Moderat II Cover

Moderat’s first full-length affair, their self-titled Moderat, was nearly a decade in the making. Having started out playing shows together while still under their separate monikors – Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring) they would perform “synchronized computer jams” incorporating bits of analog kit and speculating about how to evolve their creative processes as well as their gear. They initially made an EP released on the reputable German techno label BPitch Control in 2002 and it took seven years to “recover” and produce what had to have been one of the most-anticipated albums of 2009.

After some squabbles and claims about no longer working together, their careers took them in separate directions for some time until early 2013 when the trio announced, to some surprise, a new Moderat collaboration. It took a reported six months of holing up in a dark studio to produce the work that would become II; a dark, beautiful, sonically and texturally refined, introspective journey.

It may have not taken as long as their previous effort to produce, but it created at least as much hype and even more of a pay-off. In certain ways, the influence of club music’s popular evolution seems prevalent. Where their first collection of tracks inflected cinematic atmospheres and analog grit, II seems to utilize dancier dynamics (shuffle rhythms, bigger build ups, pitch-shifted vocals/sample-editing) in more subtle ways to create more technically as well as creatively mature/advanced ways to invoke moods and pleasing spaces. For all its tonal color and slick production, II feels uniquely 2013 but, is hardly what you’d expect and it doesn’t end there.

The group released “Bad Kingdom” the album’s first single in June of this year to widely positive reception and more hype. The single was accompanied by a video produced by German art collective Pfadfinderei whose visual tale of a man lost in a greedy big world and more deeply his own regret, cleverly hints at the mood of the whole adventure.

The first time I heard II, I was barbequeing on a Sunday afternoon and a friend of mine played it for me, and made me guess who it was. He explained that it was a leaked copy of a new album from a group, a trio, that I was really excited about. Upon hearing that it was a leaked copy from a group I like and would otherwise presume wait to hear until I could get my hands on it physically, I obliged, reluctantly, without knowing who it was.  I’d figured it out some way through “Bad Kingdom,” which would have been released right around then, and after hearing it, my anticipation multiplied times over.

The arrival of Moderat’s II on August 2nd brought a feeling of excitement I haven’t experienced waiting for the release of a full-length record in some time. The ensuing journey is more than worth the wait. The quick arrival of “Bad Kingdom” is immediately familiar with its uniquely Sascha Ring-vocals, a bass-line only Modeselektor could produce, not-quite-too anthemic chorus and accessibly moodiness.

Versions” is impactful from the moment it begins – atmospheric synths open up to a shuffle that sounds as if coming from the other side of the room, slowly creeps its way front and center to make an interesting contradiction; the plaintively danceable tune. It’s hard not to enjoy as it moves on through the sunny, sleepy afternoon of a song- “Let In The Light.”

What becomes interesting to ponder as the record moves on is the elements you assume to be one creative party or another. Often the rhythms seem to come from the more (ostensibly German) party-friendly Modeselektor boys. A lot of the time their Monkeytown state of mind seems difficult to deny, but then there’s Sascha’s sensitive, moody, occasionally pitch-shifted voice and brilliantly introspective lyrics.

Gita” offers an intimate, dreamy and altogether subtle hint at what has to be the summation of the album. It’s both rhythmically and melodically interesting and is probably one of Ring’s most emotive vocal performances shaped fantastically by the production technique with little natural space to it until the backing harmonies come in much later. It may not be the biggest or deepest highlight of the record, but it seems to encapsulate its larger, prettier direction.

Ilona” is a dark and huge trip back to Moderat’s older feel. A fast tempo beat with noisey and ambient clicks takes us careening into an eerie and spacious foreign place. I can hear this one becoming absolutely transcendent on a large system, which makes me hope they play it out on tour.

It’s not difficult to imagine these pieces of music accompanying some alone time walking around pretty much any part of Germany and you almost have to think the artists’ collective solitude during their creative process has everything to do with that. One of the most interesting things about Moderat is that they are a seemingly unlikely production trio, but that once you’ve heard their music, it makes perfect sense. II is one of the most interesting and captivating sonic adventures produced this year. I wouldn’t just recommend checking out – I almost have to command you to.

And, if you’re in one of the handful of cities they will be stopping in on tour this season, you should absolutely see them. The creative collective Pfadfenderei who has done the group’s artwork on both or their albums and crafted the music video for “Bad Kingdom” and will be providing visuals on tour with Moderat. It is sure to be an amazing performance.

Moderat’s II available now on Monkeytown and iTunes.

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