Tuesday 13 August 2013

Moderat - II (Album Review)

Ah, Moderat. I really wanted to love their self titled debut but some parts of it just left me sour. This time the Modeselektor lads and Sascha Ring better know as Apparat have come together to make another LP which has much less of a minimal edge this time around, but still has that great artwork and illustration by Pfadfinderei collective. Join me as I work through a select few tracks from the LP after the main art.

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A droney intro punctuated by warbles and rolling sine waves of bass flows perfectly into the second track which was teased a few months ago, Bad Kingdom; Modeselektor's influence is obvious from the get go, much moreso than on their debut I find. Apparat's vocal contributions go down a treat too, at first I thought this would be a re-tread of Rusty Nails and the rest of the album would be minimal meets IDM a la the debut, but the sound has evolved much in that four year gap and I am pleased to say that is not the case.

I also thought Modeselektor's Monkeytown vibes might be too prominent after Bad Kingdom, but the game is changed pretty frequently with each track. Let In The Light starts with the scratchy dirty sounds that Apparat is so fond of before bringing in a vaporwave-esque slowed vocal, then backed by some hazy garage lines before finally letting the lumbering drums loose on us. The whole thing comes out like a half remembered dubstep tune on a comedown. And I absolutely love it.

Not to say they've entirely abandoned their roots though, Milk clocks in at a hefty ten minutes and is by far and away the longest track here. Their evolution has been kind to them though, Milk layers on the variety much more frequently than the last record including a tactical break around 4 minutes in. They've taken a leaf out of Clark's book as well as around the 7 minute mark the distortion starts to get cranked up ending in a beautiful climax around 8:40 and an almost ravey fade to finish.

The fist listen of this was a bit confusing, it felt a little like Apparat's vocals had been ripped from a separate track and hastily put on this one and I wasn't feeling the noise fest around 1:20 which was a shame and kind of spoiled it for me. I came back to it a few days later which had the benefit of giving me almost a fresh listen; the intro is golden and everything past that little hiccup at 1:20 is too, and something about Apparat's vocals clicked and now I wouldn't have them any other way.

The second of the two interludes next, the opposite of Milk at just a little over 1:30. It features some really lush synths throughout, reminding me a little of the Modeselktor/Siriusmo collab Green Light Go, and Modeselektor's own I Love You. There's probably some really nice visuals to go with this one too, I can't wait to see what Pfadfinderei do with this one.

Ilona sees the return of those lovely slowed down vocal lines, this time with some more pitch shiftery going on making it sound like a busted turntable or something from Fever Ray or Oneohtrix Point Never's Returnal. The garage/dubstep styling is still strong in this one, the little break before the beats come cascading back into the mix around 1:30 definitely has a burial vibe to it. Another one for the favourites pile.

There's a select few tracks that are getting a lot of press from the LP, I initially wasn't going to cover them but this one stood out. It has much more of a conventional edge to it than the last few tracks we've been through; think Bad Kingdom, Rusty Nails etc. It's the most downbeat tune so far and wouldn't sound too out of place on Apparat's Walls.

The finale does not disappoint either, dripping with influences from both sides it's pretty much a perfect example of what makes Moderat: Chock full of lovely sounds and carefully crafted peaks and breaks it summaries and closes the album brilliantly. It was the track that caught my attention in the promos (again due in part to the visual contributions of Pfadfinderei). It almost makes me sad as the last fade out comes and goes, it may be another four years before we hear any more of Sascha, Szary and Gernot combined.

And that brings us to the end. I definitely feel like this is a better album than the self titled debut, it feels much more concise and focused in it's sound, while having enough variety to stay interesting. I imagine the overall melancholy vibe to the album might turn a few people off like with Gorillaz's Plastic Beach but Moderat do it so well I can hardly complain. Moderat's II adds another notch to the troves of quality albums released this year and is out now worldwide on Monkeytown Records.

A Moderat Amount,
-Claude Van Foxbat

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