To the vast majority of the United States, Recoil is known more as a definition in the dictionary than as a musical entity. But to fans of Depeche Mode, and a small but dedicated following, Recoil is known as former member and sound architect Alan Wilder, who took up his side-project full-time after his departure from DM in 1995. Surprisingly, during its entire 20+ year existence, Recoil has never toured or performed live in any manner, due to Alan Wilder’s assertion that Recoil is essentially a studio project. And yet, through either good fortune or the advent of greater audio technologies, Alan Wilder has chosen to take his project on the road for the first time with A Strange Hour: Recoil Selected Events, a mini-world tour in support of his latest release, Selected.
Needless to say, it was quite the momentous occasion for myself and fans alike walking into Le Poisson Rogue on May 18th for the long-awaited chance to see Alan Wilder in action. The show began on a subtle note with two plus hours of DJ’s Alex English and Shred spinning underground Electro and New Wave tunes that one would certainly associate with Depeche Mode and Recoil. Although there were some good selections, the sets were really nothing to write home about. I couldn’t even tell when one DJ transitioned to the other, although several lone dancers around me seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Rating for DJ’s Alex English and Shred: Ok.
As far as I was concerned, the true opener of the show was a finely tuned Texas bluesmen by the name of Joe Richardson, who is also one of Recoil’s most recent collaborators (on the 2007 release SubHuman). Admittedly, it did seem like a quite peculiar choice to have such a genre open the show for a sonically complex electronic musician, but when you think about how complex blues itself is as a sonic art-form, it made perfect sense. Led by a trusty electric guitar and harmonica, Richardson eased his way into a roaring and crowd rocking set, filled with his original Recoil demos and two original songs with the charm that could only come from a seasoned and experienced pro. It was the perfect set-up for things to come.
Rating for Joe Richardson: One of the reasons blues has survived this long.
And after another irritatingly long DJ break, Alan Wilder and his current studio/live collaborator Paul Kendall finally took the stage, led by a loop of machine-like dissonance and frenetic chants of “Recoil”. What unfolded before the packed crowd was a 90 minute multi-media live DJ experience; a continuous mix that both outlined the track listing of the current release Selected, and ran through the majority of Recoil’s past releases. The set included an appearance by past collaborator Nicole Blackman, who writhed her way through a seductive spoken word set (and who in my opinion, is one of the sexiest vocalists that I have ever seen work a mic), and the re-appearance of Joe Richardson.
All synchronized against a backdrop of surreal, often nightmarish mini-films (filled with nameless G-men, sleazy strippers, ghostly apparitions, shadows and double negative effects) that acted as a silent navigator through the similarly themed sonic spectrum. The exceedingly surreal journey also contained the expected references to former band Depeche Mode, as he subtly slipped in segments of “Never Let Me Down Again” late in the set, and even a nod to Recoil’s label head Daniel Miller (of Mute Records), with segments of “Warm Leatherette”, from Miller’s former musical alter-ego The Normal.
And at the end, Alan did a proper meet and great with the fans, thus bringing a perfect evening to a close. Here’s hoping for a return visit from Recoil in the near future.
Rating for Recoil: Fucking fantastic. Please come back soon.
Nicole Blackman: Again… incredibly Sexy. I think I have a mini-crush.