Recoil: A Strange Hour in Budapest

Synopsis: ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ offers a captivating and exhilarating document of ‘A Strange Hour’ which was presented during 2010 & 2011 in 52 cities across the world as part of the ‘Selected Events’ tour to celebrate 25 years of the Recoil project.

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Recoil: A Strange Hour in Budapest 8.0

When I found out that Alan Wilder was releasing a video document of the final show in his 52-date promotional tour in support of Recoil’s ‘Selected‘ set, I was in heaven. There had been a dearth of Recoil releases for far too long but, in the last couple of years, he’d finally ramped it up.

When I found out that it was only being released on Blu-ray, I was ecstatic. Not because I hate DVD, but because I knew that the audio mix would be especially gratifying (he’s an audio wiz, you see – for years he was the genius behind Depeche Mode’s multi-layered sound).

When I found out that there was an exclusive, limited edition set of 1000 being released, I just had to get my hands on it. Along with the special packaging, the limited edition BD has a few bonus features on the menu, including three music videos and three of the projections used during the show.

So get it I did.

It took months for me to finally watch the disc but, despite some reservations, it was worth the wait: from the first shots I was amazed by the picture detail and the clarity and depth of the audio track. CD is truly no match for the high-resolution audio of Blu-ray: these soundscapes were glorious ear candy.

Unfortunately, a little into the show, ‘A Strange Hour’, the music being played started to sound less and less recognizable to me. Sure, the mix was rooted in Recoil’s discography, but Alan Wilder (and live cohort Paul Kendall), suddenly turned to more traditional club sounds to fill the space.

Was the intention to get people in the club moving – something Recoil aren’t naturally inclined to do? Is it simply that Wilder’s style has morphed over the years (he certainly took us by surprise with the bluesy orientation on the last album)? Either way, it didn’t sound like Recoil as I know and worship it. It was enjoyable, but shades of Recoil only popped up from time to time.

I must say that it was tons of fun to hear snippets, interpolations, of Depeche Mode tracks “In Your Room”, “Never Let Me Down”, “Personal Jesus” and “Walking in my Shoes” creep in from time to time, though. They were usually just a bass line or something esoteric like that, and sometimes from an established remix, but it served up slightly more familiarity in an otherwise unexpected set.

I don’t know if it was intentional, or if Wilder simply appreciates music differently than I do, but I found that their set had an erratic flow. Whereas it started slowly, it didn’t seem to build in a clear direction: suddenly pouncing, then stopping, then pounding, then easing back. For me, this wasn’t a gratifying direction at all. It was unusual, because I know that he usually knows how to create a mix – as evidence by the superb retrospective mix on ‘Selected’.

The videos that played as a backdrop were often quite intriguing, if not downright appealing. They ranged from sexy to gritty to pretty to technical. I’d be curious to know exactly how they were chosen and why. On this programme, they were often presented in lieu of the show; the film alternated between the live set, the video montage and some exceptional time-lapse photography taken (presumably) in Budapest. Time-lapse is clichéd, I know, but the shots here were absolutely gorgeous.

Now, I’m not sure if this will be enough to move me to spin this disc many more times, but I am convinced that I will use it as ambiance or background music when I have people over. I highly doubt that I will view the full show anytime soon, though. It’s not that I disliked it. I’m still a HUGE fan of Recoil and, as my rating indicates, I consider this a high-quality product.

But I can’t help feeling some degree of disappointment in the direction that it took. It wasn’t anything quite like I’d expected. It wasn’t as starkly dark, for one (my prime motivation for watching it during the Hallowe’en season, obviously). I had also been expecting Recoil’s electro-industrial atmospheres to fill the room and keep me grooving slowly throughout – but the aural experience was more jagged than anticipated.

For me, it was a strange hour indeed.

Date of viewing: October 18, 2012

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One response to “Recoil: A Strange Hour in Budapest

  1. Addendum: I finally watched the bonus features, and they are the best thing about this blu-ray. I hate to rub it in for those who only have access to the regular edition, which does not have these features, but it was phenomenal.

    The videos were quite excellent, although the versions of the songs were different from the originals. Very good, if different.

    The most amazing part was the screen projections! Whoever mashed up the tunes did a brilliant job of it. They all had familiar Depeche Mode tracks in them: the first had bits of ‘In My Room’, the second ‘Walking in my Shoes’, the last one ‘Personal Jesus’ (they used bit parts from the original tracks as well remixes). It was booty shaking heaven. And the projections were perfectly-suited to them.

    Get your hands on them if you can.

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