Monday, April 7, 2008

Walls - Apparat


Bpitch Records/Shitkatapult Records.

SCQ Rating: 84%

The first time I heard Apparat was on the sensational project with Ellen Allien, Orchestra of Bubbles, where his skill of beat-programming and sense of melody caught my ear. The album steered a whole new following for both artists, giving Allien’s Bpitch Records its most successful release and Apparat more exposure than ever before. Little did I know that the Orchestra of Bubbles collaboration would also give birth to another stunning album – Apparat’s Walls.

Ensuring that he wouldn’t go into the studio empty-handed, Apparat (moniker for Sascha Ring) prepared countless recordings of song ideas for Allien to consider. After their record was released and their tour wrapped up, Apparat rediscovered literally hundreds of his song ideas that were never put to use and, thusly, began to tool with them. In telling this story, Apparat fully confesses that Walls should be listened to as a “last two years of Apparat” compilation, and not as a realized record. In my opinion, he should’ve kept that comment to himself; Walls is so thoroughly enjoyable that any words contrary to the notion that Apparat carved this song-cycle out of a concept feel belittling to its strengths. If he had claimed to toil through sweat and frustration over a narrative for Walls, I would’ve happily bought it.

Splitting his efforts between vocalized and instrumental tracks, Apparat has raised the bar considerably in melding his aptitude for German electronica with undeniable pop hooks. Fans of the Junior Boys would no doubt fancy ‘Birds’, a lurching beat sung over in light, soulful sighs by Apparat himself. Between he and contributor Raz Ohara (whose voices are similar enough to confuse), the vocal songs hold a slightly stronger hand than the instrumental numbers (a few of which are slightly too reserved). ‘Arcadia’ is a crossover song in waiting, featuring heavy beats and Apparat’s high vocals melding with tense synths, while Ohara mouths a stream-of-conscious crisis in the lovely, sedated ‘Over and Over’. Such a comedown song is necessary after several adrenaline rushes; the dramatic duo of ‘Fractales Pt 1’ and ‘Pt 2’, but most of all, in ‘Headup’, a crushingly emotive electro/shoegaze hybrid that Anthony Gonzales of M83 must be wishing he wrote.

Some critics argue that Walls is the sound of Apparat playing it safe and I’m not about to refute it. Moreover, I’m not going to pretend that “playing it safe” is a crime when the results sound as dazzling as Walls does. Whether Apparat has a revolutionary record in him is yet to be determined; in the meantime, I’m satisfied with the best German electronica record I’ve heard since A Strangely Isolated Place.

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