photo & text by nacrowe
sorry to say, i got into DEPECHE MODE late. like the end of my 20s late. and i dont know why that is.
i really never had anything against SYNTH POP or ELECTRONIC MUSIC per se. in fact, i was a fan since childhood of peer groups like NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, TEARS FOR FEARS and ELECTRONIC as well as later related experimental acolyte groups such as LADYTRON, ROYKSOPP, DAFT PUNK, HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, MASSIVE ATTACK, HOLY GHOST! and NEON INDIAN. and that is not even counting the likes of longtime obsessions like DEVO and KRAFTWERK. but nevertheless DEPECHE MODE escaped me.
i got into them during my brief time in KUKES, when i was working as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA. i remember meeting with RADIO KUKESI, which was the publicly operated station that had a SOCIALIST-REALIST decorated exterior from the 1960s. when my fellow volunteers and i had initiatives within the city, our contacts at this station would publicize such. but in many ways the vibe of that isolated northern ALBANIA town near the foothills of the ALBANIAN ALPS still seemed as CONSTRICTED and OSSIFIED as that of its recent COMMUNIST past a little over a generation before. wealth creation through CAPITALISM was slow going and once proud merchants and farmers had to deal with the relative DISAPPOINTMENT of being small fish in an over-saturated, hyper-competitive marketplace with the likes of ITALY, GREECE and states that emerged from the former YUGOSLAVIA.
it was within this context that i discovered DEPECHE MODE and, like most people, that included their seminal VIOLATOR (MUTE, 1990) release. to my ears their mechanical yet emotionally nuanced sound really fit the CLAUSTROPHOBIC atmosphere of a living within a post-COMMMUNIST EASTERN BLOC state perfectly. there is a palpable sense on tracks like "WORLD IN MY EYES," "CLEAN," "POLICY OF TRUTH" and "HALO" of being in a prolonged UNEASY state of general PARANOIA. with the exception of MYANMAR, living in rural northern ALBANIA is unlike other situations ive lived within in that there is a profound sense of cultural and historical distance, as if the country is beyond such CONSTRAINTS. its not even like living in a TIME WARP, KUKES was like living in a situation that was beyond history, such was the impact of their prolonged ISOLATION under a militant COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. being in that situation in a sense felt like my own sense of IDENTITY was discarded in favor of this POST-CULTURAL and POST-HISTORICAL context. how do you talk about events for which most people have no reference point. it was a bizarre but thrilling situation. and tracks like "SWEETEST PERFECTION," "PERSONAL JESUS" and especially "ENJOY THE SILENCE" was the soundtrack to sense of having your IDENTITY wiped clean.
so oddly when i hear DEPECHE MODE, any era, it basically takes me back to living and working in KUKES. the land that time forgot.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
with the advent of modern social media and the internet as the central focus of commerce and our economy writ large, its always interesting to see how major retailers attempt to catch out attention and pique our interest. instrument and music products retailer REVERB.COM a few years back came up with the YOUTUBE series SYNTH SOUNDS OF as a means of drawing attention to the keyboards, sequencers and various software, both vintage and contemporary, they have on offer.
the series showcases musician / producer WILLIAM KIRK who guides the audience through the compositional ingenuity and sonic experimentalism at play in classic songs primarily from the 1970s and 1980s FUNK, NEW WAVE, DISCO and SYNTH POP catalogue. im talking about acts such as TEARS FOR FEARS, PRINCE, DEPECHE MODE, TOTO, GIORGIO MORODER, HALL & OATES, TALKING HEADS, PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, MADONNA, TALK TALK and even recent acolytes like BRUNO MARS and FRANK OCEAN. i originally found the series when researching what the vintage SEQUENCIAL CIRCUITS PROPHET 5 our studio had inherited from my cousin was capable of.
KIRK is knowledgeable, personable and absolutely ridiculous (i still cant handle those MEMBERS ONLY jackets!), which makes this series fun and engaging. he seems to get the feel of the period and is respectful without being too reverential in the process. SYNTH SOUNDS OF may have failed in getting me to buy anything, but it has beyond succeeded in making me more conscious of the artistry involved in the use of electronic keyboards, pads, triggers and vintage analog synths.
and it made me dance. so there.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
JONATHAN ROSS doesn't look like it but he is a bit of a trouble-maker. he is the host of a late-night comedy show that has ruffled the notoriously stoic BRITISH upper-crust and famously he was suspended from the BBC for a prank call gone wrong with fellow muckraker RUSSELL BRAND. his first stint was on the BBC1 with FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH JOHATHAN ROSS (2001-2010) that was followed by the ITV show THE JONATHAN ROSS SHOW which has continued airing to date.
the BRITISH comedian has had some incredible musical guests on both his primetime shows over the years including NIRVANA, DEPECHE MODE, LADY GAGA, DAVID BOWIE, RIHANNA, THE LIBERTINES and GORILLAZ among many many others. definitely check them out these performances.