Release Date: Aug 6, 2013
Record label: Monkeytown
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
Do you like pop music? Are you open to experiencing transcendent moments as part of a huge crowd? Can you admire the songcraft that triggers such communion? These are crucial questions in the case of Moderat's II, an album that maintains an exquisite tension between bruising club music and pure pop, and that is unapologetic in its attempts to deliver big crossover moments. Its potential anthems, such as "Damage Done" and "Bad Kingdom," hark back to the refined and emotionally fraught pop/soul of George Michael or Terence Trent D'Arby, while seeking, if only notionally, to take on stadium-conquerors like Coldplay or U2.Great pop music is, by definition, calculated and formulaic. It trades on a certain sentimentality.
Moderat, aka Apparat's Sascha Ring and Modeselektor's Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, apparently spent six months in an underground studio in their native Berlin recording this follow up to 2009's eponymous first collaboration. Surprisingly, Moderat II is not the dark, impenetrable record to be expected from such reportedly intense sessions, but rather a genuinely pleasant slice of uplifting ambience. .
In this age of mega EDM, there’s something reassuring about the genuineness of Berlin electronic music. And the Modeselektor–Apparat melding Moderat is something of a stylistic banquet, showing off the astonishing range of each artist’s musical proclivities. From gossamer dream-pop (“Let In the Light”), to rarefied funk (“Therapy”), to haunting, celestial elegies (“This Time,” “Ilona”), to inescapably infectious nouveau-soul ( “Bad Kingdom”), II is the perfect 21st-century escape from so much banal guitar music.
After their 2009 self-titled debut, the minimal techno supergroup Moderat took four years off, once again splitting into Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert, Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring) for studio work. Still, worldwide tours and festival appearances built the Berlin-based collective's brand during that time, making this sophomore release highly anticipated, besides being modestly titled. Delivering the goods, the excellent II bounces between these two worlds with substance and style, as the loose dub session "Versions" suggests a hypnotic, hazy, hang session from the trio, while off-world R&B numbers like "Let in the Light" and "Therapy" come with some of that supergroup polish, mashing up the worlds of James Blake and Justin Timberlake, and dragging the results underground.
When Modeselektor and Apparat teamed up to create Moderat, it resulted in a document of contemporary electronica, so loaded with singles, guest appearances and beats you felt oddly comfortable with from the off, it was easy to think you were listening to a scene-spanning compilation album. The follow up feels more Apparat-heavy; partly due to the music itself being rather more restrained and superficially because Sascha Ring's voice is at the heart of everything. The eclectic guest vocals that instantly stood out (and in some cases jarred) before are a thing of the past, meaning ii is a more subtle but cohesive listen.
Review Summary: This is not what you had in mindIn regard to Moderat’s most recent album, Sascha Ring told “there was a little bit of therapy involved” in the process. Ring, better known as Apparat, has more or less become the frontman of the electronic collaboration, and the interview shows how draining the role is for him. Sure, it must be cathartic because he has the ability to channel his emotions into his work, and directly through his voice.
Berlin has a well-deserved reputation for producing aggressively tasteful minimal techno but it also has a warmer, more human side that doesn’t often attract the same level of attention. At the forefront of that scene are Apparat (aka Sascha Ring) and Modeselektor (the duo of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary), and their 2009 album as Moderat was a massive, supergroup-level event for a very, very particular kind of electronic music fan. After several productive years apart, the trio has reconvened for a second full-length.
To use the word “supergroup” when discussing Moderat, the joint venture of German electronic mainstays Modeselektor and Apparat, is a little more than misleading. As the recent documentary We are Modeselektor attests, the German electronic music scene is a genial, friendly place, and more often than not one is likely to stumble on popular musicians chatting as were they old friends. Such is especially the case with Apparat and Modeselektor, who have had similar stories of rising up to international fame through their native Germany’s music circles.
Mood-setter ‘The Mark (Interlude)’ might sound like spending Halloween on nitrazepam, but to the dedicated aficionado of Berlin electronica, ‘II’ is the noise of all their Christmases turning up at once. The second collaboration between Modeselektor and Apparat, it swiftly transforms into a series of nocturnal funk swells and echoes occasionally adorned with choruses that sound like a blitzed ‘Get Lucky’. ‘Let In The Light’ is all pitch-shifted underwater vocals and crustaceans for xylophones, ‘Damage Done’ is delicate soultronica, ‘Milk’ is a melodic 10-minute spin cycle, and ‘Gita’ resembles will.i.am being sprayed with air jets.
There’s a vague temptation when listening to Moderat to divide their output into halves, to scour for the obvious signatures of Modeselektor, on the one hand, and Apparat, on the other. Why anyone would want to do this is probably more a product of individualistic politics than it is of musical concerns, but even so, the Berliners’ second album, II, may invite the suggestion that it’s little else besides a sequence of subtly conflicting dichotomies, pitting the brash animation of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary against the reflective introversion of Sascha Ring. Yet aside from a few obvious instances where the two faces of Moderat cut and paste their distinctive wares immediately against each other, their sophomore album is, on the contrary, an almost seamless fusion of their respective stylings, an amalgamation that further corrodes the already diseased notion of the autonomous and self-contained author.
The album art that adorns Moderat's II features a Daniel Clowes-esque illustration of a conservatively dressed man in the midst of pulling off, or putting on, a wild-haired mask. Either way, this scenario works as a fitting metaphor for the microhouse super-group's sophomore release. Once again pairing Germany's Apparat with countrymen duo Modeselektor, II sheds Moderat's shaggy, loose grooves while adding freer, more impulsive melodies to their brand of glitchy IDM.
Moderat is the combination of Modeselektor and Apparat, two German electronic music acts who released the first LP under their combined moniker in 2009. The self-titled effort was surprisingly cohesive and sounded like Coldplay on ecstasy. II continues down the sonic path of its predecessor, but expands the group’s sound with heavier R&B influences.
Modeselektor's Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary can count both Björk and Thom Yorke among their fans, while Apparat's Sascha Ring—whose work is more ambient compared to Modeselektor's muscular, hip-hop-flavored tracks—has had his own brush with a wider audience thanks to his smoldering “Goodbye” being used in a season-four episode of Breaking Bad. But neither act enjoys the cultish adoration of, say, Deadmau5 or James Murphy, and their sophomore effort together as Moderat, II, is unlikely to change that. As chilled-out, trance-heavy electronica goes, II is pleasant but unremarkable.
“This is not what you wanted, not what you had in mind” croons the chorus to ‘Bad Kingdom’, the second track of Moderat’s follow-up to their 2009 debut. It’s a disavowal of playing to type, and becomes almost a wry raison d’être emblazoned across the better part of an hour. When Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary met the equally fantastically named Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) 12 years ago, they represented two defining but almost opposite pillars of the bountiful Berlin electro scene.
How many times has this happened? Let me count the ways. I reviewed Moderat’s self-titled 2009 album, and I was pretty wrong about it. That review has since, and quite understandably, been relegated to the great cache of the internet afterlife…but the album lives on. It rises, occasionally—selected by iTunes shuffle with no more justification than Apple’s divine, algorithmic prerogative.
As Moderat, Apparat (Sascha Ring) and Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) has seamlessly delivered a new entity that is able to live comfortably within its own skin. The latter’s rumbling bass and stacking of beats is a fitting partner for the former’s delicately-tailored melodies. And with each artist coming off what are arguably their weakest solo releases to date, it made sense for them to pair up once again for their second album.
II picks up exactly where Moderat left off on their 2009 self-titled debut. Separately, the trio has expanded on their individual projects; Modeselektor have dug themselves deeper into the hole that is abrasive hardware-based electronic music, whereas Apparat has planted himself at the crossroad of IDM and pop. For a decade now, Gernot Bronsert, Sascha Ring, and Sebastian Szary have had a creative relationship, and as their independent projects have taken shape so has the direction of Moderat.
It's modd-uh-rat, not mode-rat, pronunciation fans. And it's the second melding of the mighty, festival-shredding electronics of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary's Modeselektor with the woozy, little-boy-lost theatrics of Sascha Ring. The trio's first full-length landed in 2009, before Ring had made the artistic leap of faith that was The Devil's Walk, and before Modeselektor had gone off and had babies (via a visit to Monkeytown).
Shattering the Berlin Wall did more than just unite East and West Germany. The police focused their gazes on trying to repair the resulting lawlessness, ignoring German youths in a new creative landscape. Berlin duo Modeselektor were amongst those developing their music at the many illegal acid house raves in the country. The act’s Sebastian Szary said: “The police were doing other things, they were dealing with the reunification, so if you set up speakers and a smoke machine in an abandoned building somewhere, they didn’t stop you.”Moderat – the partnership of Modeselektor and Apparat’s Sascha Ring – embodies that chaotic unification.
opinion byADRIENNE THOMAS Moderat is a trio of German producers united by a love for Detroit techno, sharing recording equipment and separate but congruent involvement in the East Berlin techno warehouse revival after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Often dubbed a “supergroup,” Moderat is made up of Sasha Ring (Apparat), Sebastian Szary and Gernot Bronsert (Modeselektor). They are proud of the roots that shaped their collaborative darkness - an omnipresent element in every one of their songs- even when performing in the most tranquil of festival environments.
The musical marriage between talented electronic acts Apparat (Sascha Ring) and Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary), known as Moderat, returns after a busy four years in the wake of its debut. Apparat released two albums while the gentlemen of Modeselektor released an album, two compilations and were featured on several records…it’s a surprise they found time to collaborate. A mostly instrumental affair, the trio’s sophomore album, aptly named II, again melds the two artists’ distinctive styles—Modeselektor’s heavy bass driven, kinetic sounds with Apparat’s smooth compositions.
The genre you might call ‘home-listening house’ comes in for some serious abuse; a hangover, perhaps, from techno’s Villalobos backlash. Incorrigible monkeys that they are, as far as the dance purists are concerned the niche style is nothing short of dull, pretentious heresy – tepid Pitchfork-house made by fair-weather drylanders and avant-pseuds, and about as fun as a dick in a drawer. It’s a tired old discourse in dance music – the dancefloor versus headphones debate – and particularly so in this case: much ado about what is essentially electronica, albeit an abnormally propulsive variety.