Newcomer Dave Gahan's eponymous release, Hourglass, combines dark, gritty electro synths with house beats to create an interesting sea of sonic textures, leaving one wondering exactly what the hell they're listening to--in a good way.
While the album describes itself as "synthpop," it sounds more like acid house at times, bouncing to industrial techno and epic trance at others. Gritty saws grind all over the place while heavy drums make all the jungle kids in the house simultaneously ask "Whuh?" while jumping around at an 80th the tempo they're used to. Gahan's deep, breathy voice permeates the bassy leads giving a sense of urgency to the fairly slow songs and begs to be sampled. Unfortunately, halfway through the album, he goes to very light and fluffy trance leads, kills the drums entirely and turns the suck up to 11. "21 Days" and "Miracles" in particular suffer from this. That said, to his credit, he drops the style entirely after two songs.
Standout tracks are the slightly Reznor-esque "Kingdom," the understated "Saw Something" and the loungey "Endless." While it could stand by itself as a decent dance album instrumentally--at least for the first half--Gahan's vocals tie it together with panache. Expect to hear him sampled everywhere in a few years.