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  • Filed under: Review
  • 07/03/2012

Various Artists Modeselektion Vol. 02

With a giant primate emblazoned across just about everything Modeselektor does these days, the duo's well-known mischievousness seems perpetually not far behind. Like two kids who can never quite sit still, Berliners Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are at their best when channeling that short attention span into music, be it their own, or as label owners, into an artist roster. In this latter role, the duo is having no trouble spotting, commissioning, and releasing tracks from a spectrum of producers representing a broad range of electronic music. With the second volume of what seems set to become an ongoing series from the duo's flagship label, the Modeselektor boys have compiled 18 exclusive tracks that go from bass music to techno to glitch to juke to what are essentially experimental electronic works, and they've managed to do so without the typically schizo, jarring qualities that often plague label compilations.

This seamless movement across genres has long been an essential quality of the Modeselektor charm, and it's something that's displayed front and center when Bronsert and Szary are working in a curatorial capacity. As always, the main building block is techno, but few of the inclusions here come across as even remotely straightforward. Early on, fellow German duo Monolake gets a surprisingly breaks-heavy edit from premier techno DJ Electric Indigo on "Hitting the Surface." Monkeytown signee Addison Groove keeps it playful on the aptly titled "Manic Miner," which somehow manages to incorporate ravey sirens, old-school hip-hop bongo breaks, looping samples, and a "Percolator" pop. Modeselektor's own "Chaik the Chicken" adheres most faithfully to a 4/4 beat, churning out a Berghain-worthy heater, while "ModeOperator (Beispiel A)" by Diamond Version (a.k.a. Alva Noto and Byetone of the minimal Raster-Noton collective) nods ever so slightly to Kraftwerk, albeit with a lot more heavy distortion.

It's this darker side of the proceedings that pervades much of Modeselektion Vol. 02. Beginning with "Levitate," the comp's opening track from Night Slugs' bass-music modernist Egyptrixx, the collection is colored by a sort of brooding tone. Lazer Sword and Martyn carry that torch, the former adopting a bass-juke hybrid laced with distant R&B samples on "Landscape," and the latter hovering closely to the dubby techno sound he's become so well known for with "Red Dancers." Shitkatapult alum Phon.o offers a modicum of relief, his "Fukushima" injecting a soulful "save me" into a tasteful dubstep roller. A similarly intelligent vibe returns at the compilation's end, albeit in a more stripped-down form, with the eerie tribal thuds of "Distorsione for Strings" by studio engineer turned producer Jan Driver and the half-time techno of "Observing the Patterns," a looming, symphonic, and meditative closer from Anstam.

Techno and bass excursions may be obvious inclusions here, but electronic music's experimental side has also become prominent part of the Monkeytown sound, particularly since the label signed Mouse on Mars last year. The veteran producers recontextualize Chicago footwork as a sort of jazzy, 8-bit juke workout with their contribution, "Humoslab." The track is in good company with the handclap-fueled booty techno of "Pixel" by wild-haired Parisian Bambounou and the frantic jazz breaks of "Nordic Wilt" from esteemed digital composer Clark.

Working as a bridge of sorts between these experimental moments and the glitch-hoppy beats that dominate this edition of Modeselektion, former TTC mates Teki Latex and DJ Orgasmic, who jointly operate these days as Sound Pellegrino Thermal Team, meld footwork rhythms, crunk, and a very Ninja Tune-esque aesthetic on the trap rave of "Activate" before a staticy boom-bap feel takes over on the swaying digi-crunch of Brooklynite Soft Circle's "Finna Fury." It's at this point that Modeselektor's love of hip-hop-style production shines, as the comp offers up a run of tracks that includes the groove-based shuffle of Prefuse 73's "Death by Barber pt. 1," the cowbell-boasting "Sudaka Invasor" by Argentina's Frikstailers, and the heavy stomp and squelch of "Modern Talk" from Monkeytown regular Siriusmo.

With fingers in this many pies, Modeselektion Vol. 02 really shouldn't have come across as a cohesive statement, yet it does. Not every track is an out-and-out winner, but the depth and breadth of artists, scenes, locales, and musical movements showcased here is not only impressive, but also serves as a pristine snapshot of what a credible tastemaking unit Modeselektor is.

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