Depeche Mode are surely of the all-time most synthy bands, so what a bold move for Sylvain Chauveau to helm Down To The Bone (An Acoustic Tribute To Depeche Mode 2015). Of course, the bones of the songs were always very strong, and Chauveau’s minimalist approach lets them stand out to the full. On Ici d’ailleurs.
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- Down to the Bone (An Acoustic Tribute to Depeche Mode 2015) by Sylvain Chauveau & Ensemble Nocturne
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Described by Clint as “one of the scariest things ever”, I’m actually pretty nonplussed upon discovering a reissue of Sylvain Chauveau’s minimalist homage to Depeche Mode, the original synth pop despisers. Perhaps listeners will be exalted with gasps when they hear Chauveau’s voice come blaring out of their speakers -- the vocal is an unprecedented and now rare instrument for a man whose work has previously traversed ambient and neo-classical airwaves -- but like James Blackshaw’s recent forays into proper song, his voice is calm, smooth and fits quite unobtrusively within his compositions. More than anything, I’m surprised that this record is ten years old, and that someone’s considered it a good idea to reissue a tribute album.
You’ve heard these songs before, but plagued with romantic electronics and their era-appropriate melodrama: simply by rearranging them acoustically (with some ambient electronic alterations), Chauveau lowers the heartrate, turning desperation into contemplation. Ornamented with strings and clock-ticking piano, these songs gain the subtle anxieties of a modern day indie rock band, like the National on ‘Boxer’ or indeed Blackshaw on his recent ‘Summoning Suns’. Chauveau’s voice is deep and confident enough to carry the record’s air of unexcitable calm, but it also sounds excited by the chance to present this material anew: he dives quickly through lines on “Home”, while on “In Your Room” it sounds like he’s relishing the chance to balladeer over Max Richter brand melancholy.
It seems impressive, of course, that someone could recontextualise synth pop into chamber pop, but you know: same misery, different overcoat. EDM Depeche Mode? That’s where the challenge is at. Chauveau has done a fine job at transposing these songs for a spot of gardening, though.
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