DE/VISION’s new ’13’ may be their best album – ever!

DE/VISION 13

At the end of May, DE/VISION will release its 13th album in 28 years, aptly named, 13. Steffen Keth and Thomas Adam continue to challenge themselves, setting a very high bar for their latest outing. 13 is a stellar album, quite possibly one of the best DE/VISION has ever produced.

What’s new? Deeper song lyrics that tell stories about the human condition. Guitar riffs in a number of songs. Even more lush arrangements, with an above average number of neat sound effects, blips and noises. Yet nothing seems forced. It all blends together in perfect arrangements, a tribute to Steffen’s skills at constructing and producing intriguing and entertaining soundscapes.

The sounds of 13 are polished yet quirky, and are an absolute joy to listen to.

The typical DE/VISION album is usually a mixed bag for me: About half of the songs connect with me really strongly and become part of my regular playlist, while about half I can’t get into for some reason. For example, Popgefahr had a larger proportion of “love it” tunes, Rockets and Swords and Noob, less so. But 13 is a different animal. Every song is universally excellent, in my opinion.

Highlights of 13 by DE/VISION

Here are notes on some of the stand-out tracks on DE/VISION’s excellent 13:

Who Am I: This up-tempo tune gets the album off to a rollicking start with its subtle, arpeggiated backbeat, scintillating synths and Steffen’s driving vocals. You’ll immediately start bopping your head to this infectious tune, as I did. I love the pulsating, playful synth effects during the last minute of the song. Fantastic!

DE/VISION 13Essence: Opens with big, dirty, buzzy synth line that echoes delightfully in my headphones. The melody quickly builds around it, followed by Steffen’s distinctive vocals. The gorgeous mid-tempo arrangement features a cool point-counterpoint between the lead and bass synths – nice! The lyrics talks about getting in touch with “the essence of your soul,” despite our dreary day-to-day surroundings. “As you step into the light/It burns, the light/It blinds the eyes/Releasing your control/It’s promising, bewildering/And swallowing you whole.”

Starchild: This ballad opens with a guitar (!) and some cool, delicate synth layers – beautiful. The mystical, evocative lyrics speak of a safe haven under an ancient tree. Steffen’s vocals are perfectly paired with gorgeous, subtle synth lines. Shimmering synths and electric piano riffs fill the interludes between the vocals. As this song unfolds, you can almost picture a grizzled old tree, lit by the light of the moon, as the waves of the sea lap up on the nearby shore. This is a gorgeous track!

Where is the Light: This unique mid-tempo track opens with a synthesized voice providing the melody. Then it makes an abrupt left turn to a pounding, foreboding bass synth line. The lyrics speak of us being indoctrinated into a certain way of thinking that doesn’t necessarily reflect the real world: “Do you still remember/When we were wise/We were blank sheets of paper/Yet filled with ugly lies.” Yet it holds out for a ray of hope: “Where’s the light that once shone in our hearts?/Where did it go?/If there’s a glimmer somewhere in the dark/Let it show” … “Our noble visions/Where have they gone?/Some say we didn’t have a choice/We did, but we chose wrong.” It laments the darkness, yet hopes for the light. Another lovely track.

Synchronize: The propulsive opening beat of this song quickly fades to a nice mid-tempo groove as Steffen begins to tell the story of a world gone mad. It’s as if he’s trying to fit in with a world that no longer make sense, yet he’s standing outside of it and commenting on the state of affairs: “There’s no right or wrong/In this world, you’re on your own/You will always be alone/If you want to stay alive, in this war you’ve gotta fight/From your birth until the day you die.” This excellent song features a subtle beat, paired with delicious synth riffs and Steffen’s syncopated vocals. A single guitar riff abruptly closes this well-composed song. Ultimately, it seems, the best chance for survival is not to be a rebel, but to fit in, at least outwardly: “I close my eyes and synchronize/With a mindless world outside/Always on alert/Weighing my every word.”

DE/VISION 13Prisoner: This is a sparse ballad that is much more in the traditional DE/VISION mode, similar to some of the tracks on Noob. It blends a lovely drum beat with scratchy sound effects and minimal synths. The lyrics talk about the unavoidable forces of love in our lives. It’s hard sometimes to be in love, yet just as hard to “break these chains” of love: “Fed up/Yet I’d do it all again/After all, I’m a prisoner of love.” A beautiful track with a lovely, languid rhythm.

Read Your Mind: This impressive ballad opens with a percussive, fuzzy beat, overlaid with piano and electric piano riffs, with almost a military cadence. Strings and subtle, echoing synth riffs add to the beauty of this lush track. Steffen’s vocals speak of trying to read the mind of his significant other whose love-light has gone completely out. He’s trying to resurrect their love, but the outcome is uncertain. “If only I could turn back time/Bring to life what’s dead inside.” This track is another favorite of mine – beautifully and artfully constructed. Layered, but yet with flawless production that conveys the feeling of the lyrics flawlessly.

Gasoline: This foreboding mid-tempo song has a very percussive, fuzzy backbone to it, accented by minimal synths. The theme of it is vengeance: “You’re going to burn in hell/Dipped in gasoline/Not one shall be spared/You’ll gonna get what you deserve.” Despite its angry tone, there is still an opportunity for repentance, however small: “Cleanse your soul/renounce the false god you admire.” This is a very different track, but it has really grown on me.

Conclusion

Bravo to DE/VISION for producing what is quite possibly one of the best albums of their long and storied career. The songs of 13 are worthy additions to the duo’s incredible body of work.

4 comments

  1. chrisb - May 12, 2016 10:46 pm

    Interesting review. The album teaser didn’t do much for me (and I was very underwhelmed by Rockets & Swords) so I wasn’t sure I was going to buy this one. But I might have to give it a full listen. Their best album is a lofty statement!

  2. dave - May 24, 2016 6:47 pm

    I’ve gotta say, I agree with you! Possibly their best album yet. Considering that the latest Camouflage album is maybe the best they have done, it’s been a good couple of years for synthpop. I hope Depeche learns a lesson from both bands!!

  3. Kirsten - June 14, 2016 1:35 am

    I do believe this is their best album as well. I thoroughly enjoyed Noob and Rockets & Swords as well, but those albums each had a couple of songs I couldn’t get into. However, 13 I have to say I like every single song on the album. Every song is definitely an ear-worm and the lyrics are great.

  4. Jason - June 21, 2016 12:48 am

    I’ve listened to this album all the way through at least 3 to 4 times… And I’m going to admit that I haven’t listened to their full body of work (I have the album before, that features Rage, and Until the End of Time… Both excellent songs) but this album is absolutely fantastic! In a day and age where you’re lucky if an album has two to three good songs, I found at least six of them to be of the best quality. I know that they hate being compared to Depeche Mode, and Erasure, but I can say without hesitation that neither of those groups have produced anything of this quality in decades… Depeche Mode in particular, produces a new album every couple years, and it has at least one to two really excellent songs on them, but the entire album isn’t anywhere near as good as 13. So, don’t hesitate, and buy this you won’t regret it. If you want just a taste, you can start with “Starchild”.

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