- "We still want to keep the concept of only having 50 releases, and then stop the label. Let's see if we can manage to do that." So said 50Weapons founders Modeselektor in our label of the month piece from 2011. 50Weapons began releasing cheap white-label dance floor tracks, but within a few years, it had grown into one of dance music's most prominent and forward-thinking labels. With R.I.P. 50Weapons—their fifth and final compilation, doubling as a series of 12-inches that brings us to release number 50—Modeselektor's project comes to an end with a load of solid tunes. The tracklist handily illustrates what has made the label such an engaging outlet throughout its prolific years in business.
With their own music rooted in several scenes and genres, Modeselektor's idea of a white-label DJ tool was never simple. First there was the series of Moderat and Modeslektor remixes that inaugurated 50Weapons, which went from cerebral (Shackleton) to wacky (Siriusmo) to utterly deadly (T++). Modeselektor later looked towards techno, albeit with a boisterous (Cosmin TRG) and colourful (Benjamin Damage) sound palette. And when they worked with well-known artists, they had a knack for getting a certain musicality out of even the most austere producers, like Marcel Dettmann or Untold.
They also plucked up young artists, like Dark Sky and Doc Daneeka, who shared their love of rich textures and clever earworms. "Creeper," the latter's collaboration with Benjamin Damage, remains one of the label's signature tracks: powerful enough to work in a headsy techno set but catchy as a pop tune Modeselektor might make themselves. That's not to mention Addison Groove, Shed, Phon.no and Anstam, all of whom have pulled 50Weapons in esoteric directions influenced by dubstep, ghetto house and even horror movie music.
R.I.P. 50Weapons has quite a legacy to live up to, then. It features new tracks from almost all of these artists, as well as some new ones. The all-star cast gives the compilation a retrospective tint even though it comprises all new material. That's in part due to the tracklist, but also because these tunes feel like they could have come out anytime since the label started gaining traction around 2010.
In keeping with its history, 50Weapons undergirds the comp with techno. Truncate, Rødhåd and Cosmin TRG offer some tightly-wound beats with just a gleam of melody. Monolake and Zenker Brothers twist that formula, while Anstam and Errorsmith take things off in their experimental directions. Addison Groove stays true 50Weapons' lineage of bouncy bass music, and Margaret Dygas brings an unusual touch of minimalism.
The tracklist reads like a who's-who of powerful, distinctive artists—Paula Temple, Bicep and Bambounou also appear. The tracks are all of a high standard, though not everyone offers their best material. Phon.o's "Tw33tz" and FJAAK's "Super Smash" are nondescript examples of 50Weapons' crossover side, while Shed's "Dark Planet" feels like a throwaway for him. But these are just small dips in quality on an otherwise consistent collection. (Modeselektor's remix of "Dark Planet" more than makes up for the original's issues.)
R.I.P. 50Weapons' stylistic array is also reminiscent of the label's larger outlook, which, though not always innovative, is a vibrant cross-section of dance music. 50Weapons have done a great job sidling up to new ideas without getting bogged down by trends. Looking over the label's discography offers a different perspective on the last five years of dance music than you'd get from, say, following the UK's post-dubstep scene. That comes down to Modeselektor's German heritage. "I don't think they could be a UK label," said Doc Daneeka told us in 2011. "They're techno-inspired, deep but not mellow. Forward-thinking."
In the end, what kept 50Weapons so interesting was the team behind it. And they've kept it just as exciting ten years and 50 releases later. It's fitting that the series comes to a close with a 12-inch from Modeselektor themselves. They collaborate with vocalist Paul St. Hilaire for a beautiful, fizzy dub techno track that balances the severe with the melodic, and is as melancholy as their best work. It's just the kind of thing you'd expect from a group who cut their teeth on Berlin techno and electro, but have always kept a more broad perspective than that might suggest. Though they rarely appeared on their own imprint after the first few 50Weapons records, Modeselektor finish the comp in fine style. Closing after 50 releases, they've lived up to their concept and somehow kept it fresh to the very end.
A 19.94 - Narr Day
B Cosmin TRG - Narr Day Remodulated
A Phon.o - Tw33tz
B Paula Temple - Oscillate
A Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka - Kansas
B Bicep - Closing Sequence
A Addison Groove - Allaby
B Errorsmith - Airbag
A Bambounou - See You Soon
B Margaret Dygas - Popular Religions
A Shed - Dark Planet
B Shed - Dark Planet (Modeselektor Remix)
A Anstam - Dolores
B Monolake - VT-100
A Marcel Dettmann - Activator
B Zenker Brothers - Namuan
A Benjamin Damage - Battle
B Truncate - 86
A FJAAK - Super Smash
B Rødhåd - Oblivion
A Modeselektor & Paul St. Hilaire - Trees
B Modeselektor - 50 Trees