- A concise techno album full of bold ideas.
- Last week, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary told Dazed that at a certain point a couple of years ago they fell out of touch with the club scene. This is understandable. During the 2000s, Modeselektor developed from an electronic music duo into a full-blown band. They weren't "famous" as that term is usually understood, but they toured extensively, sold out big shows and wrote songs you could hum to. Radiohead's Thom Yorke appeared on their last two albums. With Moderat, their collaboration with fellow Berliner Apparat, they made music with even more pop appeal than Modeselektor. As they became older and had kids, Bronsert and Szary might have been happy to let the club scene slide into memory. But their ongoing work with Monkeytown Records and the recently revived Seilscheibenpfeiler, which has released some strong house and techno of late, has shown that they're still interested and invested. Now we get Who Else, their fourth album, an extremely to-the-point collection of club bangers.
In fact, it will be surprising if there's a leaner dance floor album released this year. Who Else has eight tracks and lasts 35 minutes. Only one track breaks the five-minute mark, and most last between three and four minutes. But rather than making the record feel insubstantial, this mostly plays to Modeselektor's strengths. Like lots of the music they've released, this album hinges on the loud execution of bold ideas, and the snappy run-time means nothing is allowed to outstay its welcome. Tracks like "Prügelknabe," "WMF Love Song" and "I Am Your God" are bracingly hard, reaching new peaks of intensity for Modeselektor, but they're handled like controlled explosions. "Prügelknabe"'s militant 16th-note assault is assuaged by a strange, sad vocoder voice that drifts to nothing before the drums return for a brain-battering 20 seconds at the end.
Bronsert and Szary often try to combat against writing a "predictable techno record," as they put it, by attempting these kinds of switches and surprises. The best among these is "Fentanyl," where a snarling beat and synth combo eventually coheres into a deranged dancehall track that rivals Equiknoxx in its weirdness. "Wake Me Up When It's Over," the closer, is a sort of sleazy post-club ballad that suddenly chucks in a mangled jungle break, while an appearance elsewhere by the Estonian rapper Tommy Cash, who delivers sing-song verses over a beat that could be described as hard trance, is hardly standard issue for a Berlin techno record.
Some of these moments also represent the balance beam Modeselektor tread, with loveable fun on one side and outright silliness on the other. Tommy Cash is a good fit for the duo's outlandish style, but there's a point in the track where he's singing "blah, blah, blah" with a child choir accompanying him. The deliciously crisp arpeggio on "I Am Your God," meanwhile, is soiled by Otto Von Schirach's EBM-lite screams. But overall, big works best for the duo. "Wealth," which features the UK rapper Flohio, still feels like a good look for Modeselektor a couple of months after it came out, its seasick synths sounding like early Night Slugs. And "One United Power" is an apt title for a track that summarises what's good about Who Else—the synths are raucous, the production is sharp, and your mind jumps to what the track would do to a dance floor.
01. One United Power
02. Wealth feat. Flohio
04. Who feat. Tommy Cash
05. WMF Love Song
06. I Am Your God feat. Otto Von Schirach
08. Wake Me Up When It's Over