Modeselektor have had their fingers in all flavours of pies in the past few years, but it seemed like the Berlin duo moved from lovably kooky oddballs to scene-spanning stalwarts pretty much overnight. Their Modeselektion compilation showcased a wide-ranging taste, pulling exclusive tracks from what felt like every prominent dance music producer on both the "bass" and techno sides of the divide. And you can hear how it has seeped into their productions right from the beginning on their third album—their first on their own Monkeytown label instead of BPitch Control—when "Blue Clouds" coasts to life on hollow drums that sound more like the distinct techno of Cosmin TRG than anything on last album Happy Birthday! With gorgeous meanders into skyward-gazing synth territory, it's very typically so many things at once.
But really, Monkeytown as a whole is "so many things at once" too. Instead of sprawl it feels like Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are more deadly accurate than they've ever been, jumping from idea to idea and nailing nearly everything they try. Harsher, electro-tinged tracks like "Evil Twin" and "Humanized" recall their earlier work, but then they're doing the best Night Slugs-style tracks this side of, uh, Night Slugs, with quirky and smooth instrumentals like "German Clap" or the bleepy "Grillwalker." No matter what contemporaries they might be aping, the duo rarely sound like anything but themselves. Monkeytown is Modeselektor dressing up contemporary ideas in their own defiantly angular outfits, and it's usually more thrilling than the people they might be gleaning inspiration from in the first place.
The album is heavy on the vocal tracks, but the duo pick their vocalists carefully and cater to them equally cautiously. Radiohead's Thom Yorke makes a return appearance here on two tracks, but unlike the IDM-ish "White Flash" from the last time around, it feels like the two are going out of their way to make songs that actually sound like Yorke's band. As a result, "Shipwreck" is possibly the best Radiohead track since "Reckoner," all spidery guitars and scattered rhythms. Warp's PVT make a dramatic appearance on "Green Light Go," Miss Platnum emotes all over "Berlin" and is in turn torn and twisted by the duo's slap-happy antics, and Canadian rapper Busdriver's harsh cadence is unnaturally stretched over a glitching bulldozer of a beat.
These are prominent guest spots, and sure to garner Monkeytown some extra attention outside of whatever underground dance circuit might already embrace them; but the duo don't rely on namepower, and the fact that the singer of one of the world's most famous rock bands is all over two of these tracks feels more like status quo than any kind of special event. The same goes for Monkeytown itself—Bronsert and Szary rarely break the mould here but it's instead one of the most accessible and effortlessly enjoyable dance music albums of the year.
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Tracklist: Modeselektor - Monkeytown 01. Blue Clouds
02. Pretentious Friends feat. Busdriver (Emergency Call by Pillow Talk)
03. Shipwreck feat. Thom Yorke
04. Evil Twin feat. Otto von Schirach
05. German Clap
06. Berlin feat. Miss Platnum
08. Greenlight Go feat. PVT
09. Humanized (Instrumental) feat. Anti Pop Consortium
10. This feat. Thom Yorke
11. War Cry feat. Sascha Ring