May 19, 2015 Martin L Gore – MG (Album Review)
Martin L Gore, the primary songwriter of the pioneering and enduring New Wave/Synthpop band Depeche Mode, released his new solo album on April 24, 2015—twelve years after his first full-length solo effort. Those who are expecting that this follow-up bears the same sonic style as its predecessors—1989’s Counterfeit EP and the aforementioned 2003 album Counterfeit²—will most likely be disappointed. Whereas the two Counterfeits consisted of proper songs, albeit covers of some of Gore’s early influences that shaped his songwriting style with Depeche Mode, the new album, entitled MG, is purely instrumental. All sixteen tracks of MG may be described more properly as Gore’s excursion to ambient synthesizer-oriented instrumental music. After all, this exploration is not new for Gore. Have in mind that Gore has recently collaborated with former bandmate Vince Clarke and, in 2012, the duo, under the moniker VCMG, released Ssss, a one-off full-length album of Electronic Dance instrumentals. Thus, to regard MG as Gore’s extension of his project with Clarke should be unsurprising.
Nevertheless, MG has its own merits. For one, it allowed Gore virtually single-handedly to paint his mental landscape using only his mastery of the synthesizers and his well-refined production brushes without the need, this time, for his equally sensual voice. Second, it will surely engage enthusiasts of film scores and ambient music akin to the minimalist works of composers like Hans Zimmer and Philip Glass. Fans of Industrial music may even hear traces of early Kraftwerk, Skinny Puppy, and Throbbing Gristle in some of the tracks.
MG opens with “Pinking,” whose use of the left-to-right-speaker panning effect in the intro harks to one of the trademarks of early Depeche Mode songs, most observable especially on “Everything Counts.” This album opener can even induce the initiated listener into singing “The handshake seals a contract…” on top of its introductory interlude. The sinister mood of “Exalt” makes it sound like it came from Skinny Puppy’s second album, 1986’s Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. On the other hand, to describe “Elk” and “Europa Hymn” as the album’s most melancholic “synthrumental” ballads is befitting. Closing the eyes, one can almost see Gore’s tear-adorned cherubic face and hear his pained, trembling voice. Both “Elk” and “Europa Hymn” could have actually been proper songs in the same vein as “Somebody” and “It Doesn’t Matter.” True to its title, “Creeper” could be a fitting background to a jump-scare scene in a Psycho-Thriller film. “Stealth” and “Southerly” are like homages to Depeche Mode’s 1986 release, Black Celebration. They seem like backing tracks to “Fly on the Windscreen” and “A Question of Lust,” respectively.
Moving on, “Crowley” is certainly MG’s highlight—with its catchy and uplifting melody that has faint echoes of the bombastic “Santorini” by the Greek-American composer/keyboardist Yanni; just use the keys to your imagination. “Trysting” has the power to conjure a scene from a Sci-Fi action movie. “Featherlight” is like a slowed music-box version of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence;” such a blissful connection! Finally, “Blade” closes MG in a consummate onomatopoeia and allusion not only to the music of Depeche Mode but also to Gore’s apparent sadomasochistic indulgences in the past—sharply slashing, subtly arcing, slowly building up, hypnotic, gradually thinning out…end, repeat.
Overall, MG is a fantastic listen for fifty plus minutes. The tracks mix perfectly together and, as a cohesive piece, make for a soundscape that is stunning and captivating. Now, who will dare say that Martin L Gore’s latest solo endeavor is uninteresting and unattributable? CrypticRock gives MG 4 out of 5 stars.