Artist: Martin Gore
Title: The Third Chimpanzee EP
Genre: Electronic / Experimental / Ambient
Release Date: 29th January 2021
Label: Mute Records
Would anyone care about this release if it were by a rather unknown artist? Probably not but this is MARTIN GORE, mastermind and chief songwriter of DEPECHE MODE! For many DM fans this EP is a must-have anyway before they read any review. If ‘Third Chimpanzee’ finds its right audience this way is questionable, as the EP should appeal to those who are probably not the biggest DM followers but who have a fondness for experimental music, modular synths, Art Pop and Ambient music.
You probably have already read one of the interviews MARTIN GORE gave and which popped up on the sites of Rolling Stone, NME and the likes over the last few days. So, you probably know that all the tracks on the EP are named after monkeys and that the title ‘Third Chimpanzee’ is a reference to a book by Jared Diamond which discusses the blurring line between primates and man. Heck, even the cover art for the EP was painted by a monkey! I see DEPECHE bandmate Andy Fletcher’s infamous habit of eating a banana on stage halfway through a show in a whole new light now…
As indicated above you shouldn’t expect something like ‘Counterfeit’ or ‘Conterfeit²’ - Gore’s cover versions albums - here. It’s rather like his 2015 instrumental album ‘MG’ but much rawer and beastlier. Though in the strictest sense ‘The Third Chimpanzee’ is not an instrumental EP, technically speaking, as the tracks feature GORE’s voice, albeit in a heavily distorted and reworked form. Unrecognizable, that is.
The EP is full of gnarling, creaking and, well, howling sounds which MARTIN GORE created by resynthesizing noises by sending them through his many Eurorack systems. Gore has a studio in his house in Santa Barbara, California, and if you ever saw photos of it (here for example: https://www.gearnews.de/studioporn-bei-martin-gore-ueber-die-schulter-geguckt/) your jaw will have dropped from the sight of modular synths from wall to wall, from the floor to the ceiling. For years Gore has been known as an avid, perhaps even obsessed collector of synthesizers. Gore admitted in interviews that he has so many synths that it doesn’t help to boost creativity anymore as the sheer number is overwhelming. And only five tracks - that’s not exactly a lot! That two of them were known prior the release as they were put online on YouTube doesn’t help too much to stir excitement, and ‘Howler’s End’ is just a two-minute extract of the opening track. These 23 minutes of music would be pretty meagre if it would be all that MARTIN GORE created throughout the last year - especially given that there’s a pandemic with lockdowns and the home studio being the only place to go to for a music millionaire to kill some time.
Gore likes to mention in his recent interviews that he spends five days a week in his studio, his sort of “working days”. But the ‘Third Chimpanzee’ isn’t all he created in 2020, he’s written a few new songs for DEPECHE MODE already - while Dave Gahan has written some stuff with DEPECHE MODE live staff Christian Eigner and Peter Gordeno - and Gore also writes songs “with a friend” for the fun of it. This is a small revolution in Gore’s musical world as he often enough mentioned over the last decades that he prefers to write songs alone, with no one else present during this rather intimate process. However, it’s neither known who this friend actually is nor for which kind of project these songs are. But at least there’s a lot more music in the making…
For the time being we have the ‘Third Chimpanzee’ EP, an interesting piece showing an experienced musician flexing his muscles and playing around with a staggering number of synthesizers. There’s a lot to discover here in terms of sound, and quite a few parallels to the more obscure side of DEPECHE MODE, but it almost seems as if MARTIN GORE forgot a little bit about his songwriting skills. Let’s just hope that he saved these for the next DEPECHE album and take this EP as what it is: An exercise with modular synths.
‘The Third Chimpanzee’ will be released digitally, on CD, and on Azure Blue Vinyl.
05. Howler’s End
http://martingore.com / https://www.facebook.com/MartinGore
Total: 8 / 10
J. Niggels Uhlenbruch