Sunday, 12 April 2015

Martin Gore - MG - Album Review [12th April 2015]

[2015.04.12] Tom Hollingworth, for NE:MM Magazine.

MG is an assertive set of sixteen short instrumentals from Depeche Mode's Martin Gore; a follow-up record to the techno-inspired album Ssss, which he made with fellow Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke. Here, Gore takes full control and produces a setlist just short of an hour, portraying many unique spirits and painting lots of contrasting moods. You will be exhausted by the end, but in the best possible way; like when the house-lights come up after a wild, late-night thriller. 

This electronic odyssey pings into action with the plinky syncopated broken-chords of Pinking. Around the clockwork progression rough scrapes build and intensify. As quickly as this sense of urgency has blossomed, Swanning follows, like a darkness below the drains, a beast lurking in the sewer. Gore has created an album of moments, often just two-to-three minutes in length, with a rounded central character, each memorable and intense. I could elaborate on all of them, but that would take away the fun for the first-time listener.

A few distinguished mentions: The swaggering limbs of Stealth, with its EQ constantly stretching in the unrest, Europa Hymn, using pulled pitching to bend sorrowful melodies, and the confident Crowly, bold and shining with various colours as its croaking pulse ceases to relent. 

Though there is nothing in the labelling of the tracks or artwork to indicate a narrative or concept to the record, the mind cannot help but recall or invent images to marry with what the ears are hearing. It would be a mixed blessing to have to create a video with this music; a luxury because these sounds would amplify a scene, being so vivid and exciting, but also a curse, for it would be a huge responsibility to compliment these tracks with images that further expand their already multidimensional world. 

By titling this record with his initials, this experienced musician outlays a considered confidence by presenting this new phase of musical direction, for all intents and purposes, in his name - as he did, compounding it with his collaborator’s for the previous outing - VGMG. This confidence is demonstrated in the material, which balances continual enthusiasm with tasteful clarity. The album cover image of a hand-drawn potentiometer gives a hugely understated hint of the apparatus that will be supplying the sounds manipulated within, however, it also fairly communicates the focus and love that Gore has for these electronic instruments.

What makes the tracks on MG so striking is the efficiency of their design; each is orchestrated with only the necessary timbres. Often snippets of melodies and motifs highlight negative space in the linear parts. This kind of melodic construction invites your mind to imagine motion beyond what is being told to your ear, in the same way an author might offer clues to a characters path, leaving you to imagine what might have happened. This unpatronising style of composition welcomes the listener inside, creating the opportunity for a much stronger emotional connection and investment. It is clear from this cornucopia that Gore’s goat’s horn is far from drought, and I, for one, would relish in a further instalment from this sonic-cinematic direction.

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