Moderat bring out the best of both worlds
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  May 19, 2009

COMBO SPECIAL: Moderat (Ring, Bronsert, and Szary) are like a carefully engineered blend of hard and soft, active and passive, Modeselektor and Apparat, that stays hot for hours.

It’s 4 pm in Berlin, and there’s still so much shit to do before tonight’s Moderat album release party at WMF — a transient dance club that recently reopened in an old furniture factory in the center of the old city. According to Gernot Bronsert (one third of Moderat, and one half of beloved multi-disciplinary German techno duo Modeselektor), the show (only their fourth) is still being “optimized.” Set-up for Moderat takes seven times longer than it does for Modeselektor: they’ve got three tables of electronics to hook up, multiple projectors to hang, a bunch of customized screens, a series of LED tubes, and a crew of six. Bronsert says that tonight will be “the biggest production any of us has ever done.” There are 600 people on the guest list.

In planning Moderat’s next four months (something like 65 shows, including one this Sunday at the Paradise), the group have had to school themselves on the baggage policies of several international airlines to accommodate their 660 pounds of ambition. (“The US counts the pieces, not the kilos — so I just have bigger cases,” says Bronsert.) It’s been an adjustment not just for their lower backs but for their egos.

Moderat’s recent debut full-length, Moderat (on Ellen Allien’s Bpitch Control), isn’t really their debut. In fact, after their actual debut — in 2002, the EP Auf Kosten der Gesundheit (“At the Cost of Health”) — fans of this surprise collaboration between Modeselektor (Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Berlin producer and Shitkatapult Records honcho Sascha Ring) assumed from the pervasive rumors of studio tension and the implications of the album title that this mixture was destined not to be repeated.

Bronsert plays down the drama as largely imagined. “We’re great friends. But Sascha lives in a different musical world than us. He hates hip-hop, hates dubstep. We’ve always had musical borders, but we love making music together.” A shared love of “gear and girls” was often enough to bridge the gap between Modeselektor’s hard-edged, champagne-spraying freneticism and Apparat’s reliably lighter, dreamier trip — but it made for an arduous process in the studio. Ring was constantly pleading for less crush in the bass, Bronsert always wanted everything to speed up. Hours were spent debating the merits of a single hi-hat.

“Each one of us could have just made a record of our own, you know?” Bronsert acknowledges. “It’s not like a band with a classic set-up — we’re all producers.” As such, each one came in with drives full of forgotten clips, orphaned loops, and assorted scraps of audio. The assembly process was far from fast and loose, but in offering up little bits of himself, each producer was contributing something at once wholly new yet oddly private.

Bronsert still hears “happy hours and arguments” more than the songs themselves when he plays them. Certainly the songs carry the distinctive scents of their makers: “Seamonkey” has the high heart rate of median Modeselektor; “Porc#1” and “Porc#2” have a fuller, gauzier Apparat-itude to them. But on those numbers where this team-up really pays off, like single “Rusty Nails,” the collaboration sounds effortless — like a carefully engineered blend of hard and soft, active and passive, Modeselektor and Apparat, that stays hot for hours.

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