The Independent - March 10th 2000 by Andy Gill

A few years ago, Alan Wilder was driving in Scotland when an RAF Tornado fighter suddenly plummeted into a nearby hillside, killing its occupants. Not surprisingly, such a close brush with death had quite an effect on the former Depeche Mode man, but instead of seeking counselling, he used the experience as a creative spur, devising the project that became 'Liquid'.

Short segments of 'Black Box' (a description of the crash site, narrated over looming ambient noise) bookend the album, suspending the listener in the crash's immediate aftermath. Taking this as the moment in which the pilot's life flashes before him, the rest of the album is conceived as a series of recollections, the most intense scenes from that life. Such, at least, is the rationale, though it's probably best not to take it too literally, as the vocal contributions by avant-garde diva Diamanda Galás, gospel stars The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (sampled for the Moby-style techno-gospel of 'Jezebel') and poetesses Nicole Blackman and Samantha Coerbell, pull the narrative into unexpected areas far removed from Scottish hillsides. Coerbell, an allumnus of the same New York hip-hop poetry scene that spawned Dana Bryant and Fini Dolo's Sonya Sohn, offers accounts of drink-fuelled eroticism and harsh life in the housing projects, demonstrating a sharp, unblinking eye for mordent realism in 'Supreme', the ironically titled tale of a worthless youth ruining the life of his teenage girlfriend even when he's sent to jail. "Fatherhood is real cool," Supreme tells his loser chums, "and the kid looks like me so she better not let nothing happen to him or I'ma kill the bitch."

Nicole Blackman's narratives are more in keeping with the album's theme, being mostly concerned with the extremities of desire and dangerous obsession. 'Breath Control' treads the fine line between erotic asphyxiation and fatal strangulation, and sex and death are further entwined in the transgressive love of 'Want', where she admits, "I want to keep you alive so there is always the possibility of murder later". The furtive, hunted nature of the backing testifies to Wilder's gift for matching music to mood - most dramatically so on 'Vertigen', where the imposing soundscape of orchestrated synths and Diamanda Galás' wailing vocals builds to a pitch of acrophobic intensity before suddenly pausing on the brink of a yawning canyon (a device used several times to denote the weightless lacunae of memory). It may ultimately have only the most tenuous of conceptual threads holding it together, but taken simply as a series of poetic vignettes brought to vivid life through ambitiously expressionist musical settings, 'Liquid' offers a wealth of dark and disturbing pleasures. Uneasy listening for uneasy souls.

Review of the week

5 out of 5

Uncut - March 2000 - by David Stubbs

Depeche Moder's ever-mutating project

'Liquid' was initially inspired by a near-fatal plane crash to which Recoil's Alan Wilder was witness, as recalled on 'Black Box (Parts 1&2)'. The subsequent tracks comprise moments of great intensity, recalled with urgent, exaggerated cinematic vividity.

Over an insidious, shifting, reprocessed mosaic of ambient-rock and electronica, Samantha Coerbell, Diamanda Galás and Nicole Blackman offer dramatic, often spoken-word narratives, stalking perverse themes of sex, death, alcohol and religion. Galás is again effective in her role as avant-goth brimstone hollerer on 'Strange Hours', while Blackman's 'Breath Control', a disquieting tale of S&M, is exquisitely painful listening. Strong stuff but perhaps too open-ended to be truly gripping.

3 out of 5

'Q' Magazine - March 2000 - by Martin Aston.

Third album of trip-hop drama from former Depeche Mode keyboard player Alan Wilder.

On his third outing as Recoil, Alan Wilder follows up 97's 'Unsound Methods' by striving for the middle ground between dark trip-hop and film soundtrack suspense with various female collaborators on board to up the ante. Of these, New Yorker Nicole Blackman is the most scarily entertaining (on 'Want': "I want to keep you alive so there is always the possibility of murder later"), while high priestess of scream Diamanda Galás offers wicked-stepmother rasps on 'Strange Hours'. 'Liquid' is an entertainingly varied affair: 'Vertigen' is all tribal voodoo, and while 'Jezebel's blues gospel sample sounds as if it's been cribbed from labelmate Moby, it's still inspired. Overall, a good deal more fascinating than anything Depeche Mode have managed in recent years.

3 out of 5

Virgin.net - March 2000 - by Esther Sadler

Recoil is one time Depeche Mode keyboardist Alan Wilder and a whole bank of scary noises and voices that his previous employers presumably told him to keep to himself for fear of scaring off the pop kids who were buying their crazy synth-pop singles in the Eighties and early Nineties. 'Liquid' opens with some barking mad and doom-laden narration about a plane crash ('Black Box'), before we get 'Want' which is just like Madonna's 'Justify My Love', except psychotic. Then there's 'Jezebel', which is brilliant, on which The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet battle it out with Diamanda Galás on a cinematic yet subterranean sounding story of the legendary temptress. Musically, this is still electro-pop, but it's dark and mad and full of stories about horrible, scary or dead people. Some rumbling Massive Attack style beats underscore these (un)soundtracks and some spare beats give it all some structure, while the odd bleeps and bloops come along now and again. It's actually really, really good stuff once you get into it. But the danger is, of course, that you might never get out of it again.