MG is actually Martin Gore. Martin Gore is actually that guy that pretty much makes Depeche Mode Depeche Mode. Songwriter, guitarist, keys, angelic backing vocals…that’s Martin Gore. MG is what he’s going by this time around on a new solo LP. This solo LP is all instrumental and filled with analog synth buzzes and whizzes. There’s some beats here and there, but mostly it’s some seriously heavy synth stuff. If you’re sniffing around this one looking for some classic Depeche Mode sound, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you like instrumental electronic music in the vein of Tangerine Dream, Cluster, and the Reznor/Ross film score noise, then you might have found that brisk fall record you didn’t know you were looking for.
So right off the bat, I was never much of a fan of Depeche Mode. I was still playing with Star Wars toys when they appeared in the early 80s. In 1990 when Violator was unleashed on unsuspecting, sexually frustrated sadsacks, I was beginning a love affair with Seattle, Rush, and Queen. My loyalties didn’t lie with personal Jesus’ and enjoying silences. As the years rolled on I grew a fondness for DM, and in particular Martin Gore and his contribution to what became the DM sound. In 2009 the band released Sounds of the Universe, an album that relied heavily on analog synths and 808 beats. It was a throwback to their beginnings as an new wave/goth/electronic band. I really dug it. Fast forward to me falling heavy for bands like Tangerine Dream, Cluster, and modern guys like Jakob Skott and Jonas Munk. The analog synth became this tool for time travel. Childhood noises and wisps of yesterday emanated from these circuit-driven machines. Thanks to Boards of Canada’s mix of nostalgia, eeriness, subtle breakbeats, and synth layers my affinity for the analog synthesizer was cemented firmly. So when I came across this MG record I was quite taken aback. Not that I didn’t think Martin Gore was capable of creating such a subtle and sublime collection of songs. I just couldn’t imagine he’d have any interest in such a project.
The songs on this double LP are short snippets. There’s a few that hit above the four minute mark, but most are two to three minutes in length. They linger long enough that once they end you wish they were a bit longer. It feels like a score to some dystopian sci fi film, and each song is scoring some colorfully shot scene of orange and purple horizons, vast space, and crumbling humanity. You know, the fun stuff. “Pinking” is bright and prickly, while “Swanning” sounds like a slowed down version of Wire’s “I Am The Fly”. “Exalt” is swaths of synth light. It’s the moment the ship takes flight and breaks through the atmosphere. “Elk” is one of the shortest pieces here and one of the most sublime. Imagine the Beatles’ “Sun King” played entirely on a Clavinet and moog. It’s spacious and illuminating in just over two minutes. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well Martin Gore takes us through light years in just over two minutes. “Europa Hymn” feels and sounds like some lost Boards of Canada tune. Maybe something left off Music Has The Right To Children. Again, this feels very familiar yet alien at the same time.
Elsewhere, “Creeper” has the menace of a John Carpenter piece and “Stealth” feels like something from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ The Social Network S/T. “Islet” sounds like cascading digital water. It’s sparse and moody, while “Trysting” sounds like the audio innards of some late 80s video game. “Blade” seems like a proper finish to this record, feeling all melancholy and dour.
I’m not sure I’d ever jump head first into another Martin Gore record like I did with this one. I don’t think anything could ever hold up to my cantankerous scrutinizing. Not that I’m saying he doesn’t have another quirky little album like this in him, I’m just saying I highly doubt it. Besides, I’m not sure in my strange, little interior world he could write a better imagined soundtrack. MG is dark, subtle, melancholy, moody, and quite wonderful. It’s an anomaly, really. I hold anomalies quite close to the chest.