Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Monkeytown
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
As countless indie rockers root around in Eighties synth pop, it's a relief to hear others advancing that decade's other great cybernetic subgenre: techno. Keeping grooves minimal but sonic detailing maximal, Modeselektor smear snarky flows by avant-rapper Busdriver and, on two tracks, colorize fragments of fan Thom Yorke's voice, whose falsetto conjures Billie Holiday as a disco diva on "Shipwreck." Elsewhere, "Blue Clouds" offers nothing but beat brilliance and sick synth morphs, which turns out to be enough. Listen to "Shipwreck": .
Modeselektor have had their fingers in all flavours of pies in the past few years, but it seemed like the Berlin duo moved from lovably kooky oddballs to scene-spanning stalwarts pretty much overnight. Their Modeselektion compilation showcased a wide-ranging taste, pulling exclusive tracks from what felt like every prominent dance music producer on both the "bass" and techno sides of the divide. And you can hear how it has seeped into their productions right from the beginning on their third album—their first on their own Monkeytown label instead of BPitch Control—when "Blue Clouds" coasts to life on hollow drums that sound more like the distinct techno of Cosmin TRG than anything on last album Happy Birthday! With gorgeous meanders into skyward-gazing synth territory, it's very typically so many things at once.
With their last couple of albums, Modeselektor have proved themselves artists with a range of far-flung good ideas that just can't seem to coalesce into one big concept. But if the Berlin duo has never been entirely easy to categorize-- hip-hop with techno sensibilities or vice-versa, with recent forays into all-purpose et cetera-step (Modeselektion Vol. 01)-- it helps quite a bit that they've never been self-serious purists.
About a decade and a half into their career, and four busy years since the maximalist pleasure-seeking of 2007's Happy Birthday!, the Berlin-based knob-twiddlers of Modeselektor return, ditching Bpitch Control for their own Monkeytown label to release their third proper full-length, which shares the appropriately simian name of said imprint. As that title suggests, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary have not abandoned their characteristic, merrily deviant ways: monkeying with the staid conventions of German techno, muddling the lines of genre and good taste, and enlisting a motley assortment of co-conspirators to assist them in these deeds. As with earlier efforts, Monkeytown filches fitfully from glitch, techno, IDM, hip-hop, rave, bass music, and (more prominently here) dreamy, textural electro-pop, often seemingly sequenced for maximum disorientation.
In a city like Los Angeles, one is likely to end up catching sight of a celebrity from a distance, perhaps as said celebrity is doing a photo shoot or just strolling by to get some food. Snapshots are taken, stories are told, but all in all, these sightings aren’t tantamount to getting first billing in a movie star’s film. But it is interesting to fathom what the reaction of the people partying it up at The Low End Theory club last March was to discovering that their guest DJ was Radiohead front man Thom Yorke.
Although they hail from Berlin's dance scene, Modeselektor are far from a typically Teutonic techno outfit. They can do hard'n'fast perfectly well, as tracks such as "Evil Twin" attest. But this duo's assured, accessible third album builds upon their reputation as omnivorous digital stylists. "Shipwreck" finds Modeselektor super-fan Thom Yorke intoning against a relentless, effusive rhythm, while elsewhere US rappers spit over rubbery bass pulses.
For much of the past decade, Modeselektor have functioned as the jokers in the austere Berlin techno pack, their IDM-to-crunk genre-hopping playfulness a useful counterpoint to the serious minimalism that surrounded them. This scattershot eclecticism sits a little more easily in 2011 – as does the latest sound they appropriate, the woozy synths and slowed tempos of the UK bass scene. Despite their titles, Berlin and German Clap could both have conceivably come out of London; Miss Platnum's charismatic vocals enliven the former, but the latter is a flat Night Slugs imitation.
Man and machine perfectly aligned, this is one of the best dance albums of 2011. Matthew Bennett 2011 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.