Man and machine perfectly aligned, this is one of the best dance albums of 2011.
Matthew Bennett 2011-10-07
Okay, let’s get the cards on the table. Modeselektor, in this writer’s rave-ravaged opinion, forge the most intelligent, progressive, well-constructed dance music in the contemporary scene.
Twisting tempos and convention, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are a pair of Berliners who’ve smashed holes in the maternal linear structure of techno, added much-needed comedy into rap and electrified dancehall with the essence of a European Friday night. They’ve repeatedly rebuilt dance music in their own image, and whilst Monkeytown is their third album it’s the first recorded side by side in the same studio. You can hear the difference: they’ve replaced stunning individual tracks with cohesion and consistent urges that pull this self-released album along with focussed aplomb.
Their celestial techno, immediately discovered in their opener Blue Clouds, is perhaps indebted to Apparat’s collaboration as Moderat as it equally pines to be cast across widescreen formats. Their alchemy of sub bass, evident on German Clap or Evil Twin, explodes club dancefloors into mosh-pits of wild-eyed youth. In short, their dextrous cross-pollination of music won’t sit still; they play with genres like domestic cats do their garden-caught prey.
As further proof of their distillation of thriving energy, we see Radiohead’s Thom Yorke join the duo in the studio for two collaborative tracks. He’s claimed before that the German act is the reason why he got obsessed with electronic music. The first tune, Shipwreck, matches the frenetic urges of Radiohead’s The King of Limbs but introduces additional groove and pace – although it’s still riddled with panic-ridden percussion. Yet it’s the penultimate track, This, where Yorke’s involvement really steals the show. Sounding more like the ghost of Thom wrestling sonic alligators, the tune drops and clicks straight into top club gear, resplendent in all its seared, angled bass surfaces.
Other collaborations appear: long-time ally Sascha Ring, Warp’s PVT, rap guru Busdriver, noise artist Otto Von Schirach and vocals from Antipop Consortium. It’s a dense and near-complete journey. Few dance albums can keep their soul for the duration, but with tracks featuring this many facets, ideas, genres and tempos, Modeselektor romp home. Monkeytown is the sound of two men working in harmony, perfectly in control of their machines. And it may just be one of the albums of the year.