Synthpop survivors Depeche Mode were at the forefront of the emerging remix culture in the eighties that made reinterpreting other people’s music an art-form in itself. So with the eighties currently back in vogue, not to mention Marilyn Manson‘s recent cover of Personal Jesus, what better time to unleash this comprehensive collection of remixes featuring artists as diverse as Underworld, DJ Shadow and Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda?
Depeche Mode’s music is laden with different hooks and rich electronic textures and brimming with ideas, any one of which can be picked up and elaborated on which makes it ripe for remixing. However, many of the early twelve-inch floor-fillers are simply extended takes on the originals without the radical overhauling that is common today, an example of this being the opening Split Mix of Never Let Me Down Again which clocks in at almost ten minutes. This approach can be welcome, like the Schizo Mix of Just Can’t Get Enough which widens the synthpop classic into a vast electronic symphony, but some of the older remixes, including Alan Moulder‘s monotonous version of Everything Counts and the Blind Mix of Strangelove, are overly long, dull and repetitive.
Some of these remixes sound dated to twenty-first century ears, which is inevitable when dealing with technology-based electronic music as what is one day cutting edge can easily sound old and tired within just a few years. But somehow the majority of these mixes, even if they sound very much of their era, still manage to retain their original charm.
The tracks are not placed in chronological order, thankfully, and after a trio of older epics we are treated to a short but perfectly-formed mix of Home from a pre-Moon Safari Air. This is a welcome dive into fresher waters with all the Gallic duo’s comforting trademarks of Hammond organ, theremin and warm easy bass firmly in place.
Some artists simply take their own sound and enforce it upon the original songs, like Underworld‘s storming version of Barrel Of A Gun, featuring typical driving techno kick drums and sparse, clinical production with Dave Gahan‘s voice sonically mangled and rendered almost unrecognizable.
Others, however, take a more unexpected approach which at times works beautifully, in the case of tough techno-head Dave Clarke‘s relaxed and reserved acoustic mix of Dream On, but at others merely disappoints, like storming trance DJ Timo Maas‘ muted, downbeat take on Enjoy The Silence.
For those who still ‘just can’t get enough’ the limited edition contains a bonus CD of rarities and brand new remixes. Among the proverbial hens teeth are Flood‘s remix of the dramatic A Question of Lust, an early, bleep-filled, William Orbit mix of Walking In My Shoes, and Club 69‘s tense club-quaking take on It’s No Good. New mixes include Rex The Dog‘s fat, retro reworking of Photographic, a typically lush and haunting version of Little 15 by Ulrich Schnauss and Goldfrapp‘s beautifully hushed orchestral interpretation of Halo while Headcleanr and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park offer rousing, rocked-up barnstormers of Nothing and Enjoy The Silence respectively.
With well over three-and-a-half hours of material here only die-hard fans will want to consume Remixes 81-04 in one sitting but, with such a wide array of remixers from different genres, there really is something for everyone, even those who despise the eighties. Overall this is an excellent collection of reinterpretations and re-rubs, testament both to the strength in depth of Depeche Mode’s back catalogue and the substantial talents of the artists involved, and also plots the history of remixing in the process.