[sic] Magazine

Tobias Lilja – Delirium Portraits

“I invite you
To the party of my mind”
Adrian Borland.

The electronica and IDM world is no less diverse than the analogue rock spectrum. Some acts provoke, others enchant and some are content to bliss us into a melodic sopor. I am a sucker for the latter but Tobias Lilja doesn’t conform. The Swede’s music belongs somewhere between enchantment and provocation. He is a fascinating character. The cover art depicts the artist in a dense, lush forest, dressed in a tuxedo and clearly confused about the situation in which he finds himself. That artwork is our first portrait of the delirium of the title, Lilja’s delirium. Be warned. Lilja is more flakey than an explosion in a Kelloggs factory.

Lilja’s debut album, Time Is On My Side was an extraordinary recording, a dark, almost troubled meditation on fatigue, self and death. Yes, it’s desperate but it’s also loaded with atmosphere and the albums high points (e.g. ‘Blood Tracer’) stand alongside anything from the last decade. This time around, our Tobias has tried to lighten things. Or has he? Delirium Portraits is crammed with weird rhythms, beats that owe a lot to House and Techno. If Time… was a stroll through a war cemetery, Delirium… sees Lilja wandering the rooms of some vast nightclub. Drum patterns emerge as if out of nowhere and then recede again, not unlike the flowerings of the rainforest/hothouse depicted on the artwork. Lilja doesn’t belong. He is somewhere else. If Time Is On My Side was the sound of Lilja finding himself, Delirium Portraits could well be the contrary.

Losing himself or losing his mind? All the signposts point towards neurosis of some degree. ‘Birthday Cake’ for example is a diatribe against a troubled moment from Lilja’s childhood. It isn’t the imagery that shocks. “Have a piece of birthday cake Tobias” . No, not that. It’s the repetition that gets to you. Like Nicholson in The Shining , “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” isn’t frightening in itself. But if it’s typed over and over, page after endless page, it is absolutely terrifying. In Valves exceptional computer game, Portal , the deranged computer promises its test subject ‘Cake’ aby the end of the supposedly harmless ordeal. Tobias Lilja makes his childhood sound as almost as disturbing as Test Chamber 19.

This record will divide audiences. So try before you buy. ‘North’ and ‘These Bells’ are representative of the whole album. Personally I have a preference for ‘No Death Star’. But at other times it is hard to get a fix on the album. Technically Delirium… is superb – scrunched up basslines entwine the listener and Lilja does extraordinary things with his vocals but it’s easy to see how it could be off-putting to the ‘melody’ crowd. Doubtless, certain people will find Delirium Portraits unlistenable. Liljas laments will strike many as dirges. And it’s true; I don’t see myself reaching too often for Delirium Portraits on a blurry Sunday morning. Those that stay to the very end will find themselves rewarded by a gorgeous snippet of symphony pitched somewhere between Górecki and Dead Can Dance . It’s a direction I hope Lilja might explore further in the future. For now Delirium Portraits gets its 6/10 based on the formula that many will regard it in the highest of terms whilst others will find it baffling.

Is he weird or is he wonderful?

But the cake is a lie.
The cake is a lie.
The cake is a lie.
The cake is a lie.

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