Tag: Simian Mobile Disco

Lost Albums: BETH DITTO EP

Not an album at all of course, but BETH DITTO’s self-titled four track EP from early 2011 showed what she was capable of when presented with a juicy electronic soundtrack away from the funk laden punk of GOSSIP.

Following their first collaboration ‘Cruel Intentions’ on SIMAN MOBILE DISCO’s album ‘Temporary Pleasure’ in 2010, the dance duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw acted as producers on this brilliant solo EP.

Their ethos allowed Ms Ditto’s very present personality to shape the character of the tracks without detracting from the inherent dancefloor mood.

The result was four tracks that successfully crossed over into both GOSSIP’s indie punk audience and SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO’s more club inclined crowd. Opening track ‘I Wrote The Book’ was a close cousin of ‘Cruel Intentions’ and pulsed in a marvellous Detroit techno fashion that was immediate.

‘Goodnight Good Morning’ was driven by a solid groove and that would be the word that would ably describe this EP. Despite all the technology used to craft these four numbers, they possessed a warm humanity while the music itself retained a sparkling New York vibe.

‘Open Heart Surgery’ was driven by white noise percussion and a bassline reminiscent of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s early work and while not frantic in tempo, it did begin like a dreamboat collaboration between Da League and DONNA SUMMER.

The EP ended with ‘Do You Need Someone?’; digital claps took the lead while Ms Ditto’s passionate yearning added soul to the sparkling electronic groove. The melodic Polymoog-like tones of KRAFTWERK towards the song’s close were a marvellous aesthetic touch. Throughout the four songs, Ditto’s voice was rich, emotive and powerful.

On the evidence of this EP, a solo career in electronic dance music could have beckoned post-GOSSIP. She would have made a most perfect disco diva and certainly later offerings by GOSSIP like the suitably titled ‘Move In My Direction’ indicated that could be the case.

Alas, her debut solo album ‘Fake Sugar’ ventured into Ditto’s Southern rock roots, but at least this electronic EP existed as an indicator of what could have been. It also showed how James Ford could not be blamed for the lemon that was DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Spirit’ 😉


‘Beth Ditto’ is still available as a CD EP or download via Deconstruction Records

https://bethditto.com/

https://twitter.com/oBETHoDITTO

http://gossipyouth.com/

http://www.simianmobiledisco.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th October 2017

DEPECHE MODE Spirit

So, the Camaraderie of Black Swarm have awaited four years to receive their gift of a new DEPECHE MODE album.

Following in the footsteps of ‘Delta Machine’ which paired with ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, did not cause a stir and failed to impress.

With the lack of lustre in both productions, the general feeling was that the Basildon boys were either bored or burnt out.

The obvious question was the choice of the producer on both records, with Ben Hillier seeming not to quite get what DM are about, the results being, in both cases, flat and soulless, even though a commendable dose of blues was introduced on ‘Delta Machine’.

As Gore, Gahan and Fletch drifted towards Columbia as their chosen record label, that move inevitably furthered the non-niche perception of the band. That’s not to say that Martin Gore had passed his expiry date, with as good writing as he always had done, and Gahan’s own songs having proven better and better with each opus, in particular a very vintage DM sounding ‘Happens All The Time’, which sadly, was not included on the standard release.

Still, the devoted and ever hopeful fans of one of the biggest UK exports since THE BEATLES, have been as anxious as ever to put their hands on the newest release entitled ‘Spirit’, which together with Anton Corbijn’s artwork, suggests a clear political statement.

The choice of the producer in James Ford of SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO, who worked with FLORENCE & THE MACHINE, MUMFORD & SONS and LITTLE BOOTS caused a stir from the onset and prompted doubts in the direction which the band was heading.

As with everything DM, most of the hardcore fans will forever defend anything the trio may release; indeed the first single, ‘Where’s The Revolution’ certainly proves to be a head scratcher.

This politically charged number suits the general feeling of living in the times of real change, but the message conveyed appears somewhat naive and not very refined for Gore. Talking about politically directed songs, PET SHOP BOYS sure did a better job on their last album ‘Super’ with ‘The Dictator Decides’ and that’s not just on lyrical level.

Musically, the long awaited surprise seems to fade upon the very first verses. A tedious bass line with few dull droning sounds and a chorus, which comes in unexpectedly and has a rather irksome off beat repeat, followed by a middle eight, as far detached from the rest of the song as it possibly could be, with a pleading communist message to jump on board of the revolution train, by which time most listeners probably pressed the pause button to wonder which song from ‘Delta Machine’ or ‘SOTU’ this sounds most like. Oh, here it is: ‘Corrupt’!

Furthermore, audiences worldwide are seemingly sickened with the prevailing politics talk and yearn for some escape, as opposed to more drama. As Depeche’s album announcing singles haven’t been all that great since ‘Barrel Of A Gun’, the hope was for the rest of the long player to pick up where DM left off a long time ago.

From the onset, ‘Going Backwards’ sets the tone of the record, with sombre tones, which develop into a metallic cacophony a la Dave’s solo projects. Lyrically continuing the political pleas, but musically leaving one to wish DM were “going backwards”. Gentle guitar riffs on ‘The Worst Crime’ are pleasantly calming; however, and that feeling filters through to ‘Poorman’, it’s a minimalistic synth sensation with a rather interesting build-up to the abrupt halt, if not a little disrupted by unnecessary added noises.

‘Fail’ isn’t at all what it says on the tin, maybe mainly to that angelic voice of Gore, but also unusual instrumentation and likeable sequences, especially right at the end; it is a little gem. Gahan had been “up all night”, unable to breathe in ‘Cover Me’. This bluesy number marries dreamy guitar Badalamenti style and synth a la vintage DM, which equals success and goes down quite smoothly.

‘So Much Love’ snaps back to reality. However, it’s too much like ‘Soft Touch/Raw Nerve’ from ‘Delta Machine’, with Gahan shouting out lyrics over a pumping rhythm that’s nearly impossible to swallow. ‘Poison Heart’ marks another slice of subdued content, describing failed friendship and what many would describe, a classic “depressed” DM track.

What remains to move one is ‘You Move’, which is dirty and sleazy, but with added gritty synth and an adequate amount of electronic goodness to satisfy the devoted. ‘No More’ is unlikely to go on repeat, while ‘Eternal’ cannot be saved, even with the angelic Gore vocal, which on this one fails to magnetise.

The trigger is pulled on ‘Scum’, which would have been an interesting track, if it wasn’t for its messiness. The content is there, but it’s so confusingly disjointed, that it never really comes together, but maybe that’s the allure of it.

Some will laugh, some will ignore, some will bow, some will love…

‘Spirit’, for certain, won’t be THE album a DEPECHE MODE weathered fan will reach out for readily in the backdrop of their back catalogue. If you didn’t like anything post-Wilder, you’re certainly unlikely to appreciate this one. If you thought ‘SOTU’ and ‘Delta Machine’ weren’t your thing, ‘Spirit’ is even less likely to satisfy.

But this is what DM are now; bass synth heavy, calmer, mid-tempo and sombre. James Ford brings very little to the table, the agenda is clearly pre-set by the band themselves, and the forever devoted will inevitably muse over what this album would sound like with the magic touch of Alan.

Millions will still flock to the immense tour, further millions will buy the release and any possible add-ons, but the few disgruntled will criticise and hate, a standard to be expected within the DM crowd.

The question remains: is this really what Gahan and co wanted, or are we all caught up in the cogs of the greedy corporate machinery?

Everyone will have their own response, so (try to) enjoy ‘Spirit’, as it may as well be the last…


‘Spirit’ is released by Columbia Records in CD, deluxe 2CD, double vinyl LP and digital formats on 17th March 2017

DEPECHE MODE play London Stadium on Saturday 3rd June 2017

http://www.depechemode.com/

https://www.facebook.com/depechemode/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Anton Corbijn
8th March 2017