When word got out Martin Gore and Vince Clarke were going to record an album together, butterflies started to spread their wings in the tummies of many Depeche Mode fans. In fact, one of the most persistent rumours in the DM realm last year became a possible reunion of the band to play their first album “Speak & Spell” (1981); the only one Vince Clarke played on and almost entirely written by him. After he left, Martin Gore took control over the group and all the tracks for the thirty years that followed (Dave Gahan didn't see his tunes released on a record until 2005's “Playing The Angel”), and he's been not only the creator of the music, but also of the aesthetic and philosophy. When you listen to “Speak & Spell” (and any of the records by Yazoo and Erasure, Clarke's subsequent bands), it's obvious that had he not abandoned ship, the DM sound would have been much more optimistic and colourful; or, at least, his songs would have been the counterpoint to Gore's beautifully tormented tracks. So, their reunion would be something like bringing dark and light together in one room. Once the news about the album and the name of the project was revealed, the question was what kind of music to expect. They immediately cleared that one up, too: techno, plain and simple. While Dave Gahan has a clear inclination towards rock and soul, with Gore it's all about the electronica. The year “Playing The Angel” was released, he did a couple of DJ sets (most notoriously at Sónar) showing his natural dark and deep techno and electro inclinations, playing tunes by Motor and Mathew Jonson that were impressively visceral and raw .
“Spock” was the first “Ssss” track to surface, on a single featuring remixes by Tony Scott, Regis, DVS1 and XOQ. The song has two very different parts and perfectly displayed the dichotomy of dark and light. It was, most of all, an extremely interesting prelude of what was to come, evoking images of Gore and Clarke djing back to back in a club, blowing up the wall of sound. Sadly, the rest of “Ssss” (with those coloured snakes creeping and hissing on the sleeve) isn't as successful as “Spock”, and it turns out the two don't stay on the techno path the track laid out. The other nine songs are more inconsistent mock electro-techno, moving radically away from the darkness and conclusiveness one would imagine (and wish for).
“Ssss” shows Martin Gore and Vince Clarke out of touch with 2012 electronica and holding on to the sound of 2006, with moments reminiscent of the ultra-hedonistic sets by Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin (that ended with champagne, where techno wasn't all that important). Nevertheless, although “Ssss” isn't as exciting and decisive as expected - probably because, in this case, light triumphs over dark - it is good to know that two of the pioneers of electronic music are eager to continue investigating it. Thirty years on, they are still twisting the genre - using it to make the crowd dance. That's not as obvious as it may seem. At their age, many artists would have released a country album saying they'd had an epiphany and found the real meaning of their musical careers. So there's hope for electronica. Two of its most important benefactors still believe in it.