The plan agreed over a decade ago by German DJs Gernot Bronsert and Sebastien Szary (Modeselektor) and electronic solo artist Sascha Ring (a.k.a Apparat) to collaborate together as Moderat is continuing to pay rich dividends in 2016. The new album, simply titled III, sees them refine and recalibrate their sound, resulting in a consistency throughout that was possibly absent on their previous two albums. By doing so, it gives credence to the idea that Moderat are no longer simply a collaborative project but now a proper group in its own right with Apparat’s trademark warmth and ruminative soundscapes tempering and complimenting Modeselektor’s hard-edged techno flourishes. Modeselektor, in turn, bring heft and a sense of fun and urgency to Apparat’s craft. And yet, despite the complexities that such an arrangement may bring, there is still a sense of adventure in the music which is present also in a packed Vicar Street.
The three Berliners don’t go in for the disengaged presence so beloved of many electronic artists, in fact they are surprisingly goofy as they speak to each other in heavily-accented German that no one in the audience can make out. Their onstage personas seem at odds with their cerebral and richly textured music and retina-popping visuals. At various points, piercing laser beams criss-cross the stage giving a weird, cage-like 3D effect while an ultra-HD screen behind the band show images of fiery plains, celestial eclipses and comic-strip graphics, played out with such breathtaking synchronicity with the music that it can, at times, become pleasingly overwhelming. It’s astonishingly slick and brilliantly executed but it would not work so efficiently if the songs didn’t match. And they do.
Much of the set is heavy on cuts from the excellent new album with ‘Reminder’ and ‘Running’ being particular stand-outs but the biggest cheers are for ‘Bad Kingdom’ and ‘A New Error’, two older tracks which have quickly become classics in their canon. Moreover, they don’t stick rigidly to the recorded versions, with some of the songs being elongated or reimagined in a live setting, lending them a pounding hedonism that briefly turns Vicar Street into what might resemble a sweaty all-nighter in deepest Berlin. And that’s the genius of Moderat: they know the pummelling beats will soon bore the music-savvy crowd who want something a tad more dynamic and contemporary when it comes to electronic music and that’s what Moderat provide, whether on record or, as they resolutely confirmed tonight, in a live setting. In a word, extraordinary.