Album Review: Moderat, “II”By John Wenzel | August 6th, 2013 | 2 comments
Moderat seems like it shouldn’t work. The group is the combination — in name and personnel — of German electro acts Apparat and Modeselektor. The former is better known for its experimental pop and the latter for its chilly, spasm-inducing production work.
Still, Moderat’s 2009 self-titled debut oozed charisma and appeal, taking sideways circuit-board skronk and adding infectious beats and damaged melodies. It evoked the feel of late-night European city that was both abandoned and dangerous, and it did it without resorting to hacky techno tricks.
“II” unfortunately falls into a few of those traps. It’s a different statement, to be sure, trading the insistence and bounce of the self-titled album for more contemplative and breathable spaces. And yet, the production also feels more claustrophobic, forcing listeners into a sonic bear-hug instead of holding them at comfortable arm’s length.
Single “Bad Kingdom” struts its R&B credentials with a verse that features Justin Timberlake-quality falsetto and a chorus dripping with George Michael’s rich, melodic soul. But many of the more mid-tempo tracks are light on ideas and texture, meditating on beats or sounds that aren’t all that interesting to start. It would be one thing if “II” was a straight-up ambient album, but splitting the difference between the occasional vocal-sampling track (“Gita”), gray-sky “interludes” like “The Mark” and “Clouded,” and go-nowhere traffic circles like “Versions” makes “II” feel less directed than its predecessor.
It’s got mood to spare, but like a forced piece of writing from an otherwise respected author, it overall comes off as stale and contrived, especially when we know the artist is capable of doing better.