Moderat is an on-off project from Berlin bass duo Modeselektor and ambient experimenter Apparat, and you certainly get what you’d expect from the partnership. Their first, self-titled album from 2009 (the one with the cartoon of a woman punching herself in the face on the cover) pulled off a nifty synthesis of the dreamy, introspective aesthetic favored by Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, and the boom-driven, report-to-the-dancefloor values of Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary.
Moderat was as succinct a summary of the magnetic Berlin sound as you could wish for: clean, beautiful, pulsing with energy and wildly promiscuous, drawing in everything from glitch to hip-hop to dancehall to the ghosts of ambient prog. Almost five years later, Ring, Bronsert and Szary remain in restless magpie mode for this second album, adding abrasive electronic R&B textures, soulful, post-Frank Ocean human voices and especially the midnight clatter and throb of dubstep to their ever-changing scheme of things. The album’s signature track “Bad Kingdom” transplants the snap and bounce of a daytime radio pop-soul hit into the echoing no-space inhabited by Burial or Shackleton; the epic 10-minuter “Milk” is minimal house with a glittering dubstep sheen; “Let In The Light” is a slow jam so thoroughly zonked on shoegazing energies that it dissolves into bleary bliss. Most striking of all is the scale — everything here is big.
Though their lineage is in the febrile worlds of dance and electronica, Moderat have created some surprisingly immediate 21st-century pop music that’s as accessible to people who never venture into dark and noisy spaces as it is to the obsessive crate-digger and subgenre freak. It’s a bit of a triumph.