ethereal/dark ambient music.
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.
Projekt/Darkwave, PO Box 9140, LIC, NY 11103; http://www.projekt.com