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Baker's Dozen

Alan Wilder Of Recoil & Depeche Mode's 13 Favourite LPs
Luke Turner , May 9th, 2011 07:29

As Short Circuit fast approaches, we talk to Alan Wilder about his 13 favourite records, and how they shaped his work in post-Depeche Mode project Recoil


Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden
I've become musical supervisor on a Talk Talk album that's being put together; it looks like we might have Elbow involved, and lots of other really good people like that. It's made me more aware – not that I wasn't already – how influential Talk Talk were, and how many people's favourite group they are.

In direct opposition to their commercial decline, my interest in the group increased as their more avant garde leanings came to the forefront. It was clear that Hollis in particular was never comfortable wearing the cloak of pop stardom. He became more and more introspective, reclusive and disdainful of all things commercial. We can all see, with hindsight, where his aspirations lay having now heard the later, definitive albums. Here was a man clearly very frustrated working within the confines of the format - something I appreciate myself and which led me to start my own Recoil project in order to alleviate the very same limitations.

Mark Hollis has this way of writing, and this voice, that's totally unique. It's like nothing else. I've heard a few cover versions recently – some of which have been submitted for this album – where people attempt to sing his songs and get nowhere near, which makes you realise what a great singer he is. I also watched the Live In Montreaux show they did in the 80s on Sky Arts recently, and he didn't drop a note the whole show: he was spot on, so as a singer – and it's just one small aspect of Talk Talk – he's really got something different. And then there's songs, the production, the dangerous approach they took by veering more and more away from being commercial and writing catchy pop tunes into something way, way different to that. When Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock happened, I think everyone said 'What are you doing'? And now everyone says 'They're my favourite albums'.

However, the revelation that followed - 'Spirit of Eden' - was still totally unexpected. This has to be one of my all-time favourite albums. Mind-blowingly brilliant in its diversity, minimalism, atmospherics, musicianship and topped off with the voice which found it's true position floating painfully over the top (in the best possible way). Whenever I'm stumped for something to listen to, I reach for this album to restore my faith in all that is good about modern music. It encompasses so many of the things I enjoy about sound, postmodernity, sophisticated arrangements, eclectic and unusual songs. Frankly, I'm jealous that I have never been able to make a record which has the confidence to be so exposed.

In 1998, Mark Hollis released one more solo album and then promptly retired from the music industry, never to be seen again. To this day I have no idea what happened to him. I do wish he'd return.