The music of Sascha Ring (a.k.a. Apparat) has reached a diverse audience through a number of projects over the years. Whether you know the name from his collaboration with BPitch label boss Ellen Allien, his work with fellow German production duo Modeselektor (known collectively as Moderat), or just for his own solo productions, it's clear that the German producer has had no trouble finding his way into a variety of artistic circles, usually with impressive results. Now focusing again on his individual compositions, Ring presents an LP that fully dives into what he seems to have been after all along: lush, textural techno-pop hybrids.
Considering the last completely solo work to come from Apparat was 2007's Walls LP, there is quite a bit of musical ground to make up with this latest effort, but The Devil's Walk seems to begin where Ring's last solo endeavor left off, containing little tangible acknowledgment of what has shaped the musical landscape in the time between. The songs here are undoubtedly pop-oriented (albeit somewhat somber and melancholy), all containing their fair share of memorable melodies, clever hooks, and ambiguously interpretive lyrics. But the album seems bizarrely aligned with the sort of modern, cinematic pop that is the bread and butter for a number of commercial bands, making comparisons of The Devil's Walk to the work of Coldplay or Sigur Rós not unfounded by any means. However, there are a few moments where the album transcends any sort of mainstream comparison with its truly stirring pieces, such as the skittering, blissful mass known as "Song of Los," or the tensely slow-to-build "Ash Black Veil" (which one can't help but notice is quite Radiohead-esque). That said, aside from these select tracks, the rest of the album brings a handful of worthwhile ideas that, for one reason or another, don't quite pan out perfectly. In particular, songs like "Candil De La Calle" begin decent enough, but fail to coalesce as full-fledged listening experiences and, in the case of this tune, end up sounding like a less hyper, more dramatic Baths.
There is one unquestionably rewarding aspect to The Devil's Walk, and it is—unsurprisingly—Ring's gorgeously detailed production, which is strong enough to buoy the lesser musical ideas. An astounding combination of rich pianos, strings, and guitars swirl alongside dense, futuristic sounds and intricate drums (no doubt derived from Ring's extensive techno experience), making each song fit into the ghostly, lush atmosphere which is maintained throughout LP's entire introspective march. If his approach to songwriting could have been as consistent as his meticulous production, this record really had the potential to be something extraordinary—but it just isn't. While The Devil's Walk may not be an absolute blemish on the Apparat discography, those who found his earlier works (such as Duplex, Walls, and the excellent remix collection, Things to be Frickled) so rewarding will find that this album unfortunately pales in comparison.