Moderat: Moderat
BPitch Control

Perhaps Gernot Bronsert, Sebastian Szary, and Sascha Ring should pool their resources more often, if their eponymous Moderat (Modeselektor + Apparat) recording is a reliable indicator of their combined strength. It's not the first time the three have worked together; in 2002 they convened for an EP whose birth proved to be more exhausting than anticipated (reflected in the choice of title: Auf Kosten der Gesundheit, which translates as At the Cost of Health). A couple of years ago, Modeselektor and Apparat, each riding high with critically acclaimed releases (Happy Birthday! and Walls respectively), met by accident in Berlin and subsequently decided to give the project another whirl. Having lodged themselves within the legendary Hansa Studios (where Bowie recorded Heroes), the three proceeded to record the self-titled album in analog with the help of the studio's vintage tube technology and an old EMI console from 1972. Though the original plan was for it to be an all-instrumental album, Dellé (aka Eased) from German act Seeed wound up singing on “Sick With It,” which in turn prompted Ring to add his own voice to two songs, and Bronsert and Szary to exhume an old vocal recording by Paul St. Hilaire and work it into “Slow Match.” Throughout the album, synthetic arrangements and sweeping build-ups (similar to the kind heard on Apparat's Walls and his Orchestra of Bubbles collaboration with Ellen Allien) abound.

“A New Error” starts the album off promisingly if a tad unassumingly with a synthetic slab of pulsating schaffel-funk before the album's first peak arrives. “Rusty Nails,” with its Junior Boys-meets-Burial vibe, showcases Ring's silken croon to magnificent effect, suggesting that Moderat would have been wiser to have exploited his vocal gifts beyond a mere two songs (the closing “Out Of Sigh” revisits the formula in slightly less spectacular manner). Burial's obviously been on at least one of the artists' play-lists, judging by the snare crack-and-pounding kick drum combination that gives “Rusty Nails” and “Out Of Sigh” such elemental punch. Elsewhere, the bottom-feeding skank of “Slow Match” features a growling vocal by Paul St. Hilaire that's so low-pitched, it renders the Rhythm & Sound mainstay almost unrecognizable, while the muscular electro-throb and epic rumble of “Seamonkey” suggests Modeselektor at its blazing, club-ready best.

A few blanks are fired along the way, however. “3 Minutes Of” is little more than an ambient-and-electro bridge between more substantial offerings, and the aforementioned “Sick With It” turns out to be an underwhelming four minute exercise in radio-friendly banality. Truth be told, Moderat impresses less during its second half though the quality level picks up in its last two songs, the slinky club banger “No. 22” and “Out Of Sigh.” Regardless, the album's worth it for “Rusty Nails” and “Seamonkey” alone though it's a shame not all of it's at that same level.

May 2009