By KRUA Music Manager Oli P
The world of EDM (fleshed out: electronic dance music) moves so fast that even the simplest two-step can’t keep up. This means that with the turnover from year to year at any electronic music venue, be it local raves or huge festivals like Paradiso, TomorrowWorld, or ElectroZoo, artists have a hard time staying on top of current trends. Unless you’re Moderat. Moderat, the combination of Berlin-based musicians Apparat (Sascha Ring) and the duo known as Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) has been taking its sweet times in producing records. Here are the stats: formed 11 years ago. Records completed: two. At face value, 11 years divided by two records isn’t very impressive… until you listen to them.
Is that math irreverent? Quite possibly, yes. Moderat seems to do whatever they feel like doing when producing a record. While dubstep was taking off and inundating eardrums with every type of sine wave imaginable, Moderat was crafting music reminiscent of composer John Cage, known for organic pieces that were actually void of sound. Moderat’s first, self-titled record featured an appreciable amount of empty space to balance those sounds that were present. When today’s electronic music is all about straight, heavy, four-on-the-floor beats, Moderat’s new record, II, picks up the drumsticks and pounds out some stuttery breakbeats on “Damage Done,” giving a musical middle finger to the clean and predictable bass kicks of other forms of EDM.
When trends employ clean, sexy female vocal samples to provide hooks in dance beats, Moderat gives listeners fully lyrical male vocal performances on “Bad Kingdom” and “Let In The Light”, dirtily effected and tactfully cut into the mix. Rather than burying them underneath the synths and drums or making them the soaring preeminent melody in the music, the Moderat special recipe cuts the vocals in just right. While certain reviews of the vocal performance on II consider the German-accented English a detractor from the album’s integrity, this nuance can be conversely viewed as something that makes the music that much more worldly appealing. The result is a style of electronica, which, although dance-oriented at its core, refuses to get stuck in any one particular category or fleeting moment in popularity. Drawing on influences ranging from old-school breakbeat jazz and jungle, heavy bass music, shoe-gazer trance, and house, II allows itself to be appealing to both the electronic purist and the musical dabbler. Whether it’s quietly vibed in headphones or played in dance clubs, II works, precisely because Moderat has done whatever they want.
The strongest moments on the album are the chorus of “Bad Kingdom,” in which Ring sings “this is not what you wanted.” But, in fact, he is wrong. This is wanted. “Milk” is another highlight – a sprawling, 10-minute trance track, it vamps a single melodic line over and over, somehow becoming better and better with each repetition. The rich layers on “Let In The Light” are texturally beautiful and melodic. And most importantly, the characteristic muscle of Modeselektor’s music blends seamlessly with Apparat’s star-gazing introspection during the whole album.
The one bum note on the album is likely “Versions,” which does not really go anywhere over the course of five minutes. That being said, the track is nonetheless invitingly groovable. Five minutes spent nodding one’s head to the weakest song on the album will always be more enjoyable than five minutes spent critiquing its desire to stay put and comfortable in one extra mellow melody.
One last note stands for mention about II. While the sound achieved on the record its wholly its own, irreverent in the scope of current trends, it was not without struggle and compromise that this sound was achieved. The seemingly basic equation of Modeselektor + Apparat = Moderat is actually a complex relationship that ought to be appreciated. Coming from two radically different camps of electronic music, it is really no wonder that Moderat has only released two albums, considering that its constituent members are so musically different. They did not work as flawless and cooperatively as their sound might suggest on this new record. It was difficult process. But on the whole, it was highly successful. While they might not actually have done whatever they wanted individually in the studio – compromise and bureaucracy being required – they sure pulled it off on the record.