German DJs Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are having a bit of a perverse reaction to their stint as Moderat. According to Modeselektion 4‘s press release, the two artists collectively known as Modeselektor admit that these curated releases are a deliberate return-to-roots move: “After almost four years of touring with Moderat, we really felt the urge to dedicate ourselves again to what made us.” And if you began your career as a DJ, that means getting to play DJ at the end of the day as well. The Modeselektion series began life in 2010, giving Bronsert and Szary an excuse to introduce even more cutting edge IDM artists to their already devoted fans. Modeselektion 4 is a double album featuring 16 songs from 16 different electronic music entities and one new song from Modeselektor themselves, “Kalif Storch”. This album is, essentially, a beat museum.
Brainwaltzera starts things off with “Vodiga”, a pleasing beginning with a subtle rhythm track and echoey synths carrying the chords. It’s over before you know it, making way for Actress’s minimalist “Watercolour Challenge”. By the time rRoxymore wraps things up on the first side (Modeselektion 4 is divvied up into four EPs) with the rhythmically askew “Cosmopolitanism”, you’ll notice that mood and beats have become the top priorities in each track. Any musical variables beyond these two traits are not part of this music’s DNA. Speaking for myself, I met each track with the same mixed feelings: “That sure sounds neat!” vs. “Is this going anywhere?” The first thought appreciated the sound that each artist was striving for. The second thought never received an answer.
If there is no variation within the individual tracks themselves, you at least get a little bit of variety from track to track. Lone’s noisy bass on “Smoke Signals” offsets Actress’s tendency to play it cool. Skee Mask stirs up a rather refined breakbeat on “Lil DB Tool” while Peder Mannerfelt lets all of the warts show on his glitches on “Sectional Healing”. You can get your reggae fix from Sarah Farina’s “Peace Dub” with Yo van Lenz calling out that “War is ugly and love is lovely!” Rødhåd does something that might sound almost avant-garde on “Blacksmith”, but it finds its beat-footing by the halfway mark.
The album reaches a debatable climax on Vatican Shadow’s “Desert Father”, combining a tensely programmed synth delay with a tribal beat. Kasper Marott’s unimaginative “Metaxas Carnival” would generously be qualified as falling action in this case. Fadi Mohem’s last word “Endless” would make a nice addition to someone’s “Back to Mine” collection, even if it peddles just two chords for more than seven minutes.
As for “Kalif Storch”, there is a tinge of excitement rolling over the pulsing static noises and the highly-charged beats. For all of the electricity surging through these 17 tracks, it feels like a lot of window dressing in search of any actual windows. This way, you know that Modeselektion 4 won’t challenge you too hard, and you can take that any way you like.