In the opening interlude of II, Moderat fiddles around and takes a moment to settle in, then gently, but firmly, slips into the rumbling, buzzy bass line that begins the album proper on “Bad Kingdom.” It's as if they're clearing their throats in the mic before loudly declaring, “We're fucking back.”
Moderat -- a team-up between German duo Modeskeletor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and producer Apparat (Sascha Ring) -- haven't made an album together in four years. This return doesn't offer up any surprising changes, but it does show that they've been honing their skills. They tread territory between ambience and rave danceability.
Though it's not hard to zone out while listening to the lengthy II, it's worth tuning in. The trio has a knack for taking one small idea -- usually a basic rhythm -- and letting it grow, piling onto it or teasing it out over the course of a song. They do so in fine form and in long form on the 10-plus minute, “Milk.” Just before that, on “Let In the Light,” they start the same process with a vocal melody.
The songs on which Apperat's vocals go largely untouched, like they do on “Bad Kingdom” and “Gita,” feel somewhat out of place. His blue-eyed soul quality is lovely, but appears so infrequently that it snaps you out of the hypnotic state in which the rest of the album will likely hold you.
It's really no match for the intricate beats the three producers can put together.
Mostly it's nice to hear that Moderat didn't feel the need to come back with a pulsing club banger in order to grab some attention back. Instead, they made II something that quietly commands attention and rewards it with just enough of a beat to dance to.