First Thoughts: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Immediate reaction...

Talking to Clash last summer about his project with Soulsavers, Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan revealed that he wanted the new Mode album to have "more of a rawness about it" compared to anything the band had recorded previously. "Just because it's another electronic record doesn't mean it shouldn't have a certain edge to it," he continued. "What's exciting with the Depeche record is that we're definitely going down that road. We've got a lot more of a bluesy influence to it, and we're trying to retain that more in the recording and not get too over-fussed about details."

With the band's new single 'Heaven' getting leaked last week, we were able to hear up close the bluesy edge that Gahan was keen to hear in the songs recorded for 'Delta Machine', which will he released in March. All of the requisite Depeche Mode elements were there – soul-exposing lyrics, effortless harmonies from Gahan and Martin Gore, gutsy guitar and a palette of obscure electronic glitches and noises that belong on a Raster Noton track rather than a rock song. There was also a brittle rawness to Gahan's delivery of the track and a sense, in the simple wonky piano melodies, that the band were working hard not to drown the essence of the track in over-production and clever techniques. Fans described it as a grower.

Clash were fortunate to hear a playback of 'Delta Machine' in London this week and it's fair to say that 'Heaven' sounds nothing like the rest of the album. It's a record filled with contradictions and surprises. There are moments of intricate beauty, songs which sound like Depeche Mode recycling their best bits through a thoroughly modern filter and tracks that echo their early Eighties synth-pop roots. The blues that Gahan wanted to showcase is undoubtedly here, but it's a uniquely Depeche take on the blues. Musically, the whole thing is dense, crammed with ideas, tracks evolving frequently from basic beginnings to completely unexpected conclusions.

Twenty years ago, Depeche Mode released 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion', a record filled with howling guitars, noise blasts, gospel pleas and few echoes of their previous electronic works. Gahan was re-cast as a nihilistic long-haired, tattooed rockstar wastrel. With 'Delta Machine', and particularly on the strength of 'Heaven' many fans were expecting some sort of much-delayed follow-up to that album. The truth is that 'Delta Machine' feels like a follow-up to more or less everything that this band have done across their thirty-odd year existence. And that's no bad thing at all.

Words by Mat Smith

Fancy a previous interview with Dave Gahan in which he touches on the making of 'Delta Machine'? Click HERE.

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