Pitchfork (Website) - "Some tracks feature subtle beats, but for the most part this is ambient music the way Brian Eno envisioned it, as a kind of sonic wallpaper. That's no slight: the record's low stakes help make evident what it excels at, which is sound design..."
Recording information: Electric Ladyboy.
Illustrator: Jan L. Trigg.
Depeche Mode co-founder Martin Gore has had a history of shifting away from his main band in order to explore different sounds and concepts through side projects. He released two collections of covers under his own name in 1989 and 2003, and reunited with former bandmate Vince Clarke in 2011, forming techno side project VCMG, their first collaboration in 30 years. Continuing to work solo as MG, this eponymous album finds Gore further exploring instrumental electronic music, but instead of the straightforward techno of VCMG, it comes closer to early-'90s Artificial Intelligence-era IDM, with only a few excursions into buzzing industrial techno. Tracks like "Islet" come close to sounding like Autechre circa Incunabula, as well as the more experimental moments of Kraftwerk albums such as Radio-Aktivität. The songs' brief running times (only a handful of them are over four minutes) and ominous melodies give the album a cinematic feel, recalling '80s soundtracks by Vangelis or John Carpenter. "Crowly" and "Brink" have upfront 4/4 techno beats and growling sawtooth bass, but they still seem primed for an action sequence rather than the dancefloor. Highlight "Europa Hymn" combines unconventional patterns of crunchy beats with simple yet expressive melodies, creating something original and affecting. "Stealth" is a bit more sneaky and mischievous, starting out with an earworm melody that snakes its way throughout the track, then gradually recalling the combination of darkness and soul-searching that made Depeche Mode's best work so moving. MG is an intriguing diversion that might appeal to Depeche Mode fans who were put off by the pure, minimalist techno of VCMG, and it could also come as a surprise to listeners who aren't DM fans, or haven't kept up with their later work. ~ Paul Simpson