"It seemed wrong to add any vocals, even if they were ooh's and ahh's," Martin Gore says of his new, all-instrumental solo LP, MG. "It just seemed wrong."
A mix of jagged electronic vignettes and fuzzy soundscapes, the record finds the Depeche Mode singer-songwriter indulging his every experimental whim. MG contains 16 etudes that stand on their own as something new for Gore. But, as it happens, he had begun creating them with Depeche Mode in mind.
Dating back to the synth-pop firebrands' first record, 1981's Speak & Spell, Gore has almost always prepared instrumentals for Depeche Mode records. The material that sparked MG began with the four or five vocal-less tracks he had written for the group's last release, 2013's Delta Machine. In the band's earlier days, he had written nearly everything for Depeche Mode albums, but now that frontman Dave Gahan has begun writing more, Gore found that there wasn't enough room for all of his ideas.
"I think it's a mistake to make albums – or even deluxe editions – too long, because people just lose interest – especially if you put instrumentals on as well," he tells Rolling Stone from his home in Santa Barbara, California. "So I had these extra tracks and after we got home, I thought it was a shame to let them go to waste. It got me thinking, 'Maybe I should just continue the process and make a full instrumental album."
Once he put himself on the path to making a strictly instrumental release, he found himself enjoying it. "Words are always more difficult than the actual creating and melody," he says. "Music is important, but words are important, and to be able to focus on one of them and not worry about the other was liberating."
Beyond making all the tracks instrumental, Gore also decided to make the album a purely electronic statement. "The atmospheres I was creating seemed quite filmic, atmospheric and sci-fi," he explains. "Guitar just immediately takes you out of that realm and into some other dimension." Gore says he looked at the songs as "little pieces" that could appear in a movie, adding that he's open to working on an actual film soundtrack but that it's difficult to get the right offer.
MG tracks like "Spiral" and "Hum" buzz and flicker unpredictably, while tunes like "Crowly" and "Southerly" unravel coolly and deliberately like lost John Carpenter scores. The one thing that connects them is an otherworldly, ghost-in-the-machine-like quality that Gore says he's aware of but can't quite explain himself. "There is some essence, and I'm not sure what it is," he says with a laugh. "Maybe it's a sound thing. Not all of them are in minor keys...and some of them are quite aggressive."
"There is kind of a coldness to a lot of the tracks, a kind of iciness," he continues. "Maybe that's what gives it a futuristic feel."
Gore finished two other tracks for the album that will come out in some form but decided to stop himself from making more songs for the record. "A double instrumental album might've been slightly hardcore," he says with a laugh.
But because he kept the LP short – it totals only an hour – it offers enough variety that it never grows old. "The good thing about this album is that it's very diverse," Gore says. "I don't think it can be pigeonholed because it's all over the place, and that's why it works as a whole."
MG will be released on April 28th. Listen to it below.