Ring just seems to know how to bring out the best in others. To wit: his collab disc with Ellen Allien, Orchestra of Bubbles, showed us a side to everyone's favorite Berlinette that was warmer and sexier than she usually allows. Likewise, Apparat's BFF track with Luomo off last year's Convivial revealed a Sasu Ripatti that was pleasantly conventional—comfortable working within an almost verse-chorus structure, with vocals that had time to breathe before getting chopped into wisps of syllable vapor.
Enter Moderat, the name given in to the Apparat-Modeselektor team up first seen on 2002's glitchy Auf Kosten Der Gesundheit courtesy of BPitch. Now, after what the accompanying press release claims was "a battering of verbal abuse," Ring has reunited with fellow Krauts Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary for a self-titled Moderat full-length. The music that pops out the other end of the BPitch Control sausage factory is messy, at times grating, but for the most part, a tour de flavor worthy of the English mustard.
Opener "A New Error" is a warm, chromatic splash that keeps adding the right bits until it's ready to explode with stomping rhythm and brassy synth pulp. Soon after, "Seamonkey" takes the same set of tools and sinks them to compelling benthic depths. "Slow Match" sounds more like what I expect from Modeselektor: dubby beats, grime-smeared vocals from old-school Basic Channel accomplice Paul St. Hilaire emerging from the shadows—all cartoony Batman posturing, not too much substance. It benefits from Apparat's sense of mature texturing, but still, not much in the repeat listen department here.
Later tracks, like "No. 22," "Porc #1" and "Sick with It," (with vox from someone named Eased who is apparently famous in the fatherland for being in a band called Seeed) show the tug-of-war between Apparat's minimal embroidery and Modeselektor's pirate radio shenanigans. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and frankly it's mostly both. Compelling string loops battle with canned dubstep gestures, and oftentimes, both sides sound weaker for it.
"Porc #2" sheds the fat and finds its stride in a huge way, laying down a foundation of martial drum loops and a lapping wave of white noise under a soaring sky mansion of far-off vox and strings. The last 20 seconds dissolve into an unexpectedly moist digital realm. The whole thing is the balls.
Album closer "Out of Sight" pickpockets a Burial bass-drum stumble and rides it to Moantown on Apparat's own wistful musings of (what sounds like) "We were pushed into pieces / We were scattered into the night." It comes across as a bit of a thesis statement-cum-apology for the record. It is a collision of two somewhat incompatible aesthetics, it is a marriage of varying levels of maturity and volume. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. My bias rears: I think Apparat makes much smarter music than Modeselektor; however, there are times when he certainly benefits by getting his hands dirty with party music. Fans of Happy Birthday! will find this disc a little self-serious and boring like a lecture on semiotics and fans of Walls will be like "Kids, keep it down, it's a weeknight." But if you're somewhere in the middle—like, er, a moderate—Moderat might be porridge that's just right.