The supergroup comprising Apparat and Modeselektor returns after a five-year hiatus with a project that lets their music do the talking
Sometimes a little time apart can do the world of good. Six years might be pushing it, but Moderat‘s return from a self-imposed creative hiatus breathes new life into their project. Few in the crowd at Berlin’s Kindl-Bühne Wuhlheide in September 2017 would have seen the trio’s final gig as anything other than a full stop, but over time – and crucially lockdown – their creative minds have refocused in the direction of working as a band once again.
It is worth remembering that they are effectively an electronic supergroup – a trio made up of both Modeselektor members, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, and Sascha Ring, better known as Apparat. They resumed their collaborative working in the face of touring restrictions brought on by the pandemic, and in Ring’s case songwriting proved an outlet for expressing feelings of anxiety. He quelled his fears for the future through music and taking his daughter for extended trips to museums in Berlin, while all three felt the force of technology overload, an increasingly common stimulus in songwriting these days.
The new album’s title MORE D4TA, a clever anagram to mark their fourth long player, starts part two of the Moderat project with some bare figures. Ten tracks, lasting 46 minutes and 33 seconds, with 494 words (many repeated), all adding up to a total of 490.6 MB. It really is as simple as that, the trio preferring to let their music do the talking as they hit the ground running.
Their standards remain reassuringly high. Easy Prey is a compelling early mood piece, wrestling with its feelings. “I’m with you but it’s hard to bear”, goes the poker-faced vocal. The sense of struggle through isolation is raw, both here and on the other vocal tracks, where economy of expression leads to thoughtful and far reaching statements.
The cross rhythms of Undo Redo back a moody obsession with repeated vocal couplets, describing a barren landscape of “shaded walks and empty malls” where “all that’s left had turned to dust”. “A crystal ball but all I saw was glass” is the final payoff. The vocals themselves have more than a hint of Depeche Mode about them at this point, a quality picked up by the next song Doom Hype. This beat-laden, semi-industrial backdrop is a widescreen beauty, as is the richly textured and anthemic More Love, shimmering in the half light above some sizeable, low slung breaks.
These contrast with the instrumentals, which if anything hit home harder. Drum Glow is superb, a wide-screen, brooding hulk of a track with a heavy footfall. Neon Rats is even better, its hypnotic loop leaving nothing behind in a quest for post-Orbital domination that proves to be wholly successful. It becomes the first track of three in a mini suite, with Soft Edit the ideal cushion from the dancefloor mayhem, its vocals immaculately layered. The instrumental Numb Bell completes the triptych, all three tracks rooted to the same pitch, but panning towards more distant horizons by the end.
The whole album is delivered with great assurance and feels instinctive, Moderat effortlessly rediscovering their mojo as a band. They may have had a break of half a decade from releasing music, but MORE D4TA proves they have never really been away.