Depeche Mode – Soothe My Soul

The second single from Depeche Mode‘s slightly iffy album Delta Machine was the gospel-flavoured Soothe My Soul. An odd single choice from an album which perhaps wasn’t overflowing with options, it still performed respectably in the charts and got a good amount of airplay.

Depeche Mode don’t have the most amazing record with their single versions – they tend to take songs in a slightly different direction, which often seems to miss out everything which made the original good. Soothe My Soul, though, is an exception – I think the single version is actually better than the original. Apart from being shorter, it’s somehow punchier, and more concise, and works rather well. I’m still not convinced it’s the greatest track on the album, but it’s a fair take given the raw materials.

There’s no b-side this time – instead you get Gesaffelstein‘s remix of Goodbye. This is one of those remixes where it’s difficult to know exactly what the point is – it plods along entirely pleasantly, and the drums are at least interesting, but there’s a lot which is just lifted directly from the original, and the ending is particularly anticlimactic.

The remixes on the second disc are largely good, although your enjoyment of them will inevitably depend on how strong you think the lead track is. Personally I’m not entirely convinced, but even so, the majority of the mixes are enjoyable.

First up is Steve Angello and Jaques Lu Cont‘s version, which is a very contemporary mix that you could definitely envisage getting club play. It perhaps drags a little with its seven minute duration, but the slightly grimy bass part is enough to keep you awake if your mind starts to wander at any point.

Next comes Tom Furse, with perhaps the best of all the remixes. This version adds a sultry swing to the track as well as a whole load of synthesizers, making it a lot less grubby sounding than the original, which is no bad thing.

Billy F. Gibbons and Joe Hardy‘s remix seems a little unnecessary – for the most part they seem to have just added a bit of guitar noodling and a couple of vocal effects, and otherwise it’s not hugely different. I suppose there’s something for everyone here, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Then Joris Delacroix turns up with a slightly glam dance version. It works quite well, but it does drag a bit too at nearly seven minutes. Again, maybe if you’re keener on the original than I am, you might enjoy this more. The Black Asteroid remix is duller still – it just contains a lot of daft noises and never really seems to go anywhere.

Finally comes Gregor Tresher‘s Soothed remix, which is every bit as laid back as you might expect from the title. Gone are all the dark electronics and pretty much everything else except the vocal, to be replaced by sweeping pads and gentle chimes. It’s interesting and different, and therefore probably my second favourite version after Tom Furse‘s mix earlier.

So Soothe My Soul was an odd choice for second single, and although pleasant, I’m not sure it has a huge amount going for it. If you’re not a completist, you could probably skip this one and just stick with the album version.

You can find both the physical and download versions of both discs of the single at all major retailers. The first disc is here, and the remix package here.

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Various Artists – (Ahk-toong Bay-bi) Covered

Ah, Achtung Baby. An incredibly important album, or so we’re told. So important that a little under two years ago Q Magazine put together a compilation of covers entitled (Ahk-toong Bay-bi) Covered.

The original by U2 isn’t actually an album that I know, and if I’m honest I actually only tracked down this album so I could hear the Depeche Mode track. But in a way, having tracked it down, I feel I should be fair and review it in full, and so here we go. To make this a little more challenging, I’m not going to look up anything about the original album or the artists, so we’ll see where this takes us. Let’s hope I don’t say anything too stupid or rude, and there aren’t too many real U2 fans passing.

The first track is Zoo Station, covered in an industrial rock style by Nine Inch Nails. Since this genre is pretty much what U2 do, it would be interesting to know how different it is. It’s pretty pleasant, but it does drag on a bit at six and a half minutes, including a minute or two of droning feedback in the middle. I guess Zoo Station is a reference to the Zoologischer Garten railway station in the central shopping area of West Berlin.

Second is actually a remix rather than a cover – Jacques Lu Cont takes on one of the huge hits from this album Even Better Than the Real Thing, and rather wonderfully turns it into a modern rock/dance crossover track. I think it’s probably fair to say that this is the best track on this album, melding together the original elements (such as the drumming) with the more contemporary sounds.

Acoustic / folk singer Damien Rice‘s take on One is very good, full of emotion and feeling, although it does rather lack the energy of the original. Patti Smith‘s Unti the End of the World is just about listenable. I wonder what her fans thought of this? Or maybe she’s always as bad as this; I really don’t know.

Then another track where I know the original, albeit not especially well. Garbage have taken Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, and they have turned it into a typical Garbage track. Which is all good and fine – all the ingredients are there for an excellent song. Unfortunately somewhere it slightly misses its mark – the softer verses are pleasant, but the rocky chorus doesn’t quite work somehow.

Which is symptomatic of the whole album really for me – there are lots of great artists, performing great pieces of music, and not doing a particularly great job of it. Depeche Mode suffered a lot of criticism from their fans for So Cruel, but when you listen you realise that, unfortunately, this is entirely right. From the fun growly overloaded synths at the start through to the clicking and bleeping half way through, and with Dave Gahan‘s typically powerful vocal, all the ingredients are there. The end result isn’t bad, but it just isn’t particularly memorable, in any way. As with much of this album.

The original Achtung Baby obviously took a lot of influences from Germany, but don’t take that to mean the pronunciation guide on this album is correct – Ahk-toong Bay-bi would give you an entirely erroneous impression of the name (actually I believe the album title is correctly stylised as (Ǎhk-to͝ong Bāy-Bi) Covered, which I suspect is closer, but I didn’t want to use that everywhere in this post as it would probably quickly start to become illegible to anyone without access to those symbols). I wonder therefore if that’s an in-joke that I’m missing.

Gavin Friday turns up next to do a really adventurous take of The Fly, full of wobbly electronic noises and creaking sounds, and successfully sounding absolutely nothing like the original but also very good at the same time. It’s another strong track, probably second only to Even Better Than the Real Thing on this collection.

Snow Patrol‘s version of the brilliant Mysterious Ways starts off pretty unpromisingly, but builds into a good track towards the end, and then just as it’s getting started it’s over already. Of course, what made the original special was the combination of all its parts, but in particular the guitar effects, of which there is no sign this time around.

Then The Fray take on Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World for one of the less notable tracks on the whole compilation, followed by The Killers doing a pleasant but largely forgettable version of Ultra Violet (Light My Way) and just in case you thought the mediocrity was become a little monotonous, Glasvegas turn up with a largely hideous take of Acrobat.

The final track sees Jack White take on Love is Blindness, again leaving something pleasant but fairly unremarkable behind him. Things get a bit more exciting as he wanders towards the crescendo at the end, but then most of the tracks on this album had something going for them.

The general theme of (Ahk-toong Bay-bi) Covered, then, is “pleasant but forgettable.” As a tribute to a great album, is this really doing its job? I’ll let you decide. At least it’s all for charity.

You can find (Ahk-toong Bay-bi) Covered on iTunes and all the normal download locations. The physical format is probably available second hand too, but of course that’s not for charity…

Live – Best of the Festivals 2013

This month, with summer coming in the northern hemisphere, we take a look at the best of the summer festivals in 2013, with a focus on the sort of music that we like to listen to on this blog. Here are five choices, in chronological order:

Electric Daisy, Las Vegas, 21-23 June

If you can bear a week in the desert at 40°C and near enough 0% humidity, here are some of the artists performing this week in Las Vegas:

  • Booka Shade
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Eric Prydz
  • Fatboy Slim
  • Ferry Corsten
  • Jacques Lu Cont
  • La Roux
  • Sasha
  • Tiësto
  • Tiga

More here.

Latitude, Suffolk, 18-21 July

Highlights in Southwold this year include:

  • Calexico
  • Chvrches
  • Hot Chip
  • Junip
  • Kraftwerk
  • Beth Orton

More here.

Lovebox, London, 19-21 July

A bit of crossover with the one above, but you might be able to sneak into both and see:

  • AlunaGeorge
  • Andrew Weatherall
  • Frankie Knuckles
  • Goldfrapp
  • Hurts
  • Jon Hopkins

More here.

Rewind, Perth, 26-28 July and Henley, 16-18 August

The 80s festival, about thirty years late, includes the likes of:

  • ABC
  • The B-52s
  • Go West
  • Chesney Hawkes
  • Heaven 17
  • Nik Kershaw
  • Sonia

More info on the Scottish event here, and the London one here.

Berlin Festival, 6-7 September

At the brilliant former Tempelhof Airport:

  • Björk
  • Blur
  • Boys Noize
  • Delphic
  • DJ Shadow
  • Miss Kittin
  • Pet Shop Boys

Plus DJ sets from Justice and Röyksopp.

More here.

Depeche Mode – Remixes 2: 81-11

However I tackle it, this review is going to be pretty epic. I’ve got three discs to plough through. But that makes it sound like a chore, which this definitely is not, and since Depeche Mode have a new album coming out next week, it makes sense to go back and look at their last release, their second album Remixes 2: 81-11. So strap yourself in, and let’s take a journey through another thirty years of remixes.

The formula is much the same as their first remix album, 2004’s The Remixes 81-04. You get two discs or so of goodies from the past, followed by a disc of new mixes. This time around, the title is a little deceptive, as the earliest track is actually from 1985, but we’ll forgive them that small oversight.

The first track is Bushwacka‘s brilliant take on 2001’s Dream On, turning it into a strangely chilled out house track which bobs along wonderfully for six minutes or so. M83‘s French electro version of Suffer Well (2006) follows, making for an excellent pair of opening tracks. There are also standout versions of In Chains by Tigerskin and Corrupt by Efdemin, but on balance I think the rest of the first disc is less exciting, and it probably is my least favourite of the three.

Until the final trio of tracks. Nestling seductively in between Spirit Feel‘s Anandamidic mix of Walking in My Shoes (2009) and Darren Price‘s brilliant version of 1997 b-side Slowblow is something rather extraordinary. A new version of one of their finest moments Personal Jesus, remixed by the incredible Stargate.

This was the lead single for the collection, and although not a massive hit, it really was rather special. Transforming the electro-blues-rock stylings of the original into a massive bouncy dance-pop radio-friendly track is nothing short of genius. And it’s every bit as exceptional as that sounds.

Disc 2 kicks off with more bounce in the shape of Trentemøller‘s excellent 2009 version of Wrong, which takes the dark power of the original and channels into something more club-friendly. Great moments follow from François Kevorkian (twice) among others, building up to Jacques Lu Cont‘s remix of A Pain That I’m Used to (2005). This and the moody Monolake mix of The Darkest Star (2006) which follows are the definite highlights of this CD for me. The latter throbs along gently for about six minutes, with the accompaniment of the “whisper” voice from Mac OS X, which always makes for a welcome addition.

The rest of the second disc is consistently strong, with great remixes from United (Barrel of a Gun), Dan the Automator (Only When I Lose Myself) and Ernest Saint Laurent with Sie Medway-Smith (Ghost). And then it’s onto the new stuff in earnest.

Disc three opens with and closes with another two great new mixes of Personal Jesus, the first of which is by Alex Metric, and Eric Prydz follows with his take on Never Let Me Down Again. It’s then time for the first of two spectacularly special moments, as Vince Clarke turns up for his quite excellent version of Behind the Wheel. As with much of his recent work, it’s a lot darker and more electro than you might expect, but it’s still rather brilliant.

The next moment of real fan excitement comes a couple of tracks later when Alan Wilder turns up to take on In Chains. Sounding not unlike Recoil‘s recent work, it does make you wonder slightly what might happen if they were to work together again in earnest.

Röyksopp‘s version of Puppets is every bit as excellent as you would expect, and in fact the vast majority of this final disc is extremely strong. Karlsson and Winnberg (from Miike Snow) are worthy of special mention for the breakdown in the last verse of Tora! Tora! Tora! which serves to underline Dave Gahan‘s wonderful pronunciation of “skellington”.

Joebot‘s version of A Question of Time is a fantastic surprise near the end, and Sie Medway-Smith‘s version of Personal Jesus which closes the collection is very good too. All in all, a great final disc to close an extremely strong remix collection – and I’m not even a huge fan of remixes on the whole.

There are bonus mixes available from various online retailers, although none of the ones I heard was anything particularly special. Stick to the main collection, and you’ve got another quite brilliant album from The Mode. And what more could you ask for?

You can enjoy the triple disc version of the album for a ridiculously bargain price from Amazon UK now.