HISTORICAL EVIDENCE - PART 2
Alan Wilder NEW BIRTH

Alan had always experimented with his own individual ideas (alongside his rather higher profile as the now acknowledged musical formulator of Depeche Mode) but it wasn't until Dan Miller heard some of his demos (recorded on a 4-track cassette machine) and asked him to reproduce them, that the reality of Recoil as a solo project came to light. The early Recoil recordings revealed Alan's position as a pioneer in the newly emerging world of sampling technology and demonstrated how he could turn the Depeche sound around to create something entirely new.
Simply entitled '1 + 2' , his first collection of primitive demos, though completed in the early 80’s, was inconspicuously released as a mini-album in the summer of 1986, alongside Depeche Mode's top five album, 'Black Celebration'.
"1 + 2 is completely synthesizer based yet bears no resemblance to the pretty pop ponderings of the group. Mostly of an instrumental nature, some of it pulsates in the traditional sense but serves mainly as ambience. It is nice to see D. Mode's members branch out into serious musical ventures rather than take the easy route of producing merely bubble gum pabulum."

Dance music report
1+2 artwork
In 1987, Depeche Mode recruited the unique skills of Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn to further enhance their by now familiar style. He directed promos for the next release 'Music For The Masses' helping to tie together the whole phenomenon that was becoming Depeche Mode and thus providing the focus for a massive world tour.
This was to prove a turning point in the band's career, epitomised by a sell-out show to 80,000 people at The Rosebowl stadium in LA. Featuring hits from the 'MFTM' album such as 'Behind The Wheel', 'Never Let Me Down Again' and 'Strangelove', it was decided that D.A. Pennebaker would film the US leg of the tour together with a group of competition winners that would attach themselves along for the ride.
The culmination of an extremely busy year for Alan, was a return to the studio to complete the live recordings that would eventually materialise as the top five album '101' and, together with the completed '101' Film, take Depeche Mode another step closer to world domination.
Unfortunately for the fledgling Recoil, the release in January 1988 of Alan's second album, 'Hydrology', clashed with this tour and the enormous popularity of the band restricted him from promoting his own work. A more ambitious follow up to '1+2', Hydrology was still a far cry from the commercial pop sound of his day job. It remained entirely instrumental, having been recorded on a fairly modest set-up, and was obviously intended to be different. Wilder described the project at this stage as " an antidote to Depeche Mode in some ways; a way to alleviate the frustrations of always working within a pop format."
Hydrology
"This is Recoil's second stab at vinyl, and it's a marked progression for this instrumentalist. Keyboards, sampled sounds et al are well in evidence, but of course this is miles from the pop prowess of his alter ego. Instead Recoil's reason for existence is to create soundscapes which fluctuate and radiate warmth and affection.
From floating piano sounds to tribal villages, a brief drum-heavy rhythm, then back to the rolling hills, Recoil make music to divorce your mind to. Exceptional and extremely enjoyable."

Music week
"Recoil's secretive persona and luscious style make for something that's at once grandiose and classically appealing while retaining a certain individual eclecticism. That this mystery personality has reaped found sounds, such as native villages, introduced a keyboard verve and supplemented the proceedings with great mounds of rhythm when necessary, suggest that they are accomplished craftsmen and world-wise tunesmiths. Hydrology is a seamless shroud for modern music, a mock symphony for a mixed up generation and an essentially moving collection of sketches."

Underground Magazine.
Almost immediately, Alan found himself back in the studio to record what would become the most successful Depeche Mode album to date, 'Violator'. After its release in 1990, a promo tour to publicise the upcoming live shows demonstrated Depeche Mode's massive appeal when a predicted few hundred fans turned into approximately 15,000 who crammed themselves into Wherehouse Records in Los Angeles to see their heroes sign copies of the new record.
The mass of people was too great, the windows imploded and a riot spilled out onto the streets. As frightening and physically destructive as this was, the event caused exactly the attention that Depeche needed. 'Violator' spawned a string of hits all over the world including 'Personal Jesus', 'Enjoy The Silence', 'Policy Of Truth' and 'World In My Eyes', and saw the band rise officially to the level of stadium superstars.
It wasn't until Depeche Mode finally allowed themselves an extended break after the enormously successful 'World Violation' tour that Alan could return to Recoil. However, after starting work on a 3rd album, he agreed to produce another for label mates Nitzer Ebb, who had supported the Mode on their previous two tours and had become good friends.
'Ebbhead' was recorded at Konk Studios and Alan enlisted the help of Flood who had worked on ‘Violator’. It was during this time he cemented both a good personal and working relationship with lead singer Douglas McCarthy who would return the favour by singing on Recoil's next album. 'Bloodline'
Bloodline
For this LP, released in 1991, Wilder recruited guest vocalists for the first time with contributions from Moby, Toni Halliday and Douglas McCarthy helping to produce an album that was a significant move forward for Recoil. It also marked the first Recoil single, a cover of an Alex Harvey track, 'Faith Healer'.
Although under no pressure to make the album more conventional, Bloodline was a much more commercial effort which came closer to having complete songs, albeit songs which split and divided with alarming regularity:
"'Bloodline' indicates that Alan Wilder has been a key figure in Depeche Mode's development, from their early pop nursery rhymes to the darker, heavily textured style they adopted in the mid-80’s. Wilder concocts the filmic soundscapes, slow burning things that slip into melodramatic grandeur through a side door.
Douglas McCarthy blisters Alex Harvey's 'Faith Healer', Curve's Toni Halliday drenches 'Edge To Life' and 'Bloodline' in drowsy paranoia. 'Electro Blues For Bukka White' has long-gone disembodied bluesman White, muttering and wailing underneath an eastern drone that both eulogises and ignores him. Like the rest of 'Bloodline', the effect is disconcerting but ultimately very moving."

Vox
"Wilder uses his Recoil opportunities for wild experimentation. Delving deep into the world of technology 'Bloodline' pitches his electronic symphonies against the disparate individual styles of the guest vocalists. The result is an often brilliant collection that swings from the chilling Halliday-led title track (harsh, unfriendly, ominous) to the daft but inspired 'Electro Blues For Bukka White' (warm, weird, wonderful). A glorious case of "We have the technology!....""

Select
SOFAD
Between 1992-93, Wilder reassumed his Depeche duties as the band recorded the album, 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion'. Released to universal acclaim, it topped the charts in the UK, USA, Germany and a host of other countries. Enjoying hits with 'I Feel You', 'Walking In My Shoes', 'In Your Room' and 'Condemnation' Depeche Mode embarked on their most adventurous tour to date, enduring a gruelling 15 months on the road.
Accompanied by a 7 screen film show from Anton Corbjn and the addition of two gospel singers, as well as live drums for the first time (played by Alan), the 'Devotional' tour saw Depeche Mode in full flow - at their best....and worst.
Although the group had reached the pinnacle of success (and, indeed, revelled in the trappings of it), aspects of such an excessive lifestyle had taken their toll on everyone and things eventually came to a head. For Alan, the thought of recording another album and tour was too much to contemplate and he began to think about moving on.
In June 1995, having spent 14 years as an integral part of one of the most popular and influential bands the UK has ever produced, Alan made the difficult but inevitable decision to leave Depeche Mode and spent the rest of the year taking a well deserved break.
REBIRTH


Free from his group commitments and with his personal life at last on a much needed even keel, he could now begin to focus solely on Recoil. In September1996, he began work in his own studio, 'The Thin Line', gradually piecing together the unnerving scores that would eventually become 'Unsound Methods' before, again, drawing collaborators into his net of intrigue. The final results were more impressive than ever.
The music that began to emerge seemed to be a far cry from his last Recoil offering but appeared to take up where 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' had left off. Unlike the 'textural' vocal style of 'Bloodline', guest vocalists this time played a more up-front role than ever and featured Maggie Estep, a spoken-word artist from New York, Siobhan Lynch (who came to Recoil by way of a demo cassette), the reappearance of Douglas McCarthy and Hildia Cambell (who had worked with Alan as a backing vocalist on the 'Devotional' tour). The styles of each could not be more removed from one another helping to create a startlingly original and diverse collection.
Working in this unique way afforded Alan Wilder far greater freedom of expression allowing him unrestricted access to all his favourite musical areas. During the nine haunting and sultry tracks that comprise 'Unsound Methods' the listener is drawn into the shadowy world of a new Recoil for the 90's.
Released in the autumn of 1997, the album, though perceived as difficult by some, received much critical acclaim and was welcomed by the more adventurous spectrum of the music world:
Unsound Methods
"A generous, instinctively filmic collaborator, Wilder provides impeccable canvasses - all mournful cellos and thoroughly paralysed beats.... 'Unsound Methods' is in exquisite taste. You might have seen the cut before, but then again, it doesn't look this drop-dead stylish on everyone."

Time out - November 1997
"The concept project of former Depeche Mode producer Alan Wilder, removes itself from the music industry norms and blinkers, supplying a confrontational and emotive symphony. Immediately astounding in it's ambition, Alan uses the whole sonic vocabulary of jazz, trance, gospel, classical, ambient, thrash, poetry and natural sound effects, conducting these into a theatrical / cinematic narrative. This release stands out as an accomplished and musical experience with the depth of Radiohead and drama of David Lynch: the album echoes far past it's conclusion."

Massive - December 1997
"Now to a review of my 10 albums of the year that should grace the serious muso's collection. From all musical genre, at the head of the table should be seated last months much talked about Recoil and 'Unsound Methods', the most notably weird album of '97. Few come along that have such a deep seated effect on your life...."

Hype - December 1997
Released in the Spring of 2000, 'Liquid' has been described as the most fervent and unsettling album to date. Once again, Wilder utilises the unique qualities of various guest vocalists - internationally acclaimed fellow Mute artist Diamanda Galás, 1940’s Gospel crooners The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, New York spoken word performers Nicole Blackman and Samantha Coerbell, Catalan narrator Rosa Torras and additional musicians Steven Monty (drums), Dean Garcia (bass) and Merlin Rhys-Jones (guitar).

The worldwide music press received 'Liquid' with a host of glowing reviews and Wilder was awarded the Charles Cros Grand Prix 2000.
Liquid
"...a series of poetic vignettes brought to vivid life through ambitiously expressionist musical settings, 'Liquid' offers a wealth of dark and disturbing pleasures. Uneasy listening for uneasy souls."



Andy Gill - The Independent (Album of the week) - April 2000
"The music on 'Liquid' is suitably grand and gothic, filled with the kind of carefully constructed, emotionally unsettling textures that once bedrocked many a Depeche Mode album track: fascinating and rewarding but a far cry from pop music. Wilder is likely heading for a second career of cult sales, critical acclaim and being in demand to produce and compose for others, and he is seemingly quite comfortable with forgoing platinum albums and screaming fans to do so. With works this intriguing and provocative, we should be content with his decision, too."

Tony Fletcher - Sonicnet - April 2000
Strangely enthralling and genuinely unhinging, 'Liquid' masquerades as the aural equivalent of a disturbing movie. Wilder's intoxicating soundscapes kick up clouds of the same dark dust that falls on David Lynch or Nine Inch Nails, but where others may hammer out their message with histrionic force, his touch is lighter and characteristically more subtle. 'Liquid' is designed to seep into your brain and drill holes into your psyche - a remarkable work for not-so-quiet reflection in the company of one's darker side.
 

(For more reviews and features, see Media)

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