For years, the mutual commitment between Depeche Mode and their fans has been almost “religious”. Gahan has in the main, provided the voice to Martin Gore’s continuing themes of love, sex, and religion. Indeed, fans have often wondered whether Gore was writing for himself or for Gahan and it has always been an interesting aspect of the band’s dynamic
Gahan himself has often expressed that he considers himself a “spiritual” person, wanting to believe in some sort of higher, unseen force so it is easy to see why he finds working with English production duo, Soulsavers (Rich Machin and Ian Glover) creatively fulfilling. Since 2000, Soulsavers have kept eclectic-music fans happy by merging electronica with influences of rock, gospel, soul and country. Along the way, they called on the vocal talents of Mark Lanegan, Jason Pierce and Will Oldham. Then in 2009, they were hand –picked to support Depeche Mode during the European leg of the “Tour Of The Universe”. From this, discussions started between Machin and Gahan to work together and their first collaborative album, The Light The Dead See was released in 2012 and was well received critically.
Angels And Ghosts, released today on Columbia Records is the band’s fifth album and their second collaboration with Gahan, this time released under the moniker Dave Gahan & Soulsavers. The album continues with the gospel sound, with Gahan’s baritone lament a perfect companion. Gahan sounds emotionally powerful and drives the album forward over a cinematic sounding landscape of well-crafted instrumentation. Shine sets the tone from the start with its opening noisy guitar riff and bluesy, dusty thumping drumbeat. It is one of the album’s more uplifting tracks and has more than a hint of a spaghetti western feel about it as Gahan sings “Light, there’s light here, and it shines on you”.
You Owe Me maintains a shuffling beat throughout and Gahan plays the accusatory crooner nicely. Gospel singers enhance the song and sweeping strings and organs further add to the spiritual mix. Tempted is an album highlight with a snaky guitar, great gospel harmonising and a catchy bluesy chorus “I can’t see, what you want from me”. All Of This And Nothing is the lead single and its clear why this has been chosen. It seems to reflect how Gahan sees himself at this stage in his career and is a slick and brooding rock song.
The best songs are those where the tempo is slowed right down, a prime example being One Thing where Gahan is accompanied by a solitary piano, soothing strings and sombre cello and it is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s not every day you hear Gahan ask his lover in the song to “lay down next to me, we can watch those tasteless shows on our TV”. The cinematic Lately is a further example of the sparse atmosphere that Soulsavers are adept at creating, the power comes from the space between the notes. The ever present gospel joins Gahan in helping the listener to sail away on a wave of beautifully arranged strings.
Gahan laments and praises by equal measure throughout the album, underlining the Angels and Ghosts theme behind this piece of work. He sounds strong and confident.
The fact that the album is only made up of nine songs works in its favour, as the recipe of brooding ballad could become over-worked. Gahan’s lyrics aren’t the most complex but this piece of work is more about the combined feelings and atmospheres his voice and Soulsavers create. Angels and Ghosts is to be listened late at night, in the dark and alone and is a worthy reminder of why Soulsavers’ atmospheric hymns work so well and have earned spots in film and television scores.
To fully showcase the live nature of the album, Dave Gahan and Soulsavers will bring the project to life in a series of special shows in intimate venues across the US and Europe and with a 10 piece orchestra present, it promises to be an evening good for the soul.