From their earliest days, Depeche Mode have understood the transcendent power of a good remix. At the beginning of their career, the form presented an opportunity to open up their sound to DJs, converting their chart-friendly synth pop into dancefloor tender. Throughout the years however, these interpretations became more creative and experimental, with remixes commissioned from a disparate range of underground artists as much as established names, reaching the point where they effectively function as a barometer of current tastes within electronic music. Need proof? “Heaven” features reinterpretations by Matthew Dear, Thomas Fehlmann, and Blawan. Oh, and they’ve spawned two dedicated remix albums.
We rifled through the swathes of Depeche Mode remixes out there (trust us, there’s a lot) to pick our ten favorites, so you don’t have to. It’s deconstruction time again.
“Suffer Well” (M83 Remix)
2005’s Playing the Angel threw up a number of reworkings by well-regarded underground acts at the time, including the Robag Wruhme (see below) and M83, who were flush with accolades from their Before the Dawn Heals Us LP. The original track is taken in a new direction with washes of sci-fi synthesizer and Anthony Gonzalez’s otherworldly falsetto.
“Useless” (The Kruder & Dorfmeister Session)
The Austrian downtempo pioneers smooth the edges off this Ultra cut, turning it into piece of medicated, heavy-lidded pop ideal for soundtracking the bumpiest of comedowns. Spoiler: features predominant wah-wah pedal.
“Lillian” (Robag Wruhme Slomoschen Kikker)
Germany’s meister of glitch and erstwhile Wighnomy Brother decompresses the midrange chug of the original with his characteristic insectoid percussion, gentle guitar picking, and pastoral synth.
“Master and Servant” (An ON-U Sound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic)
Adrian Sherwood flexes his well-defined industrial dub muscle for this distorted take on the band’s eleventh UK single “Master and Servent” from 1984. Sherwood would later refine—if that’s the right word—this abrasive, metal-on-metal style with work for Ministry, KMFDM, and Nine Inch Nails.
“World in My Eyes” (Daniel Miller Mix)
This was the final release from the king-making Violator, and adding some spit and polish to the band’s crown is Daniel Miller. The Mute boss and regular DM co-producer adds a different synth sound and some subtle alterations—it’s more a case of careful tailoring than obvious repurposing.
“Dream On” (Dave Clarke Acoustic Version)
The first Exciter is given an acoustic makeover from idiosyncratic techno bod Dave Clarke, earning a place on our list for the sheer unexpectedness.
“Painkiller” (Kill The Pain Depeche Mode vs DJ Shadow)
Guitar scree, boom bap, and snatches of blues samples contribute to DJ Shadow‘s impressionist take on “Barrel of a Gun” B-side “Painkiller”. The anomalous original is an instrumental featuring kettle drums and cruddy electronics. DJ Shadow takes those foundations and stretches them until breaking point.
“Something To Do” (Black Strobe Remix)
Construction Time Again is, arguably, one of the greatest early Depeche Mode albums. The record takes Einstürzende Neubauten‘s heavy duty industrialism and renders it chart-friendly, thus pulling off an audacious act of pop nous. Here noughties French producers Black Strobe preserve the urgency of “Something to Do”‘s refrain and whack a boisterous electrohouse beat under it. What did you expect?
“Halo” (Goldfrapp Remix)
Forget “Enjoy the Silence”—opener “Halo” is the real star of Violator. Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp strip the bombast out of the song revealing the vulnerability at its core. Dave Gahan’s resonant baritone feels naked against a backdrop of harp, Alison Goldfrapp’s fragile, breathy version of the chorus, and the closing drifts of her soprano voice.
“Behind the Wheel” (Vince Clarke Remix)
In a pleasing, if circuitous, act, original Depeche Mode member Vince Clark finally got round to remixing one of their tracks in 2011. The Music for the Masses single “Behind the Wheel”. This reworking showcases his affinity with driving, muscular techno (which was actualized conclusively in his VCMG project with, yup, Martin Gore).
Published March 05, 2013. Words by Louise Brailey.