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.
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.
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!
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: