Martin Gore, “The Third Chimpanzee”

Martin Gore
The Third Chimpanzee
MUTE
8/10

When it comes to the sturm und drang of Depeche Mode’s most majestic electro-soliloquies, vocalist David Gahan is king—a barely quivering baritone, a low and soulful spy in the house of love opened by Jim Morrison, frequented by David Bowie, and loaned to Phil Oakey. Yet nothing compares to a Martin Gore moment, a breathier, high-heavenly jolt of sadness, madness, or sanity from the trio’s principal songwriter-arranger in an electrical field during Depeche Mode’s duskier moments. Gore doesn’t often enough play the frontman when acting as part of the Mode, nor does he do many solo outings like 2003’s Counterfeit and 2015’s MG. So, then, an EP—even an experimental, five-track instrumental one, such as The Third Chimpanzee—is an essential emotional outlet (as well as a musical one, as the Mode increasingly has moved from all-electronic sonics into one where real drums pound and genuine guitars grate).

Once a Mute artist, always a Mute artist, Chimpanzee’s first tune “Howler” is a glitch-hopping, industrial stunner with fuzzy metallic rhythms, imaginary scratched-up strings, and a melancholy melody you can imagine Gore’s voice rolling through. The following “Mandrill” is no less industrial, filled with syn-steely beats leftover from the “Everything Counts” sessions and a lilting sequence run through with dub FX and howling, de-tuned instrumentation of unknown origin. “Capuchin” is the playful, horrorcore middle track—the sinister-but-goofy, atmospheric, bell-bonging bit of the slasher flick where the couple kiss before the bloody kill. “Vervet” is open, lengthy, and testy, a dubbed-up and slowly oscillating house-music track without a dancefloor or home to call its own.

So brief yet effective—hauntingly memorable and memorably haunting—is the EP that you have to wonder if this is Gore in seclusion and quarantined following his own muse, or if this is an icy new direction for the Mode to move into. Either way, it’s certainly welcome.

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