Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Until the End of Time by De/Vision

I'm going to make two posts today that will change my format just a little; these are not 80s songs. But both of the bands I'll be highlighting in these posts formed in the 80s or earliest 90s, actually signed and released their first material in the mid-90s after it was too late for them to get major mainstream recognition for their work. They both did, however, go on to become major players in the post-mainstream synthpop scene.

They're also quite similar in style in many ways, and I consider the two bands I'll be talking about in these two posts, Mesh and De/Vision, to be amongst the premier "false Depeche Modes" out there.

Perhaps its not really fair to characterize De/Vision (and Mesh, but I'll get to them in the next post) as merely another Depeche Mode imitator, but certainly there's an element to that in their work. Despite coming up through the ranks as synthpoppers, they've gradually converged somewhat with the harder-sounding futurepop in many ways. De/Vision actually formed in the mid to late 80s, and although they wandered throughout Germany with some demos, opening acts and other live shows for a while, they didn't actually release anything until 1993. Their anthem for many years was the song "Try to Forget" which highlights both the strengths and the weaknesses of De/Vision. Like fellow countrymen Camouflage, it was dark-edged, frequently danceable synthpop, very much in the same vein as mid to late 80s Depeche Mode except without (yet) any hint of guitars. "Try to Forget" is a catchy song, and an easily danceable one. It really sounds great. However, if you listen to it too closely, the fact that the songwriter and singer isn't a native English speaker becomes very obvious. The lyrics are often awkwardly written and sung with a strong accent. This is true of much of De/Vision's work even to this day. "Try to Forget" also tries too hard. The subject matter becomes melodramatic to the point of silliness. Yeah, OK, so the subject of the song is lonely. Is that really going to cause her to scream in horror?

In any case, in most respects De/Vision started off very strong and have continued to improve as time has marched on. They haven't changed too dramatically... starting with 1998's Monosex, their samples became much more organic sounding, picking up some "fuzz" so to speak, but that was common right about then, and it makes the songs sound more modern rather than the older, more sterile sound of the 80s and early 90s.

With 2000's Void they added a harsher sound and more guitars. A lot of synthpop fans rejected Void, and called it a betrayal of synthpop altogether, disparagingly labeling the effort a "rock" album. A lot of synthpop fans are pretty stupid, though, quite frankly. If Void is a "rock" album and not synthpop, then so is everything Depeche Mode has done from Violator on down, and so is the entire catalog of New Order. That accusation is both puerile and preposterously wrong anyway.

However, De/Vision were a bit gun-shy from departing too much from their trademark sound after that minor experimentation fell kinda flat with many fans. Although they did go a bit up and down in terms of how dark and depressing their sound would be, by and large the post-Void output of De/Vision is remarkably unified in style.

And De/Vision's output has been rather remarkable altogether. From 1993 to 2010, they've released no less than twelve studio albums, several compilations, remix albums, greatest hits and live albums. There's a lot of material out there, and much of it is very, very good; amongst the best in the modern, post-mainstream synthpop scene.

2010's Popgefahr is their latest album (not surprisingly, since it just came out this year) and has a lot of great songs. I short-listed four potential tracks (out of ten) to highlight in this post, and finally settled on "Until the End of Time" which is the final, closing track. Not exactly a dance monster, but certainly highlighting De/Vision's ability to craft these dark, melancholy tracks that see them so often compared to Depeche Mode. Hope you enjoy.

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