11 November 2015
Martin Gore - MG
Martin Gore - founding member and principal write in Depeche Mode, sometimes singer, collaborator with ex-Depeche Mode member and Erasure kingpin Vince Clark on the interesting 'SSSS' (our review cleverly linked here) and all round good egg. He is one of those artists which influenced me through my youth and one of two members of Depeche Mode (with Dave Gahan) who have released solo albums this year and this is his second solo release after 'Counterfeit' in 2003. Stepping out of your most famous project can either be liberating or daunting, depending on the person and the group - but it is always interesting to see what people what to create outside of their known musical endeavours. I do not think it would surprise anyone to find out this is an electronic based album, but it is one with sixteen tracks on it; so we are in for a length look at 'MG'.
"Pinking" starts off with various electronic sounds drifting around the listener, swirling in an apparent aimless way as they different around & about; but then a progressive pattern starts to form and the bassline takes hold as the song actually begins to form. With no drum beat in the song, the first listen is spent wondering when it is going to come it; but this dissipates once you realise that the noises are the beats in themselves and it is floats around you to its own rhythm. "Swanning" has industrial overtones to its sound with dark, rumbling, electronic sub-bass sounds going through the audience to made things tremble. It has a slower progression that "Pinking" and a darker soul for the listener to be absorbed into, once again the noises themselves are the rhythm as there is no obvious drum sounds. It sounds like it should he played in a dark club as people are entering for a night of industrial music or a performance by Throbbing Gristle - I like it, it is moody and strange with enough to keep you interested. "Exalt" has a swirl which seems to contain all the drum beats from the first two song, then it unleashes some of its own as it feels like a spiky attack track that is aiming for discomfort and pain to be its main allies. But it also has some beautiful noises happening around as the aggressive noises are punching their way through your speakers, as if angels are talking to demons and the discussion is not going straight to hell. This is the sort of music I wanted to create as a kid (but I have the musical ability of a dead trout) and it is a joy to hear someone making something that sounds like dreams I had, it is a joy to this heart that this track with all of its aggression and light is in the world. Afterwards we are treated to "Elk" which is a gentler soul, with a slow paced pattern at its heart that is sometimes surrounded by noise and contrasting tones, but it is joined by another pattern that rises above the other sounds to give this a feeling of joy. The only problem with it is that it ends too suddenly for my tastes, but otherwise it is another good song.
"Brink" is an industrial standard that in the making, it builds up around some simple bass noises and the machinery is added on top in many layers and all the while the pace of the song is picking up so that everything hits that moment where sounds collide at a beautiful moment. It is one of the strongest tracks on the album, it is a tip of the hat to influences of the past, a nod to some modern contemporaries and also it shows all of them and everyone else how it can be done. It could have gone on much longer, but again this is just personal taste and takes nothing away from the song itself. The sixth track is called "Europa Hymn" keeps the mood nice and low with its minimalist appearance and style, but there is hope in the mix as well. It is all ambient and fluid with this number, nothing is really solid about it as it drifts around the listener. You can imagine a video of city skylines at night, rolling hills in a storm and coast lines in the sun around Europe when listening to it, when a piece of music can give you visions then it is already a powerful song. "Creeper" is (by definition of the title) creepy in nature, sound and deed as we once more delve into the dark recesses of the electronic soundscape. Another slice of sinister, minimalist dark wave electronic it is very sparse in places and when a sound it made it is designed to give you discomfort. It takes a few listens to sink in if I am honest, but it is still another great piece on this album. The halfway point of this album is marked with "Spiral" and this has an awful lot going on, compared to other tracks on the record. It is a beast of a number, with its build up to a Kraftwerk centre and a sequence that sounds like a butterfly in flight as it is trying to escape from a closing tunnel. I really like this number, it has some many things happening that to list them all would make me sound like Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes with a certain degree of arrogance and dyslexia. Needless to say, it brings the first half of this record to a satisfying conclusion.
As if to keep the contrast of styles going, "Stealth" sounds as if it is trying not to be stealth like, in fact it is a song that does not drift quietly in the background like an assassin; this is very in your face and demands (and will receive) your attention in full. It is a song that goes through a constant change in a way that other tracks on the album do not achieve, it has a great bass sound in the mix and a great pattern to follow - the gong sound is peppered throughout for dramatic effect and once again I am wishing that a track was extended in length as this is a magical piece for me. "Hum" is back in the bass frequencies of the sound system, it rumbles into life with a dark form as if a swarm of insects is preparing to descend onto you at any given moment in time. It builds very slowly, taking its time and adding sound and layers without you realising until you are brought into the light with an ever climbing pattern until it reaches a peak and then you quickly fall back into a singular pulse of bass. It is a well performed track, but it takes a bit of getting used to against other pieces on here - it is well worth the effort though and any fan of electronica will be lapping this up in no time what so ever. The eleventh track is called "Islet" and you have a swirling void in which a high pitch keyboard frequency is played to puncture the lack of noise and repeat back to itself to begin with, it goes along like this for a while as smaller noises are added every now and then to give the tune a form. It is more minimalist noise which gives the album another distinct flavour and whilst I cannot say I am 100% in love with the song, I do find it fascinating and this usually means that in years to come it will be the song I talk about the most when I discuss an album with someone. "Crowly" brings back the noise to the record with a deep, dark bass sound that rumbles around you. It is a mixture of ambient dark shadows and beautiful, deep pockets of noise that are bounced off by strange frequencies and pitches that send shivers down your spine. Whilst it starts off very strong and is a joy to the ears, it is one of the rare tracks on the album that could have actually lost a minute and retained its impact; but this is just to my own personal tastes.
"Trysting" starts the last quarter of this album with a rich atmosphere of lower end sounds, giving the listener an impression of a machine slowly waking up after being in shut down. It is a short number that actually takes its time to build up without actually changing that much apart from reaching a high pitched note. Now this is a song I would have extended as it is an interesting piece of music, but it feels as if it was cut off just as it was reaching its next stage and is reduced to an incidental piece of ambient noise. "Southerly" is one of the best examples of what this album is about, it is a slow burning number that adds layer upon layer to this song to create a beautiful piece of electronica that whilst it is in the world is a thing of beauty; I love this song and it is a shining light towards the end of this album with its minimal drum noises (only a bit of hit-hat and thumping bass) and its glorious sounds that take you away from the world (albeit too briefly). After this we reach the penultimate song of this long journey called "Fearlight" which is another song that I would have loved to hear this one extended as it really sings to me. A chill out classic that is screaming for a longer remix, it gets under your skin within seconds and stays there for a long time afterwards. It is once again very minimal, but as I stated above it is really needing an extended edit to be recorded. Ending the album is "Blade" which is an abstract piece of strange noises which seem to have been swept together to bring the curtain down on this album. It feels as if it is a reflection of stillness after a great explosion and things are starting to settle back to ground, mixed in with some frequencies that sound like the wind going around the remnants of debris that have been left after the event which is a beautiful way to end this record.
This album is a very good release, but it is also an album that has issues. Firstly, the lengths of some of these tracks is wrong and could have either been extended or reduced in places, also at sixteen tracks it is a tad bloated to the average listener who might only give this a causal listen. However, even with that being said when it hits its sweet spot (which it achieves for the vast majority of the songs), you are given a master class in atmospheric, ambient electronica that takes you on some brief journeys that could have been prolonged. I like this album a lot more than I was expecting after the first listen, it really does demand further plays and I look forward to the inevitable remix album which will hopefully expand on some of the themes of this record and the forthcoming MG EP which is coming out soon - file under another impressive album from Mr Gore.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Exalt
You can purchase MG on Amazon here
You can visit the Martin Gore website on Facebook here
You can follow the activities of Martin Gore on Facebook here
You can stream MG on Spotify here
You can stream MG on Tidal here
You can stream MG on Deezer here
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