Depeche Mode

Ultra: The 12" Singles

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Ultra: The 12" Singles Review

by Neil Z. Yeung

Depeche Mode's 12" singles march continues with the deluxe treatment for their ninth album, 1997's Ultra. As with previous collector's editions, this eight-vinyl box set compiles the original LP's official singles -- "Barrel of a Gun," "It's No Good," "Home," and "Useless" -- and all the era B-sides ("Painkiller" and "Slowblow") and remixes in one convenient package, serving two 12" records for each of the album's official singles, mastered from the original tapes, with vinyl sleeves featuring the original CD single artwork. Understandably, this effort is mainly for the die-hard completionists, so to that end, it's a fine collection of everything from this haunted era in the band's history. It also serves as a sonic snapshot of what was in vogue at the time in the late-'90s alternative and electronic worlds, especially with the drum'n'bass and jungle remixes. Fans of Depeche Mode's deep remix catalog will have much to dig through, whether it's straightforward interpretations that don't veer too far off course -- "It's No Good" Hardfloor Mix, Darren Price's "Slowblow," LFO's "Home," and "Useless" (Escape from Wherever: Parts 1 & 2!) are standouts -- or more exciting takes that strip the originals to the bone or pump them up to frenzied levels. Of the more atmospheric remixes, Underworld's "soft" mix of "Barrel of a Gun"; the One Inch Punch mix of "Barrel of a Gun"; Air's gorgeous "Around the Golf" mix of "Home"; and the Plastikman mix of "Painkiller" are blissed-out forays into the cosmos. On the energetic side, Underworld's "hard" mix of "Barrel of a Gun" and CJ Bolland's Funky Sub Mix of "Useless" are nostalgic pleasures complete with crazy breakbeats and techno-trance flair. While previous singles sets yielded more unique B-sides and a wider array of songs, the Ultra 12" Singles collection is a wealth of deep cuts for the cross-section of fans who are well-versed in '90s electronic music.

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