Suddenly all our instrumentalists appear to be going vocal – and now it’s the turn of Apparat to discover his inner voice. Sascha Ring has been making albums under this guise for seven years, pointed mostly towards exquisitely voiced and orchestrated techno – but now he moves to the front, checking his pace as he does so.
The Devil’s Walk is a slow one – and for the most part it is a sombre experience. Yet there are other forces at work here, and Apparat – a quartet now that Ring’s time is mostly taken up with vocals – reaches a higher level of expression. Not just through superior orchestration, either, but with a depth of feeling that means voice and backing are ideally aligned.
The Song of Los and Black Water are especially winsome. “Losing our voices for the day” is the key line of the former, over a slightly restless beat and a fulsome bass, but it’s Black Water that wins over even the most hardened heart with its light falsetto and gorgeous backdrop, the shoegaze influences bursting through into the light over a slow, steady tread.
The sombre tone remains, but there is some urgency of rhythm in Candil de la Calle, which suggests Ring has mastered the art of edgy breakbeats, while a hypnotic pulse and throb runs through Ash/Black Veil. Some of the instrumentation in the latter carries as much emotion as Ring’s voice, which at times gets distracted from its subject, with a bit too much air.
The more lavish soundscapes, moving slowly against the twinkling stars, are the sonic equivalent of a warm bath, providing music to dive into and lose yourself in. Ring also offers plenty of room around each track, with sound effects that suggest advancing, Eno-esque weather systems in sound. Yet by offering some edgier sounds as the album progresses Ring keeps us on our toes, hinting at the prospect of more movement that is sometimes attained but never fully realised.
The accusations for The Devil’s Walk, perhaps inevitably, will be that Ring has sold out by coming out from behind the keyboard stack. Yet he acquits himself extremely well here, giving his songs an extra platform of expression without compromising on his essential style of writing. Try it once and you’ll be back for more – even if you’re a long term convert to the beautifully sculpted world of Apparat.