A new Depeche Mode album is always bound to confuse casual music critics and passive listeners. Confidently boasting the title of the world’s most successful electronic band, Dave and Martin’s formula for synths and beats has never been as easily quantifiable as rock ‘n’ roll magazines would have the Depeche Mode novice believe. 2013’s Delta Machine is an additional push away from 80s floorkillers and synthpop ditties.
Staying true to the trend in their music that has been consistent since 1997’s Ultra, Delta Machine is replete with industrial undertones that whirr, hiss, buzz, and saw their way through layers of processed guitars and eerily ambient synths. The unifying thread throughout these 13 songs is a heavy dose of blues against these electronic backdrops, in conjunction with the album’s title. This is most obvious on the album’s most delightfully sleazy moments: “Slow” and “Soothe My Soul,” which rumble and pulse in league with the pervy elements of Violator. “Angel” crawls and lumbers against plodding beats and fuzzy bass. In contrast, a softer tone is embodied through the use of smooth and atmospheric synthesizers. “My Little Universe” is a minimalistic IDM beat that distantly hums and bounces, and the Martin Gore-sung “The Child Inside” is a spooky tale of lost innocent supported by an echoing piano-like sound.
Delta Machine is not drowned in the folds of experimentation, though. Hooks are abundant in lead single “Heaven,” and the aforementioned “Soothe My Soul” has a chorus ready for the stadiums. “Welcome to my World” and “Should be Higher” reach euphoric, angelic highs in voice and in composition, even in the midst of their darkness. Closing song “Goodbye” juxtaposes between lurking verses and explosive choruses of airy noise.
Delta Machine is a far cry from Depeche Mode’s representation in pop culture, and as such it is bound to be condemned. “Enjoy the Silence 2.0” will have to be waited on for another few years. For now, though, we can enjoy the slew of sultry electro blues that Dave, Martin, and Andrew have provided for us with all the familiar tales of sex, despair, isolation, and obsession. Even over two decades after what many deemed their heyday, they still have lots to prove.