Background music abounds on NuSound's latest release on Neurodisc Records. Erotic Moods, The Very Best of NuSound is a collection of ambient New Age electronica that provides a great soothing, relaxing backdrop for anything from sleeping to sitting out in the yard to sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine on a romantic evening. For more information, check the Web site at www.neurodisc.com.
Diorama is a revelation. From the first falsetto explorations of the gorgeously string-laden "Across the Night" to the bombastic, meaty guitar-stomp of "The Greatest View," Australia's Silverchair has emerged on its fourth album as more than just another hard rock act. Diorama may well prove the best realized, most intensely evocative rock album of the year.
Silverchair first came to notoriety as a teenage trio from Down Under who rocked hard and fit well with the Pearl Jam pervasive sound of the '90s on their 1995 debut album Frogstomp. Popular hard rock singles like "Tomorrow" and "Freak" followed, but at that time, the only thing that really set Silverchair apart from other grunge rockers was its young age (all born in 1979). But the grunge days are gone, and Silverchair has achieved a huge leap of maturity on Diorama, a multi-layered album that explores both lyrical and musical emotion with wide-reaching intelligence and finesse. Singer Daniel Johns wrote all 11 tracks on Diorama, and along with Silverchair's rhythm section — Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou — and several guest artists, including noted orchestral arranger Van Dyke Parks, the resulting album is filled with a warm range of delicacy, beauty and the power of progressive rock.
Diorama's breadth of attack is reminiscient of Scenes From a Memory, hard rock band Dream Theater's 1999 concept album, as well as Jellyfish's still enlightening pop masterpiece Spilt Milk, from 1993. Diorama seamlessly vaults from hard rock riffs to delicate orchestral-supported ballads. And atop its technicolor bright musical adventurousness, Diorama's harmonies bring to mind a variety of top vocal groups, from the surf triads of the Beach Boys (whom Parks has arranged for) and the drama of Queen.
In "World Upon Your Shoulders," Johns sings and strums with cool restraint about goals and life plans as he notes "all the bridges in the world won't save you/if there is no other side to cross to." The song builds with the help of an orchestra until the band backs him up with Beach Boys-esque melancholy harmonies on the choruses. Following this summery beauty, the band launches into a pounding intense guitar, bass and drum anthem, as hard as any experiment of Dream Theater on "One Way Mule."
Then it's back to cinematic breadth on "Tuna in the Brine," with a movie soundtrack-deep orchestration by Parks, supporting a dreamy, sing-song melody as he celebrates being "closer now than we ever should be/closer now than we've ever been before."
There's sinuous bass and dangerously dark guitar growling in "The Lever," and lightly strummed sentiment and gentle piano and string backing in "My Favourite Thing." Diorama closes with one of the sweetest, strongest ballads I've heard this year. "After All These Years" opens with trilling piano and lilting vocals as Johns sings an "Auld Lang Syne"-strong hymn of forgetfulness and hope for the future. "All those years/I was hurting to feel/something more than life" he sings, and the band chimes in with quiet harmonies.
In the music of Diorama, it sounds as though John has found that "something." Don't miss experiencing it.