Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s musicality could probably be described by a myriad of definitions – precise, adventurous, and frantic are just a few words in the list of possibles. Collectively the duo are known as the Berlin-based electro outfit, Modeselektor. Their sound captures and exceeds any restrictive immure of just one musical category, such as electronica, hip-hop, and rock; and embodies a sonic hybrid of all genres aforementioned and even a few left unmentioned. Their latest outing, Monkeytown, is a calculated excursion concocted in a dynamic utopia of synthesizers, freely swinging, sawing, and swaying in every recorded crevice that the pair can dream to conjure.
The album’s intro, “Blue Clouds,” kick starts the LP, where it is one of four instrumentals featured on the project. Though not the greatest moment presented, this six-minute track fulfills its purpose in simplistic and synth-heavy fashion, and it actually resembles the more recent productions of super-producer, Timbaland. The follow-up, “Pretentious Friends,” is the project’s first standout track. Featuring emcee Busdriver, the song’s electro-futuristic synth-layering and hard-hitting kicks webs perfectly with the emcee’s superbly wacky and unconventional delivery. Think Definitive Jux.
And fortunately for Bronsert and Szary, the duo has a world-renowned artist backing their cause. Radiohead front man, Thom Yorke, has long been a proponent of the group’s music, professing the group as one of his favorites. Inevitably such a profession would lead to meetings, and thus, recordings. Two tracks, “Shipwreck” and “This,” capture the most recent hybrid creations between the two forces. The first is a solemn, post-apocalyptic single that has an ambience and computerized compositional atmosphere that is equally as haunting as Yorke’s half-muttered lyrics. The latter features an elaborate synth-arrangement that employs Yorke’s elegiac vocals in a manipulative amalgamation that flutters pleasantly over a cool, but maniacal downtempo setting.
The group’s spunk shines on the electro-house cut “Evil Twin.” Undoubtedly, the track, a massive dance-floor stimulator that features bouncy and vigorous synths, will surely attain no less than instant repeat status. And the same status can be stamped on the standout “Berlin,” as the track is one of the album’s more memorable, and unwinding, moments. The sonic marriage between the ever-present synthesizer and sensuous groove is reminiscent to that of works out of the great Sonar Kollectiv stable.
“…i’ve got nowhere to go.”
In the pair’s heavy and unapologetic use of synthesizers, we hear glimpses of greatness. The PVT featured, “Green Light Go,” is a track that’s also marvelous. Evasive synths pan in and out and on top of random, but calculated kicks and snare-licks to create a modern day journey into a world of ‘80’s Euro tech-pop. This number is mesmerizing at the least.
Monkeytown, in its eleven tracks, manages to display Modeselektor’s host of sounds and treatments of electronic music. This latest venture is a moody, sound-hopping frenzy of retro-futuristic escapades into makeshift animations of the synthesized world of musical explorations. Monkeytown is a must for fans of techno, electro, and/or pop.
– Julius Thompson