If you haven’t heard of Moderat by now, then it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Their second full-length album, Moderat II, is a stunning release that sees them firmly cementing their place, having seemingly settled the teething problems encountered in their formative years.
Moderat is a collaboration between Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, and Modeselektor’s duo Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary. Their first EP was released way back in 2002 but it wasn’t until the release of their first LP, simply titled Moderat, in 2009 that the band really gained recognition. Of course, both Apparat and Modeselektor were known by then, and since the first Moderat album both have had releases under their respective monikers.
Moderat II builds on what they achieved with their first LP and seems to be the fruits of a more symbiotic relationship between the three. While Moderat seemed to be either/or, their new album shows just how well these three can work as a creative unit, their product now being greater than the sum of its parts.
The album kicks off with a brief ambient interlude, which bears all the hallmarks of the trio’s trademark sounds, though here these are merely hinted at, saturated under layers of reverb and filters. When the album finally kicks off proper it’s with the pulsating bass and R&B vocals of ‘Bad Kingdom’, which is possibly the albums most commercial track – its verse/chorus structure adhering to a convention rarely seen in electronic music these days.
After that the album begins to delve a little deeper, as the floating synths of ‘Versions’ drift high above the infectious beat and sub-bass. It’s hard to describe, but this is the kind of middle ground that the group seem to have found; a new, distinct sound that pervades the rest of the album.
‘Let the Light In’ is a moment of downbeat ambience before the full on 4/4 of ‘Milk’ kicks in. At over 10 minutes, ‘Milk’ is a slow-burning house track that gradually builds over the course of the song, coaxing the listener in with waves of side-chained synth pads before the beat really hits around the five-minute mark.
‘Therapy’ is one of the standout tracks and opens with a beautifully melancholic chord progression before being joined by repeating vocal samples and that trademark lead synth that fritters overhead. Ring’s influence is apparent here, recalling his work on Walls from 2007, or even Moderat’s earlier tracks like ‘Seamonkey’.
After ‘Ilona’, which is the heaviest track on the album, the tone once again moves back towards that ambient middle ground that dominates throughout. ‘Damage Done’ reprises those melancholic minor chords of ‘Therapy’, while Sascha’s vocals are almost reminiscent of Phil Collins (in a good way), when he jumps up an octave for the second chorus before the become lost in a sea of swirling textures and overdriven guitars.
The closing track seems to encapsulate all that went before and really shows how well the trio blend their individual talents into a cohesive whole. It’s nothing like Modeselektor, or Apparat for that matter. This is something new. Something great. They say it’s a band’s third album that makes or breaks them, but after Moderat II this is one group who look like they’re here for the long haul.