Saturday, April 9, 2016


Violator (AM9)
Artist: Depeche Mode
Released: March 19, 1990
Recorded at: Logic Studios, Puk Studios, Master Rock Studios and Axis Studios
Produced by: Depeche Mode and Flood
Mixed by: Depeche Mode and Fran├žois Kevorkian; Engineered by Fran├žois Kevorkian, Alan Gregorie, Goh Hotoda, Peter Iversen, Phil Legg
Tracks: 1. World in My Eyes; 2. Sweetest Perfection; 3. Personal Jesus; 4. Halo; 5. Waiting for the Night; 6. Enjoy the Silence; 7. Policy of Truth; 8. Blue Dress; 9. Clean

Throughout the 80s, Depeche Mode were the kings of the electro-pop soundscape. Some Great Reward, Black Celebration and Music for the Masses had defined a sound and style that was both alluringly original and at the cutting edge of technological innovation. "We decided that as our first record of the 90s, it ought to be different," Martin Gore told NME in 1990. For this record, Gore intentionally kept his demo ideas as simple as possible, with much of the layering and arranging duties left to band-mate Alan Wilder. It was a very different approach. Enlisting the help of the increasingly respected producer Flood, the band began the Violator sessions at Logic Studios in Milan with "Personal Jesus."

Unusually for Depeche Mode the dominant instrument here is the electric guitar – a fairly significant deviation (indeed the concert at Radio City Music Hall early that same year contained virtually no sounds that actually exist in nature.) The track's driving, repetitive rhythm was actually the sampled sound of feet stomping on flight cases and then looped, treated and mixed with electric snare and tom sounds. The mantra-like vocal melody (and brooding croon from Gahan) would cement this track in ears and minds on both sides of the Atlantic following its swift release as a single and MTV video.

After the resulting success of the single, Gore's twangy, insistent guitar sound became a key component in subsequent songs by the band. Although Gore's songwriting and craftsmanship were massively important to the resulting album, much of its sonic depth can be credited to Alan Wilder's arrangements, utilizing an arsenal of vintage synthesizers and sound-generating tools: an EMS VCS3, Minimoog and Oberheim OB-8 synths, as well as the ever-popular Roland Space Echo and Manley amplifiers, staples of the 80s.

The band relocated to Puk Studios in Denmark to record the remainder of the album. Both Flood and Alan Wilder were heavily influenced by the then-burgeoning sound of hip-hop coming out of America and had begun to utilize sampling a great deal during the sessions, building up whole sampled kits and rhythmic loops. Nowhere on the record is this more apparent than on "Halo," a track that uses a drum loop from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." 

The album's arguable high point, "Enjoy the Silence," has subsequently, along with "Personal Jesus," become one of Depeche Mode's most recognizable songs, being their highest climber in the US. The single immediately preceded the release of the LP and became the band’s biggest hit. Upon release, Violator was instantly hailed as a milestone in the band's history. Referred to as a “perfectly formed void” by Tom Nicholson of Record Mirror, most critics were enthralled by the album's textured, dark and edgy sonic landscape as well as its pop sensibilities.