Category: Electronic / Ambient
Blurb: Finally writing and producing his own compositions for his third solo effort, Martin Gore tests his capabilities with a series of atmospheric experiments outside of the constraints of his usual songwriting style.
Having established himself over the last 35 years as the principal composer for Depeche Mode, earning several awards along the way, Martin Gore’s penchant for darkly romantic lyricism and melodic songwriting is not in question. With his two pervious Counterfeit solo outings, Gore presented audiences with his interpretations of classic blues and rock songs that informed much of his own work. Now with the appropriately titled MG, Gore strikes out with a true solo effort in which he explores his musical range outside the confines of the traditional pop/rock format; focusing on tonal mood and ambience, the 16 instrumentals that comprise this album showcase that aspect of Gore’s compositional and production abilities often overshadowed by the strength of his lyrics and melodies.
Produced on primarily analog and modular synthesizers and drum machines, the songs on MG possess a classic electronic vibe that evokes the experimental releases of ‘70s synth innovators like Wendy Carlos, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream at their most atmospheric. As is perhaps unavoidable, elements of Depeche Mode can perhaps be detected in such moments as the rhythmic arpeggios of “Elk,” the resonant and sweeping melodies of “Europa Hymn,” the harmonic titters and squelching bass lines of “Spiral,” or in the hypnotic swells of “Trysting.” As well, a track like “Brink” is rather energetic in its shuffling beat and warbling bass line, throngs of percussion and distorted noise giving the impression of a factory-like environment, but with a beat that could easily play well to any hard-hitting pop/rock track. However, Gore does well to refrain from assigning traditional song structures of verses and choruses to even these tracks, allowing each synthesized layer to progress as it will; “Southerly,” for instance, begins serenely with a moderately paced bass swell and light beat, a sweet arpeggio and ascending pads entering to gradually transition the song into a celestial expanse that brings to mind the likes of Vangelis. Similarly, “Creeper” does just as its title suggests, building upon itself from a sparse and quiet introduction of John Carpenter-esque pulses that give rise to atonal harmonics and subliminal pads, creating a tense and suspenseful mood. Further comparisons to cinematic composers and musical modes can be heard in tracks like “Stealth” with its almost whimsical sequence giving the impression of sneaking one’s way into a well guarded complex, or the recurring arpeggio patterns of “Islet” evoking a sense of being stranded in solitude, staying true to Gore’s assertion that the album is filmic in its intent.
Where MG may fall short is in the brevity of some of the tracks, with many of them relying more on repetition and austerity; so rarely do any of the looped patterns transform beyond the original sequence, evolving by way of modulation and volume, and while this does not hinder MG’s cinematic ambience, it can be construed as a limitation on Gore’s part, as if unsure where to take a melodic passage without the usual songwriting constraints. On the other hand, the tracks average in length between two to four minutes, preventing the listener from falling into boredom with any one track and allowing them to function as soundtracks to their own little vignettes. All in all, for Gore’s third solo effort, it is a breath of fresh air to finally hear him branching out and experimenting with his own musical capabilities, and to have successfully done so with an album that is on the whole quite enjoyable.