Reviewed by: Geno Thackara
If it’s true that some of the best art can come from tension and conflict, it’s also true that good things can come from moving past it. Things didn’t exactly go smoothly when Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary (aka Modeselektor) first joined forces with Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) in the early ’00s. At a glance they seem to occupy pretty different spots in the electronica world; the duo has an aggressively eclectic taste for quirky body-moving EDM while Ring’s career has drifted towards more ambient meanderings. The pairing could have fizzled out with only a quick mess of an EP at the start, but since then they’ve managed to keep meeting up every three or four years with increasingly compelling results.
That’s not to say the music itself is entirely tension-free. After only a couple minutes Ring is murmuring about “eating the hooks that tear me” amid bleak washes of chill-house, which makes an appropriately ambivalent start for the whole thing. You can file the album’s overall tone under chill, both in the sense of winding down after the rave and feeling the occasional cool breeze to give you a little shiver. Under it all their odd blend of actual songwriting with formless experimentation stays intact. This time the balance has shifted more towards recognizable hooks and choruses than ever, but the real draw of Moderat is the aural experience. It’s a web of sensual electronics with a rich breadth of detail, like a series of colorful night-sky aurora paintings turned into sound.
You don’t really listen to an album like III so much as immerse yourself in it. The exotic bed of beats is constantly restless, pulsing and whirling like a living organism. Quiet psychedelia sits cozily right alongside skittering glitchtronica or dreamy trip-hop. Words and noises can stay barely on the edge of hearing or echo like a classic club single. Whether they’re going for bouncy or trippy, there’s always something to keep your ears happily occupied. It’s one for late hours and dim lights, especially if you might not mind some uneasy dreams.