Monkeytown is the third album from the Berlin duo, Gernot Bronsertand Sebastian Szary, aka Modeselektor. The duo first met nearly twodecades ago, at the height of the techno and rave scene, and theseinfluences are still very much palpable in this studio album, which isreleased on their own imprint. A real mishmash of ideas is offered,and on the whole, it’s mostly good. This approach is fresh and dynamic. Modeselektor try to avoid being pigeonholed to one particular dancegenre, and their collaborations with a diverse range of artists augments this further.
The album begins well, with the uplifting techy beats of BlueClouds. Shipwreck stars Radiohead front man Thom Yorke, gently warbling over a pacey backdrop, and is a real grower. It is a cut that Yorke’s current fan base will be liable to pick up on and enjoy, more so than the second collaboration, This, which uses shards of Yorke’s vocals over a slightly moody techno cut.
Highlights include Evil Twin with its pure acid bass and vocodered lyrics of Otto von Schirach providing a trace of unease. German Clap will easily take control of a busy dance floor with its fiercely thumping bass line, interspersed with infectious melodic aspects. Berlin features Miss Platnum, who debuted on the Sonar Kollektiv label several years ago. This Romanian-German songstress is a high-calibre vocalist, and the collaboration sees her soulful vocals spliced over a heavy downbeat track, designed to get heads nodding.
The lower points include Humanized, a chaotic, energetic track that just doesn’t work, featuring Anti Pop Consortium. Green Light Go starts well with its ’80s synth-pop semantics, but sadly overdoses on the vocoder. Pretentious Friends utilises more of a rap feel, and features LA-based rapper Busdriver getting slightly satirical over a distorted, wobbling bass line; the track comes across as slightly puerile, but does prove this duo do still have a sense of humour.
War Cry is excellent way to end the excursion, and is a collaboration with Modeselektor’s fellow countryman, Apparat. Using a sample from a military academy exercise chant, War Cry is then superbly melded onto an uplifting techno track that is lush and distant-gazing. Although it can lunge somewhat awkwardly from genre to genre, the album manages to encompass many of the better elements of current dance music. Monkeytown is definitely an intriguing and thoughtful project, and improves with each listen.