Vince Clarke and Martin L. Gore’s thirty-year relationship has been entwined in some of the most exciting and innovative moments in modern music. Founding members of legendary pop experimentalists Depeche Mode, the pair toured the world together until 1981 when Clarke left to explore pastures new. Gore stayed with Depeche Mode making a string of groundbreaking albums, while Clarke went on to form Yazoo, Erasure, The Assembly and collaborate with Martyn Ware. “We stayed in touch, of course,” remembers Clarke. “I don’t think we ever thought we’d work together again. But I suppose we’re kindred spirits, me and Martin. It was bound to happen.” It did indeed happen and the duo are now on the cusp of releasing a brand new album, Ssss – a fiercely inventive techno record full of snarling synths and pulsating rhythms, every bit as mesmerising as you’d expect from two of electronic music’s most pioneering performers.
VCMG is two men with a shared history. With 100-plus hit singles between them over the last 30 years, Vince Clarke and Martin Gore had barely been in contact since the former left Depeche Mode at the end of 1981, giving Martin the opportunity to become chief songwriter for the band (and chuck radiators down stairs while wearing perv-breeks). Vince went on to Yazoo, The Assembly and most notably Erasure, earning an Ivor Novello award for his song collection in 2009. It would be fair to say that Vince has always kept himself to himself – Alison Moyet has suggested that the pair never really got to know each other during the 18 months Yazoo had together in the early 80s – but VCMG has seen him reconnecting with his past. This is a good thing, for all concerned.
Clarke first approached Gore about doing a little something over email, and having piqued Gore’s interest work began at a leisurely pace. This album was assembled entirely via file swapping – the duo only actually properly met up at Mute’s Short Circuit celebrations at The Roundhouse in 2011 – but the results show that there’s an innate thinking and nous between the pair, which happily ties their shared experiences together.
Collecting 10 tracks of minimal yet meaty European techno, SSSS excels with the likes of first-taster Spock, which pounces along in an Orbital-like manner, and the giddy Situation-esque pulse of Windup Robot’s build up. Bendy Bass is another highlight, doing exactly as it says with elastic sounds weaving about, while Single Blip constructs an array of doofs and oomphs around a – yes – single blip. The elements are all here: Vince’s knack for slight but perfectly pop melodies and Martin’s strident anthemic blasts are easily noticeable. There really is no sign of a duff moment at all.
Reuniting a couple of friends on the one hand and exciting the fans on the other, there’s no doubt SSSS is a fine piece of work – and regardless of the back-story, it’s quite amazing in its own right: an instrumental technofest that you could quite easily enjoy down the rave-up or while engaging in some housework. And that makes it mission accomplished so far as anyone with ears should be concerned. Tremendous stuff.
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