Ineffable sonic contortions
Sascha Ring likes to stay busy. For the better part of the last decade, he’s been occupied recording and touring with IDM supergroup Moderat (a collaboration between himself and acid house duo Modeskeletor). Unfortunately, they announced their indefinite hiatus in January of 2017. It seems that since then, Ring has turned his attention back to his solo project, releasing music under the moniker Apparat. It’s been six years since his last release, and any time an artist takes a significantly long break, they’re inevitably faced with heightened expectations once they return. But fans of his will be thrilled to discover that his newest offering, LP5, was well worth the wait.
It’s somewhat easier to describe these songs in visual terms than with the vocabulary that people usually use to discuss music. For instance, the opening track, “VOI_DO,” constructs a scene on the edge of a pier on an overcast day, and the gentle lapping of waves are occasionally intruded upon by the swooping and soaring of seagulls. Bit-crushed synth plucks echo atop a wavering expanse of ambient washes, while a sound that resembles an orchestra tuning up appears at random intervals. Apparat’s haunting vocals join the mix, and the rest of the sounds ebb and flow with the voice. The only instance of discernable percussion takes place near the end, fighting its way through layers of synthesized brass sounds.
The lead single from this album, “DAWAN,” is an incredible listen on its own, but within the context of the album, it takes on a new lush dimension. Synth washes and bell chimes abound as a rapidly pulsating kick drum gradually materializes. Snares and hi-hats join in to lay down a breakbeat-esque drum pattern, and Apparat’s layered falsetto vocals follow shortly after. About halfway through the song, everything except for the synth wash falls away, but a few moments later, the song returns with a renewed vigor and has brought with it a funky synth bassline. The drums are the real star here, largely in part due to the talents of guest contributor John Stanier (of Battles fame). They really kick in around the halfway point and continue with unrelenting ferocity until they suddenly disappear into a whirlwind of winding washes.
When it comes to an album that is this cohesive, it’s incredibly difficult to pick a standout track. But track seven, “CARONTE,” has an essence that just can’t be found on the rest of the album. It opens with some ice cold stabbing strings, which are then followed by percussive popping sounds which pan every which way. As the song begins to gain steam, Apparat warbles his way into the mix, doing his best Thom Yorke impression. Then, suddenly, the track breaks for an interlude: a wonderful floating passage guided by gentle guitar arpeggios. And without warning, we’re back to the A section, but now Apparat’s voice has been transmuted into a choir of vocoded sonic bliss. The strings build gradually and a cello makes itself apparent. As the song crescendos, a drum machine enters the picture along with a grimy bassline. The instrumentation from the interlude returns as the song builds towards the finale. It then slowly all falls apart until all that remains is a lingering note played by some synthesized brass.
Apparat saved what may be the most compelling moments on this album for its closing track, “IN GRAVITAS.” The song begins with the familiar ethereal vibe which has pervaded this entire album. It opens with an ambient wash, then his warbly falsetto joins in on the fun, accompanied by some synth chords. Suddenly, some guitar sounds whisk everything away except for the wash. A melody starts to rise to the foreground, and that’s when the real party starts. A four-on-the-floor beat kicks down the door, grabs the listener by the ear and drags them through a capricious soundscape of nebulous noises. As the beat fades out, a heavily modulated voice recites some symbolist poetry over gentle piano chords.
With LP5, Apparat has presented us with a sort of musical funhouse mirror; sounds that were at one point familiar are presented momentarily and soon are warped beyond comprehension. It becomes impossible to discern what instruments are generating these sounds, so the listener is forced to process this music from an entirely new perspective. After a while, the listener will start to question exactly how familiar they are with music as a whole. It’s incredible.