Moderat might be the closest thing to superstardom that Berlin’s underground can legitimately offer. Formed from the shoegaze electronics of Apparat, aka Sascha Ring, and the twitching beats and bass rolls of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s Modeselektor, the trio have converged upon a binary force that spells out German Quality Assurance no matter which part of the electronic spectrum you call home.
Their Third album, III, on Monkeytown Records, peels away from the more clinical beats ‘n’ bass aesthetic of their eponymous 2009 debut, and to a lesser degree their follow-up album, II. The latest offering feels altogether more rugged, more feral, more philosophical.
Opener ‘Eating Hooks’ sets the tone. Apparat’s delicate words of “Meditation, medication / Eating the hooks that tear me,” sets about the merits of not just destroying your demons but turning them into friends. The theme continues with first single ‘Reminder’. “Burning bridges light my way,” Apparat sings, a song about facing up to life and your own choices and not to simply blame others.
There is a restlessness about the album, both musically and philosophically. ‘Running’, for example, rolls and stabs until the final minute, then lifts off into a hyperreal synth finale to the words, “So I keep on running” (a reference to the idea that a crowd of people is unable to determine its direction by itself) - one of the album's standout moments.
‘The Fool’ and ‘Ghostmother’ both throw up analogue start-stop grooves, the former a big melancholic bruiser, the latter a deep ballad-wrapped percussive roller - a song which, in keeping with the album, deals with the fear of the unknown.
As a whole the final three tracks feel like a three-part outro, the most intriguing of which is ‘Animal Trails’, quaking with intensity - an IDM scattergun approach to percussion, big piano stabs and dramatic vocal cries - a track which harnesses an electronic palette with the post-punk sentiment of Fuck Buttons.
III certainly feels like a new, more experimental approach for the trio, delivering a sound which is built to fully absorb over repeat listens.