Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore resurfaces with an instrumental album that neatly follows his 2012 collaboration SSSS with ex-Mode colleague, Vince Clarke.
Billed as ‘themes from an imaginary film’ MG in many ways pays homage to the film work of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. This is a nod and wink to his influences both as a band member and as an individual still in thrall to the capacity for music to inspire, create and open up.
With purely instrumental albums a question arises that are they ideas in search of a narrative/thread such as images and words or can it stand alone, freeing the listener to wander, to drift off and become subsumed and consumed by the imagination? Instrumental albums are like a colouring pad, you choose lyrics or images or leave it blank and let it wash over you.
Like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies the titles and music are purely a guide to deploying your emotions and thoughts, no two experiences will be the same. The track-listing is superfluous, played in another order the results are likely to be different, this is about the journey not the destination. The titles are whatever you imagine them to mean. Where artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher choose random, nonsensical titles (e.g. ‘s950tx16wasr10’) Gore opts for predominantly one word titles, code words to unlock and turn the imagination, the keys to another dimension; an emotional and mysterious film of your making: assemble, disassemble and reassemble. Start again. If the tracks are played in a different order = different film, the choice is yours. Let your imagination and emotions run amok.
‘Spiral’ is a machine-like grind, pullulating and throbbing, you detect the influence Gore et al had/have on the likes of Nine Inch Nails and other industrial groups. This could benefit further from being longer. ‘Stealth’ is the sound of surveillance, the crunching and processing of data that watches, surveys, assesses, concludes and reports. You can’t see it, but, it’s got your number(s). The track has a grooving malevolence and is akin to Kraftwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’.
‘Hum’ captures the hum of the drone, here to see you through to the last breath of death. The portentous ‘Islet’ evokes Tangerine Dream and is like conversing with the UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. ‘Southerly’s’ drum, thump, pump procession is ceremonial and sacrificial bringing to mind Logan’s Run, the sci-fi tale where no one lives beyond the age of 30 to avert over-population, when the drums fade out your ‘Carousel’ is here.
Overall it conjures a feeling of an uncertain future, one we were warned to be wary of yet have rushed to blindly embrace. A perpetual past-present ensures we’re all trapped in a vibrational stasis, a prison with no bars, guests in Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon. This hour can be anything you want it to be, a Phillip K. Dick outre-sensory interlude or the soundtrack to the ever-high-rising suburban sprawl disguised as progress, unaffordable cubed-rooms in place of history, ‘Ballads for Ballard’, if you like. Needless to say there is a dystopian feel to this album, a futuristic collection that echoes a techno-passed/past-present.
Simon Reynolds once wrote of Depeche Mode ‘the boys from Basildon took the ‘conform to deform’ concept and ran with it’. Gore still is.