Martin Gore Goes Primal w/ Eerie New Single ‘Mandrill’

Image by Travis Shinn

That Depeche Mode were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year was perhaps symbolic, at least, in that what those four wonderful weirdos from Basildon (UK) were about in the beginning (minimalist synths, impossible hooks, architecturally crafted haircuts) stood intrepidly athwart the tenets of mainstream rock in 1980—with its bloated choruses, bombastic guitar solos, and unceasing crimes of fashion.

Fast forward four decades, and Depeche have remarkably been selling out arenas and stadium for more than 30 years now. Yet still, when they take the stage at the Barclay Center or the London O2, they appear as complete outliers in a pop culture world they have decisively conquered despite never giving a toss what it was on about.

This is evident in a new solo project by Martin Gore, which once again reminds of how he was and is one of the most important people to ever straddle a synthesizer. The first single ‘Mandrill’ arrives today and, unless you’re an anthropologist, we should probably tell you that it’s about monkeys. Apparently, Gore’s taste in reading material has evolved from Baudelaire and Ballard (or so we’re assuming, from some of his earlier lyrics), to something decidedly more primordial.

 “I remembered reading the book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee,” he recalls of his most recent musical inspiration. And the new song does indeed have something of the primitive about it. It opens with marching, industrial drumming and eerily squelching synths—shades of Nitzer Ebb—and then continues for nearly four minutes in its ominous sense of portent…with only the occasional electronic blip and bleep intervening.

It certainly vividly exhibits that the restless anxiety which drove Gore to write such masterpieces of the macabre as ‘Black Celebration’ and ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ is still fully intact. And considering that “death is everywhere” in 2020, it’s comforting to know that he can still so incisively soundtrack the darkest periods of our existence.

But let’s not forget, that it’s still ultimately about monkeys, further evidenced by the title of his upcoming EP The Third Chimpanzee, out January 29 via Mute.

“The first track I recorded had a sound that wasn’t human,” he recalls. “It sounded primate-like. I decided to name it ‘Howler’, after a monkey. [And the EP title] made sense, as it was made by one of the third chimpanzees.”

By a human, he means.

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