Moderat's super-trio, in Polaroid triptych by John Butt. And while this release is dreamier than the last, the focus is now exclusively on these three - and just as beautifully made.

Moderat’s super-trio, in Polaroid triptych by John Butt. And while this release is dreamier than the last, the focus is now exclusively on these three – and just as beautifully made.

If you haven’t heard it yet, you owe yourself a listen to Moderat’s II, the second outing from the combination of Berlin electronic superstars Apparat and Modeselektor.

A preview has launched on Spotify, but the best option to try before you buy is NPR Music (America’s listener-funded public radio tastemakers):
First Listen: Moderat, ‘II’

First, the thumbnail guide to the cast:
Modeselektor is Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, in turn behind Monkeytown and 50 Weapons.
Apparat is Sascha Ring, who had a major role in Shitkatapult (the label founded by T.Raumschmiere, aka Marco Haas, and company)

The boundaries between those artistic voices are blurred even further this time, though perhaps removing some of the edges, too. The input of each was more distinctive last time, but II seems gentler and murkier. There are no guest artists joining the supergroup, no remixes – only a reverb-heavy electronic fantasy.

Working class heroes ... of music production. The trio in Berlin this year, captured by Olaf Heine.

Working class heroes … of music production. The trio in Berlin this year, captured by Olaf Heine.

The results still have some of the rhythmic push and sharp intensity of Modeselektor, the melodic fancy, vocal polish, and ear candy of Apparat. But whereas the 2009 self-titled debut hit the ground running with the gorgeous detuned urgency of “A New Error,” losing no steam with “Rusty Nails” and “Seamonkey” and then taking off from there, II is mellower and more introspective, at first veiled with a misty ambient interlude. (You read that right: the first track is labeled “interlude” – perhaps fitting the “woken halfway through” feeling of the album.)

With that fair warning, for anyone expecting the driving force of the last album, you can’t really complain about getting one record from these two talented acts. Once the album gets rolling, what you get is a free-flowing cruise through ever-present, immaculately high-quality production values – each thump seeming meticulously constructed, even when in a dense wash of sound. “Versions” is a sweetly-distant reverie. On “Therapy” and “Ilona,” some of the sound of the first record makes a reappearance, but even that cloaked a bit in a sonic fog. “Therapy”‘s rhythms cut through the gloom in a perfect rhythm, though. “Let in the Light” and “Milk” are in turns evocative but relaxed. “Milk” in particular goes on in ten minutes of sheer ecstasy, a fitting heartbeat-pulse cornerstone centering the whole, as if for a moment the album can escape its tendencies to melancholy.II seems constantly drifting between shadows, lush pads rising and falling like waves beneath the lunar tug of slow compressors.

“Bad Kingdom” is a logical single to carry the banner for this record, though it’s also the most distinctly Apparat-y — sounding as though it’d be easily in place on one of Apparat’s albums, from the calculated asymmetry of the beats to the songwriting, as well as, obviously, the vocals. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) Visual collective Pfadfinderei have a video here, though this isn’t the best example of their work – rapid-fire still woodcut visuals are all you get.

Update: we do, however, get a better-quality edition on Vimeo!

Moderat “Bad Kingdom” | Monkeytown Rec. from Pfadfinderei on Vimeo.

See also the fascinating project-in-fog-online experiment, covered on CDMotion.

But, here’s why I’m glad not to have to write reviews with stars attached to them (apart from feeling woefully inadequate and non-objective as an artist myself). I suppose I’d be obligated to deduct a star relative to the triumphant debut of Moderat. But it’s not really about any quantitative comparison – II is simply a different mode, a different mood. This record is no less coherent than the first, and by the time it rolls back home to the final cut, “This Time,” it seems quietly poignant.

II is a sleep-walk through an insomniac night, but that’s its beauty – particularly as Sascha Ring’s silken, eerie voice rising above it is one of the great male voices of electronic music over the past years. There’s something deeply melancholy here, even in moments nostalgic – and thus perhaps suggesting the return to more familiar timbres. “As we are in the search for a beat that is not existing yet,” the band told MTV Iggy’s Laura Studarus, “we are still sleeping and dreaming.”

A shared dream experience with Apparat and Modeselektor is never a bad thing.

Electronic Beats has a superb interview with the band going into their production process – they’ve done the hard work, so I can just take the day off and go take a nice swim in a lake:

Three’s Company: An interview with Moderat [Electronic Beats]

Company – that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?

And they have a lovely 2011 video short on the band, as well:

Blast from the past – the 2009 debut is worth another listen today:

If you’re lucky, this act is coming to your town, and you should leave the Internet behind and go hear them:

  • ♦[PharLeff]♦

    Loved “A New Error”… ready to check out the rest of their music.

  • Desaila

    Great.. but if this made it to cdm, how come did Atom’s HD didnt ?

    • Peter Kirn

      Actually, I did a panel discussion with Atom TM about that release in May. Unfortunately, the festival didn’t see fit to record it, so I have to try to transcribe a recording from my phone – will work on it. Also talked to him about maybe doing a new interview. Consider your request heard. 😉

  • kate

    it’s fully available on spotify in most countries. be fair and stream it on spotify or buy it – the artist wont get paid with npr music streams, soundcloud, youtube, vimeo, etc

    • Peter Kirn

      Are you joking?

      The label made the decision to put the music on NPR, and even made it an exclusive, so this is hardly a case of a listener-supported radio network somehow taking advantage of the artists. Spotify’s streaming revenue is fractional for even big artists – Moderat I expect is getting next to nothing. Like I said, stream to ‘try before you buy’ – if you really like the album, then definitely buy it.

  • GYRE

    So much respect for these guys! i love everything they touch. SO much feeling, so deep!

  • polarr

    I have actually been listening for quite a long time to this Moderat Album released in 2009. Simply mesmerizing… Absolutely massive sonic landscapes to ponder on, and to get as an inspiration before starting recording a song. The result is actually genuinely beautiful. Think that les grandes marches could be one of the greatest starts of any live act by any artist.
    Love from France, guys.

  • Rob

    Am I imagining this, or does Bad Kingdom sounds really muddy and squashed relative to the rest?

  • Gwydion

    That Bad Kingdom video is fecking ace, up there with Pfadfinderei’s best. Fits the mood of the song perfectly.

  • wsxscs

    front that sweatshirt. always…