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Dave Gahan
Hourglass
Mute/Virgin Records
www.davegahan.com


Dave Gahan sounds as goth-rock and new-romantics-with-a-spell-of-shoegaze as deeply as he ever did when he fronted Depeche Mode. The underlying melodic layers in Gahan's songs on his second solo album Hourglass have smooth, clean, fluid lines that are stacked by buzz-saw metal stylistics and Brit-punk laden electronica. There are shots of trip-hop which synergize an opiate state and arcadian conditioning that preens of downy, ambient flourishes. Gahan's vocals have always been able to undress the listener with their sultry vocal stroking and then counter this velvety touch with churlish barbing that is simpatico with the melodic creases.

Gahan continues to flex his vocal prowess on Hourglass which he produced and collaborated on with Tony Hoffer (Air, The Kooks, The Fratellis). He is joined by Christian Eigner (drums) and Andrew Philpot (guitar) who were both members of Depeche Mode's touring band. Songs like "Endless" and "Insoluble" have a nostalgic electro-pop flutter that is reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Although this shows that the apple does not fall far from the tree, Gahan's songs are less artsy and more emo-throttled than Depeche Mode's. The shoegaze tendencies in the synth patterns for "Kingdom" create moving pictures anchored by heavily chained beats with sumptuous emo-driven sonic furls. The chainsaw buzzing on "Deeper And Deeper" cinch the piece with moments of stressed notes as Gahan's vocals dig in sharply while thronged by roguish Brit-punk electronica.

The ball and chain syncopation of "21 Days" is flanked by angular trip-hop sequences which relinquish to a soft-pop ambient simmer on "Miracles," "Down," and "Saw Something." Gahan's lyrical themes are introspective while hovering above the emotions being displayed in the lyrics like in "Saw Something" when he intones, "I sit and I wait and I stare/ Still wishing for a divine intervention to lift me from my chair." The lyrics seek answers as the music produces a swirling sieve of synth-textured atmospherics around Gahan's breathy vocal rises and falls. The electro-pop streaks turn hard and biting on tracks like "Use You" and "A Little Lie" impressing a goth rock chill through the wavy melodic tissues. Gahan fuses a number of elements into his music while being steadfast to the inflaming synth-pop chimes of this youth.

Hourglass follows Gahan's debut album Paper Monsters from 2003, administering a floating feel synonymous with Goldfrapp while chiseling macabre metal-tinged goth rock tones. The songs show factions of '80s new romantics with modern formations that resound like Radiohead tiered by Emigrate. It is music that doesn't feel dated but shows roots in the past backed by Gahan's refined handling of his shimmery vocal keys.

-Susan Frances


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