Moderat craft a dystopian work of art with new album ‘III’ [Review]
Moderat‘s sound is reminiscent, stylistically, of a high contrast image, the shadowy bass of Modeselektor never quite blending with Apparat‘s aloof pop highlights. Together, the German trio create songs that are heavily influenced by some of the most acclaimed names in music: Radiohead, Burial, and Four Tet, to list a few. Impassioned yet distant, dramatic yet subdued, and dark yet somehow also enlightened, Gernot Bronsert, Sebastian Szary, and Sascha Ring cast aside any residual leftovers from their sound in order to give way to the musical vision behind Moderat.
The group’s first EP came ominously titled Auf Kosten Der Gesundheit, German for “At the Cost of Health,” and was followed by a six year stretch before the release of their eponymous debut album. This offering led Moderat to find a home in their sound, striking a delicate balance between the obscure and easy-listening. With their subsequent album, II, the group let a little air slip in from Apparat’s side, inflating the songs ever so slightly to give off a more whimsical feel. This is a feeling that trickled down to their latest release, III, but not in the same manner as before.
In III, the trio push the proverbial envelope ever further, producing a refined body of work that is stitched together by the wide use of Ring’s vocals. There’s a certain sacrosanct quality that runs throughout the album, as Moderat explore the more organic possibilities of sound.
Opening with a minute of ambient fluttering before giving way to the meat of “Eating Hooks,” Moderat immediately cast listeners back into the bleak universe created in the video for “Reminder.” This mournful, dystopian theme holds strong throughout the album, the second verse of the opening song proclaiming, “I’m walking back / Through my living hell / To eat the hooks that tear / Somehow I’m not scared of this.”
“Running” follows in a similar vein as Ring coos, “We try so hard / We try,” perhaps indicative of what the trio went through in order to arrive at their sound. Shifting slightly, the opening chord progression of “Finder” bears an uncanny resemblance to a slower version of Daniel Avery’s “Knowing We’ll Be Here,” but quickly assumes its own shape. The pace picks up a bit through “Ghostmother” and “Reminder,” then makes a melancholic descent with “The Fool” and “Intruder.” “Animal Trails” is an enigma, providing four minutes of thundering, glitchy distortions that seem out of place next to the delicate plucking of closing track, “Ethereal.”
As a collective unit, III acts as a window to the inner workings of Moderat’s arduous melodic process. Bronsert, Szary, and Ring have not kept secret the struggles that plagued their working relationship in the early stages — a common byproduct of attempting to unite two dissimilar entities. Rather than letting this act as a roadblock, however, Moderat have pushed through it (even at the cost of health) to create the dystopian alternative universe that is III. As the final piece rounding out the group’s trilogy of albums, it is only fitting then that Moderat have arrived back at the beginning, drawing influence from their professional struggles to create a somber, yet vastly alluring work of art.