Remixed Remixes (Press Release)
9 сентября 2004
Liner notes from "Remixes 81-04"
In the beginning, which for the sake of this sleeve note is the beginning of the 1980s, there was the 12" single. It was a new thing, and no one really knew what it was - it was like a maxi single, but the size of an album, and it included, as well as a b side track and the original version of the song that was the single, a version of the single that was like the single, but that was something else. It was longer, probably harder, possibly dancier, often stranger. It resembled the song, but was half instrumental, half vocal, or there was an instrumental intro, then the song, which might be split in two by another instrumental section, and then there was an instrumental outro. The song had been extended, made over, made other. It was the remix.
There are many who claim they invented the remix - P.Diddy only the latest and silliest in a long line stretching right back into the computer dreams of the early 80s, the disco clouds of the 70s, the reggae spaces of the 60s, the Joe Meek from a London on the dark side of the moon - but no one person or group as such invented the remix. It was in the air, it was always going to happen. But you can easily assign to Depeche Mode a certain amount of credit for being there when the idea of the remix became a considerable commercial and creative factor, and also still being there nearly a quarter of a century later when you simply cannot imagine popular music without the remix. They have watched over the idea of the remix, gone along with it, changed with it, used it, from when the remix was a sort of vinyl marketing novelty extending the shelf life of a single, to when it was at the heart of the pop and dance culture, to when it was a kind of innovative art form of its own. The remix story of Depeche Mode can be viewed as a history of the remix.
With Depeche Mode, there is the reality of the influential electro-pop group that emerged in the early 1980s and seems part of a history of pop music where you would also mention the Human League, Ultravox, OMD, Gary Numan and Soft Cell. They were the Basildon Kraftwerk, the teenage Roxy, the Essex beat boys. This was the original reality of the group, Cabaret Voltaire as a doo wop boy band, and then the other alternative Depeche Modes spun off from there - the remixes of the image of Depeche Mode started to happen, the idea of the group was reworked, remodelled, reformed. Dream versions of Depeche Mode developed - the electro-acoustic stadium rock band that bridged the culture gap between Kraftwerk and U2, the electro-goth cult group that beat up space and time between The Cure and Nine Inch Nails, the avant garde disco fantasy that crept and crawled a thin tense black line between techno-trance and latent-house, the remix pioneers that charted a doomy, glamorous route between the rave and the grave.
Their songs told stories about fear, force, sex, love, hate, desire, control, pressure, obsession, pain, action, obedience, like the best pop songs often do. Their remixes shadowed their songs, suggesting greater depth to the group, more muscle, shadows, pulse, a certain shape shifting energy.
There were always the Depeche Mode songs, and in the corner, outside the room, over the border, way out in space, there were the dreams and the shadows, the other realities that were the remixes. There was never just one Depeche Mode. There were a random number, interacting, changing place, holding hands, looking forward. Inside a Depeche Mode remix, whether one that alters everything, adds graffiti to the songs, fucks it up, loves it, builds up the quasi-heroic ambition, hollows it out, escapes completely the reality of the original song, and dreams everything up, whether one that hovers just outside the original, whether one that fights with the original, creates competitive drama, or whether one that uses the original to discover new dreamspace, you can hear what it is that makes Depeche Mode what they are. You can hear where the group have been, where they are now, and where they are going.
The idea of the remix, the idea of something that tampers with fixed states, and one-track minds, and set grooves, has been ever present in the travelling story of Depeche Mode.
If you want to monitor the progress of the remix, from the tentative primitive early days when a pop remix was often just a small re-emphasised extension to the original song, with perhaps a sketchy little deviant introduction, to the late 20th century idea of the remix, where a remixed song would often be a completely different piece of music, then this collection is a definitive guide. Hear the avant-garde become pop become disco become house become techno become sleaze become abstract become infinitely reversible.
You can also spot changes in fashion, in the fashions of beats, in the styles of rhythm, as the remixers take on Depeche Mode, and give us their version, their Depeche, in return. Time passes in many different ways in this collection - the beats per minute that take us slowly, or quickly, through the time we spend listening or dancing to a track, the rhythms that take us through the 80s and the 90s into the 21st century as the studio remix comprehensively regenerates funk music, electronic music, pop, disco, house, techno, ambient, into a variety of new styles that slip around and stick to and pass through the idea of Depeche Mode. There is the reality of Depeche Mode, the reality of a Depeche Mode song, and then there are the numerous realities spilling out into the future created by the remixers as they produce dreams inspired by the group, and their songs.
It is noticeable in this collection that whether it is Danny Tenaglia riding Depeche hard into the hiding places of hedonism or Headcleaner tossing up the rasp metal that lurks within Depeche, whoever it is attacking or defending the interior theatricality of the group, all the mixers retain a faith, however satirical or sensational, in Depeche Mode's calm, infinite, measured strength.
Pop music is to be sold. It's a commercial enterprise. The remix adds the lustre of a commercial brand name: Depeche Mode can be multiplied by Linkin Park, Sony can be tied with Coke, sales can be tripled, associations can be juicy. The remix can be a commercial tactic, but twisted around an experimental idea that has everything to do with changing things around and making the world new.
In the remix world that Depeche Mode have helped create, you get a sinful, conceptually diabolical chance to hear Depeche Mode duet with Underworld, with Air, with Portishead, with Linkin Park, with Cypress Hill, with Timos Mass, with Adrian Sherwood, with DJ Shadow, with Goldfrapp, with Kruder and Dorfmeister.
Perhaps this portfolio presents Depeche Mode as curators, as talent spotters, even as music critics. The choice they make about who should enter their world of sound is always exemplary. They've kept themselves up to date by observing and absorbing the contemporary moves of others, often way before anyone else. Depeche Mode have never settled lifelessly into the 80s, like some of their peers, because of the way their music has been remixed. It is always remixed ahead of the game, the game being, as it always it, time. There is the model of Depeche Mode releasing songs and albums, and then there is the Depeche Mode playing with, and being played with by, sonic extremists like Adrian Sherwood, DJ Shadow, Rex The Dog and Underworld.
It gets even more deliciously complicated, because as well as playing around with avant pop musicians and experimental dj's, they are also working with and being worked over by dance masters, at the moment when the dance masters are at their most masterful. Depeche remixes are examples of how the remix is an act of experimentation, and how the remix is also a way of getting people to dance to music that wasn't necessarily danceable in the first place. So Depeche, not that avant-garde, not that disco touchy, have the edge of appearing avant garde and dancey, as well as great songwriters. Depeche Mode have exploited the potential of the remix like no other group - the potential to always being one, two, three beats ahead, always mixing with the newcomers, the strangers, the oddballs, the cavaliers, even as they maintain the mysterious quality of mainstream power. (And so they never quite fit into the company of those dispensing the official mode of knowledge.)
It's amazing that there is still a fixed idea of Depeche Mode when so many remixers have operated on the group, and offered up their idea of what the group is - a strange pop group, a dark rock group, a concealed metal band, a disordered disco experience, an experimental ambient group, a menacing dance group, a spiritualised hip hop adventure, an iconic moody electronic outfit from somewhere in the past near the coast of England, a legendary deep pop group from somewhere in the future off the edge of Saturn, a group whose songs coat the imagination with dread and danger and desperation, with nearness and absence, a group whose songs fire the imagination with hope against hope and the exact opposite. Whatever they are turned into by these aural fantasists, these sonic stylists, whatever new thing they become because of the way they have been treated and mistreated, Depeche Mode always emerge as Depeche Mode. Somehow, however much they are beaten and erased, however far they are stretched and smashed, they always end the adventure in one piece.
Here they are in pieces, still in one piece. After all the break ups, the breakdowns, the make-ups, the tragedies, the triumphs, the scares, the years, the songs, here they are, as new as ever. With the protective help of the remixes and the remixers, Depeche Mode stand, as they did back in the days of the 12 inch single, back in the vinyl age, on the edge of tomorrow. Looking forward, listening forward.
(Paul Morley London 24 08 04)