Various Artists – Late Night Tales: Röyksopp

As a rule, I’m not a huge fan of compilation albums, particularly not mixed ones, which is silly really, because I do like a good mix tape. But for Röyksopp I’m happy to make an exception – their Late Night Tales collection is bound to be pretty special. Besides, the download version also gives you a full set of unmixed recordings, which is really rather nice of them.

It opens with the first of two exclusive tracks of their own, Daddy’s Groove, which is a beautifully sweet track. It doesn’t have a huge amount in common with anything they have done before, with its computerised vocal and very laid back feel, but it is very gentle indeed. So gentle, in fact, that I’m not entirely sure I would have opened with it, but never mind.

Next up is another sweet and mellow piece, Rare Bird‘s Passing Through. As with many of the acts on this release, this wasn’t something I knew previously, which is perhaps embarrassing, given that it dates back to 1975. I suppose I don’t know my prog rock as well as I should.

Little River Band‘s Light of Day was equally new to me, and is nearly as old, dating from 1978, and is also very good indeed. It has a certain timeless quality, and really does fit on here very well – Röyksopp seemingly have extremely good taste!

Or perhaps not – I’m really not convinced by Tuxedomoon‘s version of In a Manner of Speaking, with its awful vocal delivery and almost total loss of the haunting quality that the song can hold. For me, this is definitely the low point of the album.

Vangelis turns up to pick things up with his Blade Runner Blues, but it isn’t until the next track that things really hot up, as Röyksopp themselves turn up with their latest collaborator Susanne Sundfør to cover Depeche Mode‘s Ice Machine in very stylish fahsion. If nothing else, it’s worth owning this compilation for a copy of this one track.

From this point onwards, things enter decidedly chilled mode, with Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s bizarrely sweet and evocative Odi et Amo, followed by F.R. David‘s Music, another track I hadn’t heard before, but one which is really quite exceptional. It actually sounds even older than it turns out to be (released in 1982), but that’s OK.

Prelude‘s bizarre folk sound (with a very heady level of reverb) works rather nicely on After the Goldrush, and then Richard Schneider Jr. turns up for Hello Beach Girls, which is enjoyable, despite being totally bizarre in every conceivable way.

Next comes Mr. Acker Bilk‘s 1961 number 2 (or 1, depending which chart you’re looking at) hit Stranger on the Shore, apparently the best selling instrumental single of all time. Then it’s forward a couple of decades to the 1980s for Thomas Dolby‘s strangely evocative Budapest by Blimp. Clearly Röyksopp‘s taste is not only good, but also eclectic, and also a little bit odd.

Byrne & Barnes‘s Love You Out of Your Mind is a pleasant – if very easy – song, but is probably the last of the highlights for me. Later tracks by John Martyn, XTC, and others are nice enough, but the night has clearly got very late indeed. The album closes with a section of a story read by Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, which is ultimately fun, but probably means rather more if you’ve heard the previous chapter.

But overall, Röyksopp‘s Late Night Tales is an extremely enjoyable compilation – both as an introduction to music that you might not have heard before (although admittedly probably should have), and also just as a chillout album. It delivers a wide variety of sounds, mixed together largely seamlessly, and definitely deserves to be extremely well regarded.

You can find the download version of Röyksopp‘s Late Night Tales at all major music retailers, such as Amazon, where you can also enjoy some funny reviews by morons.

Martin L. Gore – Counterfeit EP

The first of Depeche Mode songwriter Martin L. Gore‘s two solo cover version albums was the Counterfeit EP, originally released this week in 1989. More a mini-album than the EP that the release claims to be, it collects six relatively obscure tracks into one place, and is a truly wonderful one-off release.

There really isn’t a bad moment on here. The first track is Compulsion, originally written and performed by Joe Crow in 1982. Despite being – as far as I can make out – Crow’s only single, it’s an excellent song, and the late eighties semi-industrial sound of Martin L. Gore, at the time somewhere between the albums Music for the Masses and Violator, works extremely well.

The sound also has a lot in common with the early releases of Alan Wilder as Recoil, and this is particularly illustrated on the cover of Tuxedomoon‘s In a Manner of Speaking. It sounds very dated now, but it’s still full of depth and atmosphere, and is another quite brilliant song when performed properly. It’s actually a lot better than the original, which will be reviewed as part of a compilation next week.

The Durutti Column‘s Smile in the Crowd comes next, probably my least favourite song on this collection, but there’s no shame in that – it’s up against some very strong competition. Such as Gone, which follows, with guitar work that hints at Depeche Mode‘s own future. Originally performed by the obscure Sheffield band The Comsat Angels on their second album in 1981, Gore’s version is full of energy and passion.

Then comes Martin L. Gore‘s version of Sparks‘ brilliant Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth. As a fan of both acts, I can never quite work out which version I prefer. Either way, it’s a brilliant song, with some quite exceptional Mael lyrics, and Martin performs it extremely well too.

The last track is the traditional Motherless Child, which is perhaps an odd inclusion, as it’s been performed by so many different acts, and often not particularly well either. This version is a cut above the majority, and gives Gore the opportunity to really unleash the full effect of his vocal range. With the eighties synth backing (including the odd percussive fart), it might even be one of my favourite tracks on this release.

The follow-up to this release, the full album Counterfeit 2, wouldn’t appear for another fourteen years, while Gore concentrated on recording his own songs with Depeche Mode. Which, in a way, makes this release all the more special – it’s a very strange little one-off; a folly which the music industry rarely allows. It clearly wasn’t done for commercial reasons, but purely to allow Gore to reinterpret a handful of his favourite songs. And it’s also very good indeed.

You can still find the Counterfeit EP at all major music retailers, such as here.