Berlin band Moderat, are Sebastian Szary, Gernot Bronsert (of Modeselektor), and Sascha Ring (also known as Apparat). Under their respective pseudonyms, the trio have amassed accolades, wowed critics and built huge fanbases. As Moderat, the trio became a Berlin powerhouse, filling stadiums to bursting point with the heady combination of Apparat’s cool vocals and Modeselektor’s bold production pallette. Their music is too unique to be labeled as straight up pop, but at the same time, it’s influences are too ubiquitous to call it strict underground. The result is a sound that communicates across a wide spectrum – so it’s easy to understand Moderat’s success to date.
The imaginatively entitled ‘III’ (out now on Monkeytown), applies the adage ‘If it aint’ broke, don’t fix it’. ‘Eating Hooks’ opens the record reinstating the sound listeners have come to know and love. ‘Running’ injects energy with a bed of jolting chords and heavy beats. ‘Finder’ offers a sense of melancholy, surrounded by deep and dark electronics and pitched vocals that echo and reverberate to great affect. The track combines nuanced emotional resonance with bouncing, swung chords propped up by driving bass and drums – a very immersive stand out. ‘Ghostmother’ then delves into the half-time yet continues high levels of energy. There is generally a much wider scope to Moderat’s sound compared with previous releases.
The first single to be taken from the album, ‘Reminder’, sets the ante: minimalistic pent-up instrumentals explode into a powerful canny chorus. ‘The Fool’ switches things around. There’s a larger emphasis on space, creating a trance-like ethereal experience. It feels like an epic interlude. The momentous ‘Intruder’ contains characteristics of a stadium-filler pop/rock anthem. ‘Animal Trials’ offers some gritty, bold and decisive production, while ‘Ethereal’ taps into a tense sense of reflectivity, marking a solemn curtain call.
Heading in only one direction and making, for example, a club-filler house or techno track would have seemed pretty easy for a band like Moderat. Equally, given Apparat’s songwriting abilities, writing a pop-song with the intention of crossing over into the mainstream would have felt like a step backwards creatively. The real challenge here was for Moderat to make music that was both bold but also familiar, to push their creative boundaries but still satisfy fringe listeners.
‘III’ succeeds in this sense and is a forward thinking, lucid offering. There’s continuity in the styles and sounds on display here, but there’s also a sense that each track has its own unique message. Also, whereas many underground electronic albums are often only concerned with stretching out one sound to create one seamless listening experience, ‘III’ manages to glue individual moments into an overarching narrative of sound. There’s joy to be found when playing these songs out, but also when listening to individual tracks in isolation. Ultimately, ‘III’ is the perfect combination of catchy melodic pop and darker beat-heavy electronica, it’s an exciting evolution of the already much-loved Moderat.