- An anniversary compilation that too often fails to inspire.
- Ten years ago, Modeselektor released a mix CD for Body Language featuring artists such as Busta Rhymes, Robert Hood, Major Lazer and Animal Collective. It was a triumph of crossover dance music that made a lasting impression on indie kids and techno heads alike. That same year, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary started Monkeytown Records, first as a platform for Modeselektor and their close friend Siriusmo. Eventually the music reflected the mass-appeal vibes of that mix CD—take the hip-hop funk from Lazer Sword and, of course, their arena-conquering band with Sascha Ring, Moderat. In the late '00s, Bronsert and Szary also started 50Weapons, a dance music sub-label that arguably overshadowed the milder music on Monkeytown. With 50Weapons finished and Modeselektor fresh off a successful comeback album, Bronsert and Szary turn the spotlight back on Monkeytown with a tenth-anniversary collection.
The label was once well-known for its Modeselektion compilations, whose tracks came from all over the electronic music map and made for vibrant, enriching listens. The focus of 10 Years Of Monkeytown Records is narrower, only featuring artists who have already released on the label. There's a lot of music here, but the mood is homogenous—most tracks are vaguely epic, highly melodic and melodramatic.
There's not a lot to dislike on the compilation, but there's not much to love either. What once made Monkeytown exciting was how it could bring together so many styles into intriguing fusions, but these hybrids now seem old hat. Many tracks sound exactly as you'd expect: Dark Sky make floaty garage, Siriusmo makes zany beat music with lots of goofy sounds. And sometimes they just sound uninspired. Shed could have made "Rigger"—pounding drums, old-school rave stabs—in his sleep. Redshape's "Dirt Box" is slow and listless.
The album is saved by its two biggest personalities, Mouse On Mars and Modeselektor, who sound full of fire in comparison. Mouse On Mars collaborate with Drumno on a brilliant krautrock-influenced cut with flutes, guitar and a claustrophobic drum sound that makes you feel like your head's gonna explode. Then there's Modeselektor's "My Friend The 201," a synth odyssey so splendid and adventurous that I had to make sure I hadn't accidentally switched to a different record.
Tapping into the work of masters like Terry Riley or Manuel Göttsching, "My Friend The 201" is full of soaring arpeggios and orchestral strings. It's unabashedly catchy, and it shows something different from Szary and Bronsert—the kind of development you'd expect after ten years, which can't be said for some of the other artists here. In his review of Who Else, Ryan Keeling pointed out the duo had admitted to losing touch with the club scene, and unfortunately you can hear the effect of that on 10 Years Of Monkeytown Records.
01. Alex Banks - Ignition Sequence
02. Dark Sky - TLA
03. Robot Koch & Radarbird - Squares
04. Redshape - Dirt Box
05. Shed - Rigger
06. FJAAK - Duz It
07. Modeselektor - My Friend The 201
08. Mouse On Mars - Krautzig feat. Drumno
09. Gajek - Large-Scale/Small-Scale
10. Siriusmo - Extra
11. Catnapp & Otto von Schirach - Rattle Snake
12. Anstam - Ztlghtz