How do you give your record that distinct, sought-after Berlin sound? If you’re production powerhouse trio Moderat – the mighty combination of Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring) – then holing up in a studio during the city’s obscenely harsh winters seems to work a treat.
“It’s a Berlin-during-a-f*cked-up-winter album,” confirms Sascha, describing the trio’s new ‘II’ LP (Clash review). “That’s the blueprint of how you make records in Berlin: you never leave the house because it’s so disgusting outside.”
But that’s not to say the functionally titled second album from the German outfit is a dark, harsh affair. If anything, it’s a marbled mixture of bright, deep pop-tinged electronica and icy, downtempo instrumentals. It’s bold and huge-sounding, but markedly different to Moderat’s first record, ‘I’.
It’s also an album on which you can hear the results of three people working together as a band. “Band”: not a word you’d really associate with the wonky tech-hop of Modeselektor or Apparat’s atmospheric electronics, but definitely one that sits with Moderat.
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Moderat – ‘Bad Kingdom’, from ‘II’
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“It’s the reason this record sounds slightly different,” says Sascha, “because the other record was more like putting our ideas together and compiling them, and now it was more like, ‘Okay, let’s make a band record. Let’s not invite people, it’s just us.’ And that’s why it’s maybe a little more focused.”
But let’s be clear: band record or not, ‘II’ is still very much an electronic work from three top-notch producers. Tracks like ‘Versions’, with its almost-2-step and blissed-over synth wash, and the rolling, sunrise-inviting ‘Milk’ sit next to vocal-led songs like the melancholy underwater jam of ‘Let In The Light’.
Overall, there is a surprising tenderness to the record, and many tracks express themselves through strength of songwriting rather than dancefloor riffing. But when asked if there is a techno influence on the record, all three affirm without hesitation. “Of course,” says Gernot, “there’s no way around it.”
By all accounts, ‘II’ was not an easy record to make. Like any band worth its salt, Moderat encountered various creative tensions during the recording process from contrasting ways of working, but these personality clashes ended up providing the album’s energy.
“It didn’t just help, it was the reason for the music and actually the source,” says Gernot.
“It was a little painful, but very useful,” confirms Sascha. Much like the unforgiving Berlin winter.
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Moderat – ‘Rusty Nails’, from ‘I’
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Words: Tristan Parker
Photo: Samuel John Butt
This interview is taken from the Electric Selection of issue 87 of Clash magazine – details on the issue, including purchase links, can be found here
Find Moderat online here
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