A concise techno album full of bold ideas.
In fact, it will be surprising if there's a leaner dance floor album released this year. Who Else has eight tracks and lasts 35 minutes. Only one track breaks the five-minute mark, and most last between three and four minutes. But rather than making the record feel insubstantial, this mostly plays to Modeselektor's strengths. Like lots of the music they've released, this album hinges on the loud execution of bold ideas, and the snappy run-time means nothing is allowed to outstay its welcome. Tracks like "Prügelknabe," "WMF Love Song" and "I Am Your God" are bracingly hard, reaching new peaks of intensity for Modeselektor, but they're handled like controlled explosions. "Prügelknabe"'s militant 16th-note assault is assuaged by a strange, sad vocoder voice that drifts to nothing before the drums return for a brain-battering 20 seconds at the end.
Bronsert and Szary often try to combat against writing a "predictable techno record," as they put it, by attempting these kinds of switches and surprises. The best among these is "Fentanyl," where a snarling beat and synth combo eventually coheres into a deranged dancehall track that rivals Equiknoxx in its weirdness. "Wake Me Up When It's Over," the closer, is a sort of sleazy post-club ballad that suddenly chucks in a mangled jungle break, while an appearance elsewhere by the Estonian rapper Tommy Cash, who delivers sing-song verses over a beat that could be described as hard trance, is hardly standard issue for a Berlin techno record.
Some of these moments also represent the balance beam Modeselektor tread, with loveable fun on one side and outright silliness on the other. Tommy Cash is a good fit for the duo's outlandish style, but there's a point in the track where he's singing "blah, blah, blah" with a child choir accompanying him. The deliciously crisp arpeggio on "I Am Your God," meanwhile, is soiled by Otto Von Schirach's EBM-lite screams. But overall, big works best for the duo. "Wealth," which features the UK rapper Flohio, still feels like a good look for Modeselektor a couple of months after it came out, its seasick synths sounding like early Night Slugs. And "One United Power" is an apt title for a track that summarises what's good about Who Else—the synths are raucous, the production is sharp, and your mind jumps to what the track would do to a dance floor.