As a 17 year-old, I remember watching Depeche Mode on the big screen and their breakthrough road trip film 101. My favorite part was seeing Alan Wilder showing how he created most of the sounds Mode made famous on the albums and songs we grew to love as die hard fans. He always seemed to be the most accessible and underrated member of the band, and since his departure after the Faith and Devotion sessions, his impact and imprint of the band are now known to have been the key ingredients to the band’s world wide success.
In 1988, Wilder was the first member of the band to release a solo project, under the moniker Recoil. Recoil’s releases 1 + 2 and Hydrology showcased Wilder as the electronic guru who came up with all of the sonic landscapes of all of our favorite Mode songs. In 1992, Wilder released Bloodline, and took those same landscapes and molded them into more of an alternative flavored electro-song format recruiting Nitzer Ebb vocalist Douglas McCarthy, Moby and Curve frontwoman Toni Halliday. McCarthy’s vocal contribution “Faith Healer” was an underground sensation when it first came out. It was Recoil’s genius use of old bluesman Bukka White with electro beats that inspired Moby to crib the idea for success years later on his breakout album Play. After 1997’s Unsound Methods, Alan Wilder decided to leave the friendly confines of Depeche Mode and concentrate all his time and creative energies on Recoil. This lead to Recoil’s best album 2000’s Liquid. Inspired by wilder witnessing a plane crash yards from his car, the song “Black Box” revolved around this track and life changing incident.
I first heard Liquid at a Nine Inch Nails Fragile show in New Orleans. My favorite track from the album was a remix of “Jezebel,” featuring the bluesy Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet mixed with the most eerie and mind blowing drum and bass backing track ever created by Alan Wilder, which made my driving through the French Quarter during Halloween reflect the true gothic atmosphere that is New Orleans.
On the subject of Louisiana, Wilder must have needed more of that soulful 504 vibe (that’s the New Orleans area code for those out of the loop) on his next creative excursion, because he recruited Southern Louisiana bluesman Joe Richardson as his main collaborator on subHuman. When I heard the news of this up and coming collaboration, I was readying myself for greatness. After heearing opening track “Prey,” I could safely say this exceeded my expectations.
As Richardson sings “It’s time to get down on your eyes” over Wilder’s trademark electronic backbeats, it turns “Prey” into a 21st Century enlightened pièce de résistance. It is the culmination of the sonic undertakings that Wilder began with Liquid. Richardson helps resurrects this sacred vibe into the song that personifies what hardships everyone in South Louisiana have encountered since the aftermath of Katrina. A perfect way to reintroduce Recoil back into the consciousness of underground music fans every where.
“Allelujah” is the prefect song to follow “Prey.” English vocalist Carla Trevaskis croons more of an angelic piece where her vocal floats in and out of the mix as if she was appearing from the heavens. An impressive performance from Trevaski, whose work picks up the mantle where other female singers like Blackman and Halliday have captured in songs from Recoil’s underrated yet glorious past.
What I particularly love about Wilder’s music is how he lays down distinctive beats yet he’s content to let these singers carry the loaded spotlight on his ever-evolving project. Richardson returns on “5000 Years,” laying down his trademark blues riffs and a vocal that sweats the sounds of the Dirty South. Wilder sprinkles this blues number with a number of minimal backbeats that accentuates Richardson’s mesmerizing performance into a post-modern number that one might hear coming from a blues club in a resurrected French Quarter in New Orleans. The vibe in this song reminds of the same chilling feeling that came over me when I first heard in the remix of “Jezebel.” I love the samples of the radio evangelists towards the end of the song. It reminds of industrial bands like Front 242 that I used to listen to during the slam-dancing days of my youth.
Trevaskis returns on the Massive Attack-esque “Intruders.” This song sounds as if would fit perfectly on Mezzanine. If you’re a Massive Attack fan and dying for an album that echoes the lyrical darkness of Mezzanine then subHuman is for you. Richardson shows again up as he trades vocal lines with Tevaskis, reflecting a little bit of electronic darkness and light in the bluesy night sky. It’s the perfect combination that lifts subHuman as the ultimate addition to Recoil’s explosive canon.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith And Devotion
Moby – Play