(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What's cool? Martin Gore, Europa Hymn

Unscripted reflection

When I was a kid, I loved to go to the natural science museum and look at the dinosaurs. There was something cool about seeing the articulated skeletal fossils next to artists' renditions of how they might have appeared in life. It was a while before I realized that those sketches were basically just guesswork, but that epiphany opened up possibilities in my mind as I imagined alternatives to what had been put before me. Even now, I prefernot to have everything all spelled out. The best books, movies, or music leave a bit of mystery that pushes some of the work onto the audience.

That's exactly why Martin Gore's new single, "Europa Hymn" is so enjoyable, It's more like a gesture drawing than a fully developed song. Even though it's barely more than three minutes, Gore takes his time to place a small set of elements -- synthesizer swells and electronic beats -- and he lets them just reverberate within the sonic space. The track is moody and reflective, but the sparse arrangement doesn't provide much additional narrative direction. It rises from the synthesizer waves, builds up some rhythm to suggest a kind of down-tempo electro-pop, and then sinks back under the lonely surface, leaving room for a world of interpretations: it could represent the arc of a relationship, the ebb and flow of life, or even the sense of a sculptor finding the shape that hides within a block of marble.

Gore is best known as one of the founding members of Depeche Mode, and it's easy to hear the connection between this and his band work. But while the palette is familiar, this song distills synth-pop down to its electronic essence, discarding the urgency and tension to focus on an ethereal sense Zen purity, where the listener project their own meaning.

"Europa Hymn" is one of 16 tracks from Gore's new album, MG, which came out at the end of last month.

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