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No. 156 May 2017

BEST MODE,
or everything you what to know about Depeche Mode, but you're ashamed to ask

Depeche Mode A.D. 2016 – a photograph found in Spirit's insert

epeche Mode is an institution band. Jonathan Miller starts their biography with following:

The history of Depeche Mode is a story about how, in spite of all, four of Essex's bodies achieved fame, fortune and unwavering position in the music world, keeping their own unique style. [...] From the beginnings in Basildon to the world's superstars performing on stadiums, from teens playing synth pop for kids to popular, "serious" musicians in their thirties (the first edition of The Stripes was released in 2003 - ed.), from being clean to doing drugs and back. Who would have thought that after selling the stunning 40 million albums and performing live for 6 million people over the last 20 years, they would still be releasing albums that sell in millions?

Jonathan Miller, Stripped (original title Stripped: Depeche Mode), transl. Nina Kozłowska, Czerwonak 2003, p. 11

Since then, they have sold millions more albums, earned more millions and played for the next millions of fans. Each next album is an event, and the Sony Music's support for which they have been recording since 2013 only raised the bar of promotion quality.

But because not everyone had their musical sensibility shaped by this band, not everyone is their loyal fan, and yet everyone should know about these phenomena, we - Bartosz Pacuła, editor-in-chief of MusicToThePeople.pl portal http://musictothepeople.pl and Wojciech Pacuła, editor-in-chief of "High Fidelity" – prepared an article suggesting where to start your search, if you want to know something about this band and what you should listen to if you want to know their music. We will also tell you what to avoid.

THE BEST: PUBLICATIONS
Text: Bartosz Pacuła

In recent years we have witnessed a boom of the market for music-related books in Poland. Our market was flooded with hundreds of new or reissued titles, primarily concerning rock and metal, but also jazz, blues, soul or folk music. It is precisely this tendency that allowed professional publishers focused exclusively on popular music (I primarily refer to In Rock) to function on the market, and that also attracted attention to this topic of bigger players, including Wydawnictwo Czarne.

Books on music are so released, and readers - evidently - are eager to acquire them, to, at least for a moment, enter the usually closed world of their idols. What's more, all that lead to a situation where more than one title on particular band or artist can be found in a book shop. I, in my home library, have four monographs devoted to the Beatles, Queen and Freddie Mercury, three on Metallica, The Doors and Pink Floyd, two about... I do not even want to count how many bands. So there is a lot of publications to choose from, that allow one to find new information about favorite musicians.

Same applies to Depeche Mode, which in Poland enjoys an iconic, if that word still means something, status. Polish reader will find a number of books about Gahan, Gore and Fletcher (these are current members).

The oldest title on our market is a legendary title, Marek Sierocki przedstawia Depeche Mode released in 1990. A lot of band photos, lyrics, and above all photos of albums and covers - it really affected imagination. It is not really a complete story of the band, rather a brief introduction to the subject.

The first full-fledged proposal was a biography by Steve Malins published in 1999 by the Kagra, titled simply Depeche Mode. Biography. However, today it is more of a prehistoric artifact that must be treated in the category of historical sources, a testimony of the knowledge about the bands of that time. The book describes DM's career from the very beginning, ie from the birth of band members until 1999. The last album released with the Depeche Mode logo until then was the 1997 Ultra.

Unfortunately, this is not a position that has survived the test of time well. First of all, already the first chapter dedicated to the "pre-depeche mode" years is a bit disappointing. It is extremely short and treats this period lightly as if the time when the character and personality of bands members formed had practically no significance for the later functioning of the band. The following chapters also do not belong to the most extensive, but the author tries to elaborate issues he writes about in accordance with his knowledge and skills.

Interesting narratives are built by the often quoted members of the band, who describe their lives in a colorful, interesting way. This short excerpt from the chapter Guide me through Babylon, 1991-93 illustrates it perfectly. It allows reader to learn something about Martin Gore's musical passion (fanaticism?):

[…] I often invite friends over, get drunk and play all my favorite albums for them one by one. Around dawn, they just crawl to the beds while I stay behind alone claiming: “but you still have to listen to this one”.

But as I mentioned, this biography is just too short to offer its reader a confidence that he knows now a lot about DM. Yes, he will remember some important facts, but many will remain hidden from him.

As I mentioned, Depeche Mode. Biography was published by Kagra. Interestingly, the quality of this particular edition is far superior to their later releases. A clear presentation of the text is worth noting, where a well-chosen font plays a great role. The correction was also very well done as there are very few spelling or stylistic errors and in no way are they able to affect the enjoyment of reading.

Today the cover looks rather funny, but it nicely reflects a “spirit” of the 1990s. The collage on a front cover that includes a rose (a reference to the art from Violator) and the CD (these were glory years for this format) with photos of the band members. This edition featured a paper cover with flaps.

Although this item has not stolen my heart, I quickly started to miss it when I came to read the three proposals of the Anaconda publishing house. I mean the biographies that appeared in the Stars of the Scene series: the band between 1981 and 1993, ie Depeche Mode. Early Years 1981-1993, Dave Gahan's - Dave Gahan. Depeche Mode and Martin Gore's - Martin Gore. Depeche Mode. In theory it should have worked, clearly the Anaconda had an interesting idea, but nothing came out of it.

There were two basic factors responsible: the quality of the content and the quality of the issue. All three biographies - the first and second of them written by Trevor Baker, the third by Dennis Plauk and André Bosse – offer a content of really poor quality. There is nothing interesting about them, which is quite an achievement, because Depeche Mode was never the most “well-behaved” band on earth. The dull language of narration is just a nail in the coffin.

Gore's biography, which can never be considered exhaustive, is particularly poor in my opinion. Although the authors of this "work" devoted their whole attention to the story of only one person, they decided to almost completely skip the period before Depeche Mode, using just four pages for it. I think the note on the English Wikipedia page is more extensive. Compared to that the Depeche Mode. Early years 1981-1993 seems to have more to offer. It's still far from the ideal, but the book draws attention with a very clear narration based on consecutive DM albums; Due to such a division of biography (each chapter is devoted to one disc) it is easy to organize some facts. Too bad there is not much of them there.

I must, however, warn all those who draw a great pleasure from reading biographies – a horrible correction of all three of the above simply kills any pleasure of reading, or rather a lack of any. Absurdly large number of errors, mainly punctuation, destroyed the remnants of my confidence in the Polish education system. The only positive aspect of the books published by Anaconda is the decent "physical" side; Well-chosen and - above all – large enough font will guarantee no headache even after longer reading sessions - if anybody actually decides to do that - and photos, although there are only few, make these editions somewhat attractive.

In the first paragraph of the text I referred to, not without reason, In Rock publishing house. This company is responsible for the publication of some great rock biographies, including Mick Wall's works. The books published by In Rock (almost) always look and feel cool and they offer high quality content. It is no different in the case of Stripped ....

Stripped: Depeche Mode is a great read, that every fan of Gahan and Gore must get familiar with. Its author, Jonathan Miller, has done a great job describing the adventures of the band. What is important, he did not treat any stage of DM life lightly, describing comprehensively their lives from the beginning until 2013 when Delta Machine album was released.

Not only the story itself is impressive, but a really good guide to DM's discography - and it includes not just the band's releases, but also solo ones of the band's members. The icing on the cake is a homage to the Depeche Mode singles culture - these releases are also well described and cataloged. The band's experts probably will not find anything surprising there, but for the rest of people interested in curiosities there is plenty of those.

As for matter of the physical form of the book, the In Rock did a very good job too. There are almost no stupid spelling or punctuation errors, so nothing spoils the pleasure of reading. The content of the Stripped... is perfectly complemented by the group's photos printed on chalk paper. Also the choice of those photo is very good. There are few newer photographs (those easily accessible on the internet). Instead, they used space for images that are much older, less known and much more interesting.

The publication I shall now describe is different from its predecessors. This is not a classic biography, but more of a "bible" for all collectors of everything with "Depeche Mode" inscription on it. In Depeche Mode. Monument we can read primarily about non-music related sphere concerning this English formation. The idea of the authors (Dennis Burmeister and Sascha Lange) of the Monument for the book was simple: they take every DM album and describe it as accurately as possible.

A broad spectrum of information about the recording process? Check. In-depth inquiries regarding physical side of each album? Check. Whole pages devoted to different singles, remixes, etc.? Sure. The amount of work that Burmeister and Lange put into this huge volume is really scary. The best proof of their effort and dedication is the closing of the annex dedicated to the many concert tours during which Depeche Mode visited the whole world. If someone was curious about where Gahan and the company were having fun on September 7, 1983 – this book has the answer.

Monument is a great collector's item for one more reason - this is probably the best published, at least visually, Depeche Mode book. The attention of a potential reader is already caught by a coolly designed cover that offers an impression of exclusivity; the ubiquitous red color is broken by the title written in gold letters and the pasted in black and white photo. On the back of the publisher (already mentioned Anaconda) decided bravely for minimalism, as they resigned from all descriptions advertising the publisher.

Inside one also finds a lot of goodies. There is a lot of all various photos, graphics and collages. What's more, most of them are interesting and I didn't have an impression that they didn't belong there. Also their descriptions (as well as the titles and subheadings of the individual parts of the text) have been well-chosen, making the whole pleasant and easy to read.

Perfection? Not exactly ... The Polish edition of the Monument, though of high quality, is not devoid of defects. I particularly mean a horrible editorial work, just as bad as with the above three other DM books from Anakonda. It is obvious that the translator of this volume was not very well acquainted with the presented albums and the collector's aspect, so such humbugs as using hilarious translation of the "picture discs" happen quite often.

To end this part in a positive way let me tell you that this monograph was published in Poland in two versions: standard and collector's one. They differ only with an addition of a certificate with a manually entered individual number – that's a cool thing to have.

All of these books are aimed at people who want to spend a lot of time reading about Depeche Mode. Fortunately, there is one more proposal, which in an ultra-condensed way enables you to familiarize yourself with DM discography. I'm thinking here about the 21st edition of "Teraz Rock. Kolekcja", which was released in 2013. As can be guessed by the title, the editors were guys working for "Teraz Rock".

On the 51 pages, they cover the most important facts about Depeche Mode's career, as well as describe all the studio albums and official live releases, pointing to (using a five-star rating) which are particularly interesting (eg Violator) and which should be avoided (Songs of Faith and Devotion Live). The book is complemented by, among others, an interview with André Fletcher by Michał Kirmuć, a short column on collectors boxes and compilations, or a discography presented on three pages full of albums covers.

I am well aware that there are more books on Depeche Mode available on the Polish market. I think, however, that I managed to describe the most important ones here (Obnażeni, Monument) and warn about poor ones. Now all I can do is to encourage you to expand your knowledge of Gahan and the company and to listen to their albums. All right, let's make it clear - not all of them. You can forget about Spirit (as you shall read in the review ending this article and in the review on MusicToThePeople.pl, more HERE).

THE BEST: ALBUMS
Text: Wojciech Pacuła

Depeche Mode has been playing, recording and releasing records for over 37 years now. Depeche Mode fans, and I am one of them, are a very loyal group, supporting their favorite band regardless of the prevailing fashions, social and political situation, and so on. Despite such a long history Depeche Mode is still electrifying their fans, and every new release is so highly anticipated as if it was one of the new, promising bands from the top of the current charts. Usually they appear on them - in Poland, singles of this group regularly appear in the top ten of the Polskie Radio III chart, most often occupying the first place for some time.

If we realize that during this time the music world has changed a few times over, turning upside down existing hierarchies, that numerous musical styles (eg grunge) have emerged and gone in the meantime, the phenomenon of a constant popularity of Depeche Mode must be respected even if that's not “our” music. Such a long presence also makes it difficult for the beginner fans, or simply those who would like to know more about the work of this band, to find proper information. If you are one of such people this subjective to the discography of this group is just for you.

Two analog version of Speak&Spell – the one standing up was released by Mute in 2007, the one laying down was released by Music On Vinyl for Sony Music in 2014 – it turns out they used the same matrix for both of them…

The first longplay in band's history titled Speak&Spell, Depeche Mode released on October 5th 1981, and the Spirit, which is the latest one, on March 17th 2017. During that time band released 14 studio albums, 4 official concert ones, and 3 „The best of…” compilations. In addition, the group released hundreds of singles and maxies, which featured not only the original, familiar versions from the albums, but above all their remixes and songs not published elsewhere. There are albums combining singles and maxisingles, such as the latest release, a two-disc album Depeche Mode. The Remix Collection (Columbia 47919705, 2016). The Depeche Mode Universe therefore is based on a few hundred releases.

Let's bring some order

To get some handle on this, it is important to choose a key that we will use during the selection. The simplest one was proposed by "Newsweek" magazine, which on its website has published the ten most important, according to the magazine, tracks:

1. Just Can’t Get Enough (1981) – from Speak&Spell
2. Everything Counts (1983) – from Construction Time Again
3. Master And Servant (1984) – from Some Great Reward
4. Somebody (1984) – from Some Great Reward
5. Never Let Me Down Again (1987) – from Music For the Masses
6. Enjoy The Silence (1990) – from Violator
7. Personal Jesus (1990) – from Violator
8. Walking In My Shoes (1993) – from Songs of Faith and Devotion
9. Condemnation (1993) – from Songs of Faith and Devotion
10. Barrel Of A Gun (1997) – from Ultra

Depeche Mode come back with a new album. Let us remind you of 10 classic songs that forever marked the sound of this legendary British group [RANKING] , Newsweek.pl, 18.03.2017 [accessed: March 21st 2017]

What draws attention in this "Newsweek's" selection is a complete omission of such important albums as A Broken Frame (1982) and Black Celebration (1986), and the lack of records released after the Ultra album. The above selection is therefore absolutely subjective and each of the group's fans would have given some other equivalent "tens".

So I would suggest focusing on whole albums. The works of this group are multifaceted and multidimensional, so you can approach it from several different directions. You can, for example, choose the best studio albums, point to "The best of ..." albums that are just a set of the best singles or focus on their dance and club music because that's what their maxisingles actually are.

One can also divide their artistic activity period based on the composition of the group:

1. 1980-1983: This is the first period in which Vince Clark (later Yazoo and Erasure) the founding member of the group, played a key role in it. Although with Depeche Mode he recorded only one album, Speak & Spell, his songs can be found also on another, A Broken Frame (1982). Although a new member of the band, Alan Wilder, has been with Depeche Mode since the beginning of 1982, he did not affect the release of this album. As he said years later: "I wanted to be involved in work on a second album, but Daniel Miller (the owner of Mute) told me I would not be needed. In any case, the band never talked to me about it. "(Jonathan Miller, p. 140).

2. 1983-1995: a period when Alan Wilder was a full member of the band and he shaped its sound, also during concerts. In my opinion this is the most important period for the band, when they created their best songs and albums. This period includes following albums:

  • Construction Time Again (1983)
  • Some Great Reward (1984)
  • Black Celebration (1986)
  • Music For the Masses (1987)
  • Violator (1990)
  • Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)

3. 1995-2017: a post-Wilder period, when the band performed as a trio, the longest one in band's history, covering the following albums:

  • Ultra (1997)
  • Exciter (2001)
  • Playing the Angel (2005)
  • Sounds of the Universe (2009)
  • Delta Machine (2013)
  • Spirit (2017)

The best: studio albums

Three versions of the Violator album: Blu-spec CD2 (mini LP) from 2014, Collectors Edition from 2006 and Japanese version from 1990, released together with Enjoy The Silence maxi single

Because DM's work has been changing from album to album and over longer periods, it's hard to pin down the best albums. But if I were to point out one from which to one should start one's adventure with this band it would be the 1990 Violator (Mute STUMM 64, LP). The greatest hits of the band coming from this album are: Enjoy the Silence, World in My Eyes, Policy of Truth, Clean and Personal Jesus. On this album the electronic sound was combined with blues guitars, creating an incredible set of hits that one can listen to as both a collection of songs and a coherent album.

Another must have is the Black Celebration (Mute STUMM 24, LP). This is the first album of the band that I bought, and it was only because it was released in Poland, along with 12" maxi single Stripped (this was probably the first 12" 45 rpm maxi-release released in our country). That's not why I'm including it in this list. This is a concept album, from which the band's important works come such as: Black Celebration, Stripped, A Question of Time and New Dress.

On this album, the group moved away from industrial motives for a dense atmosphere and sophisticated arrangement. It became the basis for Never Let Me Down Again (Mute STUMM 47, LP), which can be considered as its second part. The latter includes People Are People, one of the biggest hits of the group. I think it's no accident that the English title of the biography by Miller is Stripped, same as one of the songs on this album.

And finally Ultra (Mute CD STUMM 147, CD), a 1997 album that was originally supposed to appear as an EP (Extended Play) album. This is the first album released as a trio after Alan Wilder left the band and after the successful rehab of Dave Gahan. The album has achieved an unexpected success and the band has worked out a sound that they would later develop in all subsequent releases. This album includes such hits as: Barrel of a Gun, The Love Thieves, Home and It's No Good.

To these three I would add two supplementary albums, which will allow you to get a feeling of the first and the latest period. From the time before Wilder I recommend the A Broken Frame (Mute STUMM 9, LP) album, and the latest Delta Machine (Columbia 88765460622, CD). The first one is not usually mentioned by the fans among their favorites, but on it the group captured their style and that's where we can find all the elements that make up the atmosphere of their recordings. In the See You single one can find all that is best about Depeche Mode.

On the other hand Delta Machine is the first album recorded after the band signed a contract with Columbia, that now belongs to Sony Music. We will find there songs written by Martin Gore, the author of the overwhelming majority of the earlier group's repertoire and by Dave Gahan, who had already recorded two solo albums before; He wrote the song Should Be Higher together with Kurt Uenala, who with him also on those solo albums. It is important because Kurt Uenala plays an important role also on the latest album titled Spirit (Columbia 88985411682, CD). This two-disc (LP version) album shows the band from the perspective of powerful, analog electronics supported with rock drums and guitars.

An interesting fact – the German record label Sonopress in 1993 released the Songs of Faith and Devotion album with a dessous photograph inside hidden behind a non-transparent part of the box. To see what is behind it one had to replace this part of the box for a transparent one.

OK, one problem. I haven't mentioned the Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993), which launched the band into the rock stratosphere, which allowed them to finally conquer also the US market; This album climbed to the top of charts in the United Kingdom and the United States: Albums Chart and Billboard 200. It only confirms how difficult is to establish the "canon" of the best albums of this group. Songs ... was produced by Flood, after the U2's Achtung Baby (1991), and was the first DM album with heavy guitar sound. There are such fantastic hits as: Walking in My Shoes, Condemnation, In Your Room and Rush.

To sum up this part: to get to know the works of Depeche Mode you can use three albums: A Broken Frame, representing their start into the big world, Violator, as a masterpiece with almost every track being a hit, and Songs of Faith and Devotion, thanks to which the band became a world star and moved toward rock genre, where it remains still today and to which Dave Gahan refers on his solo albums. OK, we need to move on...

The best: singles, maxi singles and live concerts

Depeche Mode created many hits conquering charts around the world. If you are not interested in whole albums and want to get to know as many of the most important tracks as possible, let's look at one of several "The best of ..." sets. You can do this in three ways that are compatible with each other. The first choice should be The Singles 81> 98 box (Mute LCDMUTEL1, 3 x CD) combining two previous releases (The Singles 81> 85 was the first DM album released in Poland on vinyl). In a nice box we will find both compilation with a new digital remaster, that include all singles prior to the Ultra.

Two versions of the albums with maxi singles – a vinyl box Remixes 81-04 (in the back) and a digital version, Remixes 2. 81-11 (in the front)

The second option is to focus on remixes of the most important tracks - unlike other artists, in case of Depeche Mode these are equally important. You can try the Remixes 2. 81-11, a three-disc release in a nice box (xlcdmutel18, 3 x CD, 2011). It includes remixes prepared by such artists as Röyksopp, as well as Vince Clark and Alan Wilder, for whom it was a kind of reconciliation with other members of the band.

And finally concerts - it's always a kind of selection of the best tracks accompanying material from the last album. In Depeche Mode's discography one of such albums is particularly important, the two-disc album 101 (Mute STUMM 101, 2 x LP; in Poland there is a website 101dm.pl http://101dm.pl). It was released on March 13th 1989 and recorded during the final concert of the 1987/1988  Music for the Masses Tour, which took place on June 18th 1988 at the Rose Bowl (Pasadena). An interesting fact - One of the rarer versions of 101 that you may encounter is a two-disc SACD/CD stereo/multi-channel album, released in 2003 (LCDStumm 101, 2 x SACD / CD).

In turn, if you would like to hear the concert of Depeche Mode on a new release, it is worth to have the Live in Berlin box, which consists of two DVDs, two CDs and a Blu-ray with hi-res audio content - stereo and 5.1 (Columbia 5035642 ).

101 concert in Super Audio CD/CD version

The best for collectors and audiophiles

Depeche Mode's discography is a collector's paradise and a challenge for audiophiles. Let's start with the former. The Mute company, the publisher of this group up to 2009's Sounds of the Universe, made sure that fans, journalists, collectors and DJs got special editions of her releases, both albums and singles. Each DM album is available in dozens of versions.

Vinyl albums are available in basic black, as well as in color versions, issued in Germany by Intercord. In Germany, starting with the Construction Time Again (1983) album, vinyls were pressed using DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) technology, which eliminated one stage of matrix formation required for classical discs. Theoretically, they should sound better. There are also special box releases. I have mentioned a few, but it is worth to know that each album of this group actually had a limited edition release, which was intended for friendly editorial and publishing houses.

The best digital releases come from Japan, BSCD2 discs

Sound quality on Depeche Mode albums varies significantly, depending not only on a title but also particular release. In general, we should separate digital and vinyl editions.

Let's start with LPs. In case of the first two titles, ie Speak & Spell and A Broken Frame, it is best to look for original releases on the second hand market. Both have been recorded analogously and they sound best. Titles from Construction Time Again to Music For The Masses sound equally well on original presses as in a special edition from 2006 (digital) and 2007 (LP) titled "Depeche Mode Limited Edition" (more in the article Depeche Mode na winylu - Limited Edition Collection, POLISH), although each of them in its own way. From Violator to Ultra the best versions are those remastered digitally. They were cut from high resolution 24/96 files. I'd like to also recommend the special three-disc version The Singles 86> 98 (Mute MUTEL5) on a 180 grams vinyl records.


For radio stations and DJs Sony Music prepared CD-Rs with all versions of particular single – in this case Soothe My Soul; it's a not-for-sale item

There is much bigger selection of digital versions. The best releases of almost complete catalog were released by Sony Music shortly after they signed the group over. The best choice comes from Japan on Blu-Spec CD2 (BSCD2) in the form of mini LP, with exact reproductions of vinyl covers, and even with the original envelopes inside. They are available separately, but also as Union Disk's two collectors boxes prepared in Japan.

Equally interesting are the mini-boxes released in 2006 in the Depeche Mode Collectors Edition series (more about this series HERE, POLISH). Each of the nicely looking boxes comes with a hybrid SACD/CD with 5.1 DS (DSD) and stereo (DSD and PCM) versions, and a DVD with 24/48 PCM multi-channel, PCM 24/48 stereo, a period movie, additional songs in hi-res format, as well as music videos. The sound of this version is worse than BSCD2, but much better than the CD releases. One thing to keep in mind – there are two versions of the Depeche Mode Collectors Edition - with a hybrid SACD/CD and with a regular CD. The latter was pressed by the Polish label Tact. In my opinion, hybrid versions sound much better even from the CD layer.

And there are still singles. Initially, the Depeche Mode digital singles were released in the UK by Nimbus Records, that was also responsible for mastering and supervised the pressing. Which delivered great results. Nimbus Records is one of the most respected British labels. At the heart of their recording philosophy, initially, there was an innovative recording technique called Ambisonic. In addition, it is also known for the excellent reissues of vinyl records prepared for “Hi-Fi Practice” magazine. And finally they are also known for their CD releases – it was the first British company that released those. So you should look for older singles, which in the middle (bottom side), right near the centering hole, have a laser-burned "Nimbus Records".

There were few versions of the In Your Room single release. When we had them all we bought a special box

However, if you want singles with remastered sound, you need to buy special boxes – six of them each with six titles inside. There is also a special version available, limited to 400 copies, released in Germany, where singles from three boxes are placed inside a wooden box with the band's logo on it.

Text: Wojciech Pacuła

DEPECHE MODE
Spirit

Columbia Records 5411651 (LP)
Columbia Records 5419572 (CD)

Released: March 17th 2017 (CD, LP)
Format: 2 x 180 g LP | 2 x CD Box | SP CD

Spirit is the fourteenth album of the British group Depeche Mode, second after the 2013 Delta Machine, recorded for Columbia Records, that is now owned by Sony Music. On the cover next to their logos, there is also the Mute logo. That's a record label for whom the band recorded previous twelve albums. This demonstrates the enormous loyalty of the band members - Daniel Miller, Mute's director, for years supported the band and initially he even recorded and produced DM albums with them. He is also the author of some early remixes.

The album was recorded and mixed between April and August 2016 at Sound Design Studios (Santa Barbara, California) and Jungle City Studios (New York City, New York). This is the first DM album produced by James Ford, who is known for Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine albums. On October 11th 2016, the band announced on their website the Global Spirit Tour tour, during which they will also visit Poland (PGE Narodowy, Warszawa, 21 July 2017).

The first single was Where's the Revolution (without a question mark at the end), which premiered on February 3rd 2017 (Columbia Records 5420022). An interesting fact - this track was played for the first time by the Polish radio "Trójka", that broadcasted it exactly after midnight on February the 3rd. This single appeared 20 years after the premiere of Barrel of a Gun, the first which - after years of collaboration with Alan Wilder – band recorded as trio. Anton Corbijn is the author of the cover art - covers, photos and projects related to the concert tour.

According to the band's current policy, the new release comes in various formats and forms. The simplest is a one-disc release in the form of a small booklet. Another version is the DeLuxe Edition with an additional disc, containing five almost instrumental remixes, prepared under the supervision of the band. Its extended version is the Spirit DeLuxe Edition inserted into the box with the pin; It is called "Special Edition with Band-Pin". Let's add that in Japan the CD was released as Blu-spec CD2 (BSCD2).

The vinyl version was released on two 180 g LPs, but the music was pressed on three sides: A, B i C. The D side is empty apart from Spirit logo. Let me remind you that once Classic Records released their best re-issues in such a way so that deep grooves wouldn't even have a chance to modulate the signal on the other side. In this case, it was just that there was more material than two sides could fit in. Perhaps a better choice would be to press this album with 45 r.p.m., as it was done with Ed Sheeran's Divide album. Let's add that the discs were cut from a digital high definition file.

The Spirit is also available as files. Along with the vinyl album buyer receives a small piece of paper with a code that grants him a free download of the digital version. It's a good idea, such a combination of analogue and digital versions - Columbia called it "From VINYL to DIGITAL". An initiative worth praising, so it's a shame that it's just mp3 files, not hi-res. We can only download the basic version of the album this way.

High-resolution files are available, for example, on HDTracks.com. One can buy 24 bit AIFF, ALAC, FLAC and WAV files but the sampling frequency is only 44.1 kHz, which is the same as the CD. Shame... I think these should be "Master" files, just like with - for example - Linn Records. What is cool is that we can buy either a basic version, with twelve tracks or the DeLuxe Edition, with five extra songs.

SOUND

The Spirit premiere was an event. It's remarkable - after 37 years of Depeche Mode's activity their new albums are still awaited not only by the old fans but also by the so-called "music world". This time the premiere was accompanied by non-musical activities, which for Depeche Mode is a something new. As in his article Blasphemy of the gossip, Bartek Chaciński wrote, the big, highly recognized groups usually keep away from politics, "why would they face their regular customers with dilemmas, why risk political quarrels if the records sell very well? ("Polityka” No 11 (3102), 2017, p 80).

This time was different. The premiere of Spirit coincided with the far right wing offensive in the USA, as as it turned out some of its members were huge fans of the band. One of them, Richard Spencer, appropriated Depeche Mode calling them "the official right-wing alternative band". Which used for the three boys who have roots in a working-class town - despite being rich now - is more than abusive. This statement was met with a quick reaction of the band, and the message of the album was thus even more exposed.

And that's what seems to be, the strongest side of this album. Starting with the cover, through the lyrics, ending with official speeches - all of this is a strong voice in the debate on the present, pointing out a return to the worst practices and the disappointment of the direction in which the United States - where Martin Gore and Dave Gahan live - as well as Europe took. The message is not always clear because ultimately the members of the group are wealthy people, part of the establishment. But the roots, however, oblige, and these are the guys from a working-class town.

Musically the album is a solid repetition of what we already know in part from the Delta Machine, but above all from the Sounds of the Universe (2009). There are no unequivocal hits, expressive melodies, innovative or even outstanding arrangements. As I say - it's a solid, reliable production. But this is not enough for me. I do not "buy" this, because after I listened to this album a few times - both on vinyl and CD - I can not repeat any melody, I can remember maybe three songs, and just barely. This music doesn't touch my soul.

Also in terms of sound quality this is not the best album. There is a tendency to distort Gahan's voice in a way that makes it sound not clear. But even if he sings "purely" his vocals are so compressed, so washed out of the third dimension that he can still be heard as if he was overdriven. This whole production tends to sound “sterile”, the sound is big, but there is not much room in it for details, subtleties and depth. And that's what Depeche Mode was once famous for. In this case, the use of a multitude of vintage analog synthesizers (Martin Gore collects them) did not translate into the richness of sound.

Summary

Whatever I say or write, the success of the Spirit is rather inevitable. It's been released at the right time, supporting people opposing the far right populists. Musically there is nothing new about it, it is rather boring, and the sound is not good enough to build a multi-layered, deep message. I do not think that I will return to it too often. This is still a solid record that will find its fans.

Sound quality: 6-7/10

DEPECHE MODE in „High Fidelity”

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

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