Catchy but never quite conventional, this is a must-listen modern dance record.
Mike Diver 2010-01-05
Having initially surfaced in 2002 only to sink back into the deep of Berlin’s dance scene, few saw this full-length from Apparat (Sascha Ring) and Modeselektor's Sebastian Szary coming. But arrive it did, in the early summer of 2009, and it almost matched expectations set absurdly high once news of their reunion broke.
Almost, because nothing would have fully sated the appetites of fans fervently fond of the duo’s 'solo' work. Rightly celebrated on their own terms, Ring and Szary have broken free of the underground with genre-hopping discs that appeal effortlessly to myriad demographics. Apparat’s Walls long-player of 2007 was an almost-instant classic of its kind, a cerebral, organic journey into soft-focus electronica and tensile techno; Modeselektor’s Happy Birthday! album of the same year led to touring with Radiohead, and featured said band’s Thom Yorke on (one) highlight (of many), The White Flash.
Needless to say, to certain sorts Moderat – the album and the artist – is a Very Big Deal Indeed.
The contrast of protagonist styles – one favouring washes of sound, the other aggressive beats – could easily have produced a muddled affair with little synergy between arrangements. But Moderat, when heard as a complete album, is an affecting, embracing listen. It invites its audience in with a warm welcome before settling them down and asking them to open their mind to the near-endless possibilities of contemporary dance. Cold steel and sharp edges are off the agenda, much of what’s heard here is enveloping of atmosphere and texturally rich, each explosion a controlled expression of tumult which might, without the admirable restraint, ricochet and spoil the splendid overall ambience.
Such is the symbiosis on show that it’s tough to discern exactly what elements are brought to the table by each artist – and it’s this seamless fusion that really makes Moderat an essential listen. It flirts with dubstep, shifts through smoky reggae and minimal techno; the result is a picture of compositional lines blurred and intentionally coloured over. Vocals are soft and unobtrusive, complementary rather than mix-leading; the sampled guitar passages recall the boundary-pushing sensibilities of TV on the Radio and their ilk, always catchy but never quite conventional.
In short, Moderat is promise realised, an album that was threatened years ago but has only now come to fruition. Though given its excellence, and elegance, obviously its makers wouldn’t have had it any other way.