Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Musical math doesn’t always work like this, but sometimes something great + something great really does equal something great. So it goes with Moderat, a collaboration between Red Alert favorites Apparat and Modeselektor. The German electronic artists have long run in similar circles – their hub being Ellen Allien’s forward-thinking label BPitch Control – and initially collaborated on an EP all the way back in 2002-2003, before their respective careers swept them up, up and away.
They finally cooled their jets long enough to hit the studio for their self-titled debut, a creative process which Apparat has jokingly said (referencing that priceless album cover) was akin to punching himself in the face. To all outside appearances - and presumably inside appearances, too - the friends meshed quite well. Moderat doesn't set out to be a literal fusion between Apparat and Modeselektor; there are times when the pendulum swings and there are moments or even songs that wouldn't be out of place on a record by one or the other. When Paul St. Hilaire drops in for a freaked-up guest vocal on "Slow Match," the madcap Modeselektor-ness is set against a moody electro-backdrop. But the lines disappear and don't particularly matter; the lingering impression is that of a separate entity, informed by past work but not tethered to it (the same was true for Apparat's dynamite Orchestra of Bubbles collaboration with Allien).
Paced perfectly and never lacking for variety, the all-analog Moderat could have been a riveting instrumental album, but some twists of fate led to a few guest vocals from reggae artists that push the sound in a different direction (the aforementioned appearance by St. Hilaire, as well as one by Dellé aka Eased from Berlin's Seeed). Apparat himself steps to the mic for a few nice turns, including a plaintive vocal on "Rusty Nails," which has a dubstep feel sure to appeal to fans of Burial. The collision of styles makes it a hard album to pin down on first listen; impressively, the track sequencing manages to make sense of it all. There's some traditional peak-hour stuff, but it's not an album that's confined to a single mood or a single time in the night. Instead, it's the sort of collaboration that sounds like it inspired a fair bit of liberation from expectation. It's an immersive, thrilling ride.
Take heed, Statesiders and Canadians: Moderat will be playing a handful of shows in May:
May 19 - Seattle (Neumos)
May 20 - San Francisco (Harriet)
May 22 - Los Angeles (Palladium)
May 23 - Denver (Beta)
May 25 - Boston (Paradise)
May 27 - Chicago (Bottom Lounge)
May 28 - Montreal (Mutek)
May 29 - Toronto (Circa)
May 30 - New York (Webster Hall)