During the eighties there was a small, but steady underground scene from bands and musicians that were inspired by the psychedelic music of the sixties and the seventies. In the mainstream media their music was completely ignored; these neo-hippies were considered to be relics of days gone by and they were often ridiculed - think of Neil in the comedy series The Young Ones. Record companies didn't see any benefit in releasing their music. So these bands recorded at home and sold these recordings on cassettes on the free festivals where they played, such as Stonehenge and Glastonbury.
Since the mainstream media and magazines didn't pay any attention to the underground, they had their own magazines. The Freakbeat started in 1986 and from 1987 it was co-edited by Richard Allen. Since a lot of reviewed albums and cassettes weren't available in the regular record stores, readers wrote to the magazine to buy them. So in 1991 Allen started the mail order company Freak Emporium and from there it was a small step to start his own record label: Delerium Records. The name Delerium was spelled wrong, it should have been Delirium, but the logo was already developed and in the end it was decided to keep the name from the logo.
Around 1990 there suddenly was The Orb with their debut album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. The Orb had the idea of combining the psychedelic and ambient music of the seventies with the new acid house music. They not only paved the way for a new generation of psychedelic bands that used synthesizers, samplers and drum machines, but also started a revival in the music of the seventies. The rave parties took over from the free festivals. Bands like Gong and Hawkwind were discovered by a new generation. So Delerium Records started in a convenient time. One of the first artists on the label was a young genius who almost single-handedly recorded two cassettes faking a seventies progressive psychedelic band. This young genius was Steven Wilson and these two cassettes would be combined to the first Porcupine Tree-album On The Sunday Of Life (1992). Porcupine Tree (PT) became Delerium's best known band. Eventually the record label would release more PT-albums: Up The Downstair (1993), The Sky Moves Sideways (1995), Signify (1996), the live album Coma Divine (1997), a couple of EP's Voyage 34 (1993), Voyage 34 remixed (1994), Stars Die (1995), Waiting (1996) and Voyage 34 The Complete Trip (2000) and last but not least Metanoia (2001) and Transmission IV (Moonloop) (2001).
By 1997 PT had become popular in several European countries and wanted to conquer the States. It was clear that Delerium was too small to support them. So Delerium and PT divorced in harmony; Richard Allen would even be part of the PT-management until 2003. The back catalogue of PT was eventually sold to Snapper to finance new equipment for the Freak Emporium. In 2000 Richard Allen founded a new record label: Molten Records. Being tired of the complex music of the neo-psychedelic genre this label focused on garage and back-to-basics psychedelic rock. By the end of 2004 both Delerium and Molten were no longer operational. The Freak Emporium closed its virtual doors in December 2007 because of tax legislation where they no longer could compete with companies selling CD's tax free from the Channel Islands.
Without doubt Delerium owed a lot to PT. The success of PT opened doors to some of the other bands of the label and made the label being taken seriously. Without PT it wouldn't have had the cult status it has today. However, Steven Wilson also owes a lot to Delerium. Not much record companies would dare to think of releasing a thirty-minute single about an LSD-trip. Delerium was more than PT alone. The Delerium-catalogue is an overview of psychedelic music in all its different appearances in its era: neo-prog, garage, krautrock, psy-folk, ambient, trance, space rock and acid jazz. Delerium was a record label run by music lovers for music lovers.
Some of the interesting bands on Delerium Records in alphabetical order:
a German neo-krautrock band still active today and inspired by Brainticket, Guru Guru and Amon Düül II, but also with a sound of their own. They released three albums through Delerium: Orange Commutation (1995), Cyberdelic (1996) and Electric Orange (1996).
Incredible Expanding Mindfuck (I.E.M.):
a solo project of Steven Wilson to release some of his music that was too experimental for Porcupine Tree. The first eponymous album was released in 1996 on Delerium.
had its origin in the festival band Ship of Fools. Where Ship of Fools was musically related to Ozric Tentacles, Nine Invisibles were musically much more related to Ozric's offspring Eat Static, although the latter were fully electronic and Nine Invisibles used also used guitars in their music. Nine Invisibles released two albums on Delerium: Pureheadspace (1997) and Soundbombing (2001), which was also the final new album released on Delerium.
a festival band from the eighties that had already dissolved, but Richard Allen managed to persuade them to re-record some of their cassette material. The keyboard player had already moved to Canada. Nukli released The Time Factory (1996), a space rock album in the best Hawkwind-tradition.
a festival band as well. They were more or less inactive by the time they were approached by Richard Allen. They re-recorded some of their early cassette material for their first eponymous album (1993). It took them four years to record their second album Red Shift (1997). Musically Omnia Opera is related to Porcupine Tree in their Voyage 34 / Up The Downstair-period.
a one-man project of Dean Carter; inspired by Robert Fripp, Steve Hillage and Brian Eno he developed his own style with just electric guitar and effects. Richard Allen introduced Carter to Steven Wilson and Wilson offered to record an album in his studio. The Exstasie (1995) sounds in between Porcupine Tree's Voyage 34 and Echo, the masterpiece from Achim Reichel & Machines. The successor Send (1997) was more varied. Members from Camel assisted on this album. While Carter was setting up a live band, he was diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome. The Exstasie was released in a second edition in 2003 due to the demand from Steven Wilson-fans.
formed by the brothers Shaun Hyder (sitar) and Rehan Matthew Ryder (slide guitar). Their music was a combination of Celtic folk, eastern music and exotic psychedelia. The band released two albums on Delerium: The Conference Of The Birds (1995) and Path Of The Rose (1998). Saddar Bazaar are still active in the Bristol underground scene, although they haven't released anything since the second album.
The Spacious Mind:
this space rock band from Sweden found their inspiration in early Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Amon Düül II and Ashra Temple. Their music can be characterized as long percussion and guitar driven sonic explorations. The band released one album on Delerium, the excellent Mind Of A Brother (1999). By that time Delerium was already in decline and they eventually founded their own record label.
rose out of the ashes of Webcore, another eighties festival band. The band released two albums on Delerium Records together with the American writer, philosopher and psychedelic guru Terrence McKenna. The first album Dream Matrix Telemetry (1993) is a wonderful ambient cosmic trip with the hypnotic voice of McKenna explaining a DMT-experience, a kind of drug. The second album Shamania (1994) is more rhythmic, but also with a lot of didgeridoo giving it an exotic twist.
This box set is an anthology of a disbanded record label and a homage to the psychedelic music of the last decade of the twentieth century, but it's also an appetizer. Esoteric Recordings has taken over the whole catalogue with the exception of Porcupine Tree. Some albums are already available as download album on various legal download websites and maybe they will be released again on CD as well. Omnia Opera, Nine Invisibles and Saddar Bazaar are active again and are all three working on their long awaited third album. There's still material from Psychomuzak that may finally see the light of day. Some of the bands never disappeared. The Delerium legacy is still very much alive.
**** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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