Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

Recoil @ Highline Ballroom, November 1, 2010 November 11, 2010

Review by Mark B.

Conjure One

With a gloomy excitement in the air and a plethora of strange and dark, but fitting electro tunes blaring over the PA system, the night that Depeche Mode and Recoil fans alike had been waiting months to re-experience had finally arrived.  And this arrival came with an added surprise to all the DM fans, being attended by none other than Alan’s former band-mate, Dave Gahan.  Why was he there?  Would he be joining Alan on stage?  Why were so many people obsessed with taking pictures of him drinking a beer?  Needless to say, it added further electricity to a night that was already itching to begin.  The only question was whether or not the show and set would be a repeat of May’s gig.

The evening started off on a distinctly different vibe, with a set from Conjure One, better known as one of the many musical monikers of Rhys Fulber (ex-Front Line Assembly/Delerium, and long-time programmer for Fear Factory, to name a few).  Led by a live bassist/singer (whose name sadly escapes me), Fulber helped start the night off right with a perfectly paced set full of air synths, breathy vocals, globe spanning rhythms and a solid dance beat that never failed to move the crowd (or get a head nod at the very least).  You don’t get many openers as polished and on point as CO.

Rating for Conjure One: Amazing, Imaginative, Danceable.

Architect

Next was a manic set from Architect.  Words could not accurately describe the chaotic but danceable beats that this technological warlock cracked out over the audience, via his trusty laptop and numerous pieces of electronic wizardry gear.  So all that I will say is that for such psychotically complex and erratic arrangements, his mix was incredibly easy to move to.  And he gets points for throwing in a subtle yet noticeable Depeche Mode sample, with extra credit going to his completely original handling of it, avoiding any stagnating musical clichés and making the tune his own, while winning ever-crucial DM cred with the audience.

Rating for Architect: Glorious Chaos.

Finally, the moment that the ever-growing crowd had been waiting for arrived, as Alan Wilder and co-conspirator Paul Kendall took the stage amidst growing screams and ruckus from the crowd.  With a Miami-Vice type cool they were off, leading the audience down the rabbit-hole and back into the audio spectrum of Recoil.  But did they give the audience more of the same?  Thankfully, no.  Armed with a striking set of updated visuals, Wilder and Kendall built a much dancier set, with pulse pounding beats permeating through the crowd and vibrating whatever rafters Dave Gahan’s presence didn’t occupy.  All kidding aside, the evening was further highlighted by the reappearance of the always amazing, but slightly moody Nicole Blackman, seductively vocalizing her way though another of her Recoil collaborations.

With the felt presence of Dave Gahan, I have to admit (along with the other audience members) to constant feelings of false hope every time Wilder introduced a Depeche Mode song or sample into the mix.  We all held out some hope that Dave Gahan would magically appear on the stage and start singing along, being that this was Recoil’s last date of the tour, but alas, this was not to be, as Gahan magically vanished from the venue before the last beat was hit.  Luckily for the audience, the instant dissolving of our Depeche reunion pipe dream failed to derail the evening.  In fact, I’m willing to bet that it helped stir up a stronger interest in further Recoil releases, just in case the old DM crew decided to sit in on a session.  All in all, a fantastic way to end a long-awaited and successful tour.

Rating for Recoil: Fucking Brilliant.  Wilder and Kendall rock it again.

 

Recoil @ Le Poisson Rouge, May 18. 2010 June 8, 2010

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[1].  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.

www.recoil.co.uk
www.myspace.com/recoil

-Mark B.


[1] From the interview section on http://www.recoil.co.uk