Review: Moderat – II (English version)

The eagerly awaited new album by the Berlin trio Moderat (Modeselektor + Apparat) finally came out last Friday.

Moderat released their first album in 2009, Moderat, thus putting forward the concept of uniting two huge figures of the electronic music scene, and make ink flow a lot on the matter (and we’re still writing about it). Fans of both artists couldn’t have dreamt of a better piece of news. It’s like that day where peanut butter and chocolate said started doing Snickers together (non, not by me). Because the association had nothing painful like we can see all the time (Sascha Funke + Nina Kraviz for instance, or any similar absurdity). On the contrary it situated itself exactly at equal distance from both — or rather as a perfect synthesis of both, and everyone seemed to agree on that point : they proved successful in their project.

But how high are the stakes when millions (probably billions, right?) of fans of the first albums are waiting impatiently with big teeth and a terrible question: will they still be as good?

My answer is yes.

The single Bad Kingdom, has been out for a while. As an actual accepted teaser, it made a lot of magazines spit lines like : “Bad Kingdom” is an easy track, “Kanye might have sampled it on Yeezus somewhere” (Pitchfork), We’ve been disappointed by Moderat, I’m asking for a divorce, etc. Bad story. I think that Bad Kingdom is actually a very good track. Because it takes on its quality of pop music. With the only difference that the beat is admirably well made and signed Modeselektor, that the Apparat harmonies, even if we can spot them from miles away, raise the whole track to a higher level of refinement and tune admirably well with his voice (Sascha Ring aka Apparat, is singing). Where did the Pitchfork haters find that “rattling sawteeth” of synths could be blameworthy of being qualified as bad music? On the contrary, they saturate the dynamics of the track in a very reasonable and perfectly executed way, mocking all the young kids out there who try to do the same and burn their amps, and wrench my guts like never.

The music video is by Pfadfinderei, loyal designer of every Modeselektor’s artwork and scenographies for a long time, as well as those of Paul K and other cousins. They are behind the new Moderat show, currently on tour.

Let’s dig a little bit into the album. After the sustained “Bad Kingdom“, “Versions” harnesses us to the Moderat ship, tinted in smiling melancholy, with delicious filtered minor chords. I could have lived with these chords for a good 30 minutes, until I heard a very UK beat progressively coming up (Burial-like, actually) and giving me shivers, heralded by these little modulated voices reverberated to infinity, from all the way there at the back of the giant warehouse halfway sunk into the sea.

I would put”Therapy” in the same category, for the same sort of distant vocals and the sharp note of ethereal poetry, this time carried out with resolutely more present synth, like in “Rusty Nails” for which I have unreserved love. Precisely in the manner of “Rusty Nails”, the vocals of “Gita” are more vivid and scattered with monosyllabic fragments of Sascha Ring’s voice, which make us totally land back down to Earth aftern the two previous tracks. The sawtooth synths of Bad Kingdom are still here. And we still like it.

Softness. Sebastian and Gernot from Modeselektor play it tough when they release almost-unbearable tracks like Cash, but quickly call us back to humanity with tracks such as the ones in this album. “Damage Done” is again a superb example, this time in a bare, minimal and essential way, with no beat but heady harmonic pads. The track could have been written by Apparat alone, when you think of it.

Techno. “Milk” is a long experimental track. It is full of a certain coldness and of a progressive touch which totally contrasts with the rest of the album. The trio moves away from the so far strongly asserted pop side to lapse into techno. It was about time, don’t you think? The melancholy is still there, the peaceful beats laid out on a ghostly choir in procession background draws an imaginary landscape full of human and organic evocations growing more and more dramatic. We finally reach a tension climax at 8’40” where everything suddenly darkens and shades away, where the colors wilt and only the rythmic skeleton remains, naked, skinned. A very surprising track right in the midddle of the album.

Apparat. “Gita” and “Damage Done” are two glorious moments of vocal performance for Apparat. Is he going to sing live? I can’t wait. Besides, he is absolutely everywhere in the album as Great Modeselektor Softener. This is probably a rude and simplistic way of qualifying him — he yet seems responsible for many harmonic passages and all that sounds more or less organic, and contributes to bringing a much subtle and sensible touch to every musical choice. “Ilona” is indeed a perfect example.

Modeselektor. The Great Breakbeat Duo where the beats full of humor, subtlety and infinite inspiration, reveal a great complicity and surprise always. They are everywhere in the album and we can make them out behind certain synthetic and angular structures. Who wouldn’t like to collaborate with them, really?

What comes out of this new album? More poetry. Also, more accessibility. Something clicked between the album that contained Seamonkey and Slow Match and this one. Concessions, maybe frustrations? We could have lived without as many UK allusions though, almost Future-Garage (extrapolating) as in “Let In The Light” which doesn’t really look like them. On the other hand there are absolutely magnificent lyrical flights and captivating rythmic associations. The two Interludes, unmentioned so far, serve the experimental side and actually help structuring the album.

In short – we like it. And we can’t wait to see them live. September 26th, @ Le Transbordeur, Lyon!

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