August 9, 2007

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Recoil, Subhuman
Mute Records, 2007

In 1995, keyboardist Alan Wilder muttered some polite euphemisms for the sentence “I hate this place because David Gahan is a hopeless druggie” and left Depeche Mode. By then he was three albums into his Recoil side project, an avant garde house of soundscape ideas, and that’s largely where he’s stayed since, throwing honest session work to people like Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy and Depeche candy-girl Hildia Campbell. Subhuman pronounces Wilder’s liking for slow, eerie, sub-Saharan ringouts and reverbed church bells alive and well after a six-year hiatus while expanding upon the chicken-rattle deep-South vocal sounds he wrung out of Diamanda Galas in “Strange Hours,” the latter accomplished by utilizing blues guy Joe Richardson’s three-sandwiches-short Muddy Waters caricature. Richardson gets the mike for most of the album, which was a bright move considering the job he does with “99 to Life,” a clangy, desolate celebration of suppertime in the hole whose sample-cluster dirge sounds like it’s trying to parrot “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” British songbird Carla Trevaskis rounds out the package nicely by adding some brittle Yoko Ono-ness to a couple of rich, melodic, more positive textures. BEric W. Saeger