No Way as Way
II is the obviously named second full-length album from Moderat, the German duo comprised of Sebastian Szary of Modeskeletor and Apparat, the pseudonym of Sascha Ring that close followers may recognize from his recent Krieg und Frieden theatrical score project. This musical brain-link, as is often the case, forms something that neither artist could have come up with on his own. Moderat’s first album was lauded for its blend of unique beauty and catchy song structures and the artists continue along these lines with II. The album opens on a rainy day interlude that leads straight into “Bad Kingdom,” a punchy IDM track that gives off an unusually sobering message: this is not what you wanted.
Whether you wanted it or not, II offers up something interesting to listen to. Sound textures play a strong role in the music here, putting out a fuzzy analog sound loaded up with reverb that stays warm even while the songs and lyrics themselves are often cold at heart. One of the nice things about II is that it doesn’t get lost in those textures. It’s a work with a precisely considered, yet loosely held, structure. After a few tracks that hover around ambient pop and R&B tendencies, Moderat moves into “Milk” as the fifth track on the album. It’s been said that fifth tracks hold a special significance on good albums. They are often the defining tracks– the centerpieces. “Milk” is exactly that.
At just under ten minutes with nary a sung or spoken word, “Milk” takes its time with a slow buildup of subtly glitchy disco rhythms that go from quiet to medium-loud, eventually getting drowned in layers of fuzzy melody. In nature, not everything has a climax. Rainstorms gain momentum and then fade away before anything really happens. There’s no instant gratification here, and maybe no gratification at all. It’s just a long moment that is very easy to enjoy. That naturalistic anti-structure is at the heart of II. Buildups don’t necessarily lead into climaxes. The energy of the music regularly dissipates as quickly or as slowly as it grows. A lack of structure is its structure. Moderat has made a solid album of artfully catchy IDM that goes its own way at its own pace.