Album Review



by Modeselektor

7.5 / 10
21st October 2011

Reviewed by Justin Paul

Many listeners come to Modeselektor via Thom Yorke, who invited the German duo to tour with Radiohead in 2008 and “blames” them with reigniting his love of DJs and dance music. Yorke lends his lungs to two tracks on Monkeytown and will, no doubt, drag rabid Radiohead fans to the album, but the undoubted stars of the show are the slightly batty Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary. For anyone who wants a guide to recent trends in electronic music - grime, funky, dubstep, techno, house, IDM and crunk –, but could care less about vacuous labels, look no further.

Modeselektor has been making music for 15 years, but with Yorke as their champion, Bronsert and Szary have become two of the ‘hottest’ DJs on the planet. Monkeytown is their third album (they produced one of this writer’s favourite electronic albums as Moderat in 2007 with their friend, Sascha Ring, aka Apparat), and they have stuck with their successful recipe: invite guests, chop their voices, add acres of bass, unhinged beats, climbing synths and dip into every known form of electronic music. The synths on opener ‘Blue Clouds’ soar appropriately in what sounds like a slow-burning rave. ‘Shipwreck’ is almost pure Thom Yorke and, as such, the scattershot percussion makes it better than anything on the under-whelming The King of Limbs. ‘Evil Twin’ is a writhing techno beast, and one can only imagine the nubile chaos this track will create in the cavernous clubs of Berlin and London. It would have been perfect in Black Swan’s club scene. Then there’s the whiplash R ‘n’ B of Miss Platnum in ‘Berlin’ and the complex but head-nodding ‘Grillwalker’. But not everything is as successful. The hip-hop of Busdriver and Anti-Pop Consortium on ‘Pretentious Friends’ and ‘Humanized’ respectively wears thin despite the thick bass and warped vocals. While Modeselektor embrace changes in tempo, ‘Green Light Go’ drags and ‘This’ is a Thom Yorke track too far: the hiccupping vocals make me want to creep up on him with a paper bag.

The only shapes I throw nowadays are shadow puppet bunnies on my kids’ walls and quoits on Christmas Day, if I’m lucky. Album length dance albums are notoriously difficult because invariably we all tire of strobe lights and glow sticks. But to call Monkeytown a dance record would be missing the point. There are club bangers if your ankles can handle it, but Modeselektor also provide the dark snug where you can sit and watch, smile and nod your head. I dare you to keep your feet still.

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