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German trance-pop sensation Schiller continued to build upon its amazing success with Leben, the Christopher von Deylen-led act's third album and most streamlined yet. Building upon the success of the hit single "Dream of You" from Schiller's previous album, Voyage, von Deylen loads up Leben with a number of similarly styled trance-pop songs sung in heavily accented English. In addition to vocalist Peter Heppner, who'd sung "Dream of You," there is a return appearance by Kim Sanders and features for additional English-singing vocalists: Mila Mar, Alexander Veljanov, Maya Saban, and contemporary classical queen Sarah Brightman. The results are unsurprising. Von Deylen doesn't try anything especially new or adventurous over the course of Leben; rather, he sticks to the formula that has proven so successful for him, namely light trance highlighted by occasional poetic pop-song moments. The sort of trance produced by von Deylen drifts back and forth between meditative new age soundscape and effortless downtempo dance music, and the pop-song moments are sparse and simple, just as light as the music itself. A heap of comparisons have been tagged upon Schiller over the years, especially in international markets like North America (where Schiller is likened to Enigma and Deep Forest, misleadingly), but von Deylen really is blazing his own trail here, albeit a rather unadventurous one. What began for him in the late '90s as streamlined trance accented by German spoken word poetry (hence the Schiller moniker) has at this point evolved toward highly accessible trance-pop that is more inclined toward soothing candle-lit home listening than sweaty danceclub fodder. As such, it may seem downright alien to most North Americans, who never really took to trance, let alone dance music in general, like Europeans did beginning in the '90s. And for this reason, the emphasis on English-language vocals seems odd. Because Schiller is primarily a German phenomenon, and to a lesser extent a European one, and is likely to remain so, why not stick with the native language? In any event, Leben isn't an easily categorizable album and will likely appeal to a very select audience that is partial to either home-listening trance or dancey new age -- or else those genuinely intrigued by where von Deylen is steering Schiller, that is, further toward by-the-numbers trance-pop.

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