Collaborations and side projects are fraught propositions in the music business, especially if those involved have difficulty letting go of their previously constructed artistic identities, but when they work they can offer something that transcends the simple sum of the constituent parts. Moderat, the collaborative project of Berlin electronic music acts Apparat, the stage name for Sascha Ring, and Modeselektor, the production duo of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, has seen both sides of this coin, with the trio taking a six year hiatus between releasing their first EP, Auf Kosten der Gesundheit (which translates from German as At the Expense of Health), and their debut LP, simply titled Moderat, due to disagreements over how to work and their artistic vision.
In the seven years since overcoming their differences and releasing that eponymous LP, Moderat have been steadily releasing music culminating in III, which exists as a record of a group whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts: in short these are the sounds of a band in its own right. Opening track, Eating Hooks, is a very pleasing work of minimal electro-pop that has a nuance and quality that isn’t adequately conveyed by that description. And in many ways that ineffability extends to the entire album, with III being focussed more on mood and atmospherics than on hooks and dancefloor anthems, and familiar elements are combined, not so much in unexpected ways, but with such subtle twists and artistry as to become new again.
The syncopated percussion of lead single, Reminder, combines with a pulsing bass and Ring’s delicate vocals to drive the song towards the swelling synth chorus in a way that is neither surprising nor expected. Finder uses its five minutes twenty to explore repetition and variation in a compelling way, turning the popular criticism of electronic music – namely that it is repetitious – on its head. Instrumental piece, Animal Trails, has a pace and energy that sits at odds with the rest of the album, which admittedly can border on the overwrought – as on Reminder – or take a little too long to get to the point – as with Ghostmother – but it does feel as though it was included in this collection as one last concession to artistic differences. Ethereal, is well selected to conclude III as, sonically, it captures the essence of III and the word ethereal itself encapsulates the mood and ambience of the record.