Release Date: Apr 28, 2015
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
The best bits on Depeche Mode's 2013 album Delta Machine were the intros. Once the songs got underway, the band mostly just went through the motions, dutifully recreating the same arena-ready hooks and overblown saints-and-sinners metaphors they've been dealing in for decades. But for a few sweet seconds before the bombast began, there was just the zap and gurgle of Martin Gore's synthesizers.
Martin Gore is at the point in his career where he can release a solo instrumental album just because it’s something he has never done before and, hey, why not? Having penned some of the most indelible modern-rock tunes of the last 25 years as chief songwriter for one of the world’s most influential and successful bands has certainly earned him that right. Entitlement doesn’t ensure quality, however, so the question is: does MG hold up as more than an excuse for diehard Depeche Mode fans to thicken their record collections? It does, and for reasons that go beyond the music itself. With the caveat of ultra-clear mixing from Timothy “Überzone” Wiles, the 16 tracks that make up the hour-long MG represent the first original material Gore has released under his own name.
Martin Gore, the creative engine-room of Depeche Mode, has been writing instrumentals for the band for the last 35 years. Perhaps because of this commitment it is relatively rare for him to strike out in a solo capacity, with previous outings restricted to the 2003 covers album Counterfeit². He did however impress in 2012 with VCMG, his instrumental and surprisingly powerful electro collaboration with sometime bandmate and Erasure founder Vince Clarke.
Depeche Mode co-founder Martin Gore has had a history of shifting away from his main band in order to explore different sounds and concepts through side projects. He released two collections of covers under his own name in 1989 and 2003, and reunited with former bandmate Vince Clarke in 2011, forming techno side project VCMG, their first collaboration in 30 years. Continuing to work solo as MG, this eponymous album finds Gore further exploring instrumental electronic music, but instead of the straightforward techno of VCMG, it comes closer to early-'90s Artificial Intelligence-era IDM, with only a few excursions into buzzing industrial techno.
As Depeche Mode's chief songwriter — and the man behind the lyric "words are very unnecessary" — Martin Gore has been peppering the synth-pop torchbearers' records with icy instrumental stopgaps since their 1981 debut. Now he's assembled MG, an album of nothing but wordless electro experiments, a collection of 16 short, swooping meditations on pensive moods. Casual Depeche Mode fans won't like MG's buzzing, whirring, fluttering soundscapes, which resemble impressionistic entries from Eighties sci-fi and horror soundtracks, but still there's something enchanting about the way the songs work together and build suspense.
As the primary songwriter for Depeche Mode, Martin Gore has little left to prove, which may be why he's lent his voice to so few exterior projects. With only a single covers album to his name, 2003's Counterfeit², Gore has put his focus on instrumental work as of late, releasing a collaborative album with former bandmate Vince Clarke in 2012 under the name VCMG. On MG, his first solo album of original material, Gore further explores vocal-less electronics, providing the listener with 16 digestible and enjoyable tracks.
Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore endearingly summed up his chosen obsession by reporting that he’s told friends, “If I ever start collecting anything that’s not to do with music, just shoot me!” This passion is clear on his latest in a sporadic series of solo releases, with Gore this time limiting himself to instrumentals. They fittingly complement his better known output; Gore’s musical history is written all over an album that essentially works as an examination of Depeche Mode’s skeletal framework. Parts will clearly appeal to darker dancefloors or the sofas of chill-outs, skin crawling to martial drum beats on some tracks, electronic flashes seeking out the far corners of the room on others.
An appreciation for Martin Gore’s album of 16 claustrophobic, electronic, instrumental tracks will, it goes without saying, depend largely on how tolerant you are of claustrophobic, electronic, instrumental tracks. Provided you are, there’s much to immerse yourself in – from the foreboding, metallic chimes of Swanning to the fizzing synth meltdowns of Islet. They all have a filmic quality – reminiscent of composers such as Clint Mansell, Vangelis and beyond – and yet no films with which to anchor them.
Martin Gore, as I indicated in the introduction to my recent interview on tQ with him, really has nothing to prove with his first all-original solo album. He's not some striving figure looking to stand out in a crowded landscape, not with thirty five years of recording, performing and touring under his belt. Theoretically MG is just an indulgence, engaged in its own aesthetic universe much in the same way that Depeche Mode has, throughout the years, engaged in a personal reduction of anything and everything to the person, an 'I', a 'you', a moment or a lifetime.