Moderat – ‘II’

06.08.13 Words by: Aimee Cliff

When it comes to the second album from project portmanteau Moderat, there’s no topping Milk. It’s the fifth and best track of twelve that include two ambient interludes, a couple of vocal intrusions from aft end collaborator Apparat (aka Sascha Ring) and hedonic focus from Gernot Bonsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor. Like their self-titled debut full-length in 2009, 'II' is a ponderous stitching of elements that, as far as combined aesthetic concentration on a single song is concerned, works – but really doesn’t when applied to the track listing as a whole. It could be the fact that Modeselektor and Apparat’s distinct dispositions don’t actually cohere in the track selection process, perhaps it’s the lack of an overarching album concept to unite them, or, that this is a record four years in the making by two sets of artists who’ve been busy with fatherhood, new labels and other bands. 

That’s not to say 'II' isn’t a decent record; it is, after all, the culmination of a shared electronic production experience spanning two decades, and you can hear it. But it also comes down to a listener’s individual tastes and, when you combine two aesthetics that seem so antithetical, it’s easy to create a split. On the one hand, there’s the thumping party hard vibe of Modeselektor, sprung from their early days of “post-wall” Berlin, the techno and house hedonism of the still newly liberated city informing the duo’s ecstatic uppers. On the other there’s Ring, with his textured pop epics and smartly dressed soundtracks with the likes of overwrought pop-industrialist Soap & Skin. Having the Midas touch when it comes to tangibility, he imbues the entire record with those deep sonic ruminations that define him as an artist; a knack for creating a truly affecting musical experience, made all the more potent since moving his oeuvre into sound design.

Released on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label (also the namesake of the duo’s acclaimed 2011 release featuring the likes of PVT and famous fan Thom Yorke) 'II' offers reams in terms of layered compositions and tantalising peculiarities. Where the organic synthesis of sounds makes for some arresting mutations on repeated listens – the distant reverb of Milk becoming rain, a repeated air horn sample on Bad Kingdom, a trumpeting elephant – it doesn’t offer much in terms of continuity overall. With no anchor to fully hold your attention, anything can become a distraction, whether it’s the mangled vocal samples and cinematic peaks of Let in the Light or the borderline New Age ambient cheese of Versions and Therapy (which, by the way, I love).

Perhaps if Milk hadn’t set such a lofty benchmark, with its hypnotic swell channelling Modeselektor’s dismantled and dispersed hip hop thrust burrowing through the soft veil of Ring’s abstract space-creation, it would be easier to come to terms with the rest of the album. But, on distilling its compulsive, uninterrupted movement into 10 hypnotic minutes and bringing the overall energy of 'II' to this single transcendent peak, it’s hard to come back down. 

6/10

Monkeytown released 'II' on the 5th August 2013.