Apparat Walls

[Shitkatapult; 2007]

Styles: omnivorous electro-acoustic, POP MUSIC
Others: Timbaland / Timberlake (yes), Junior Boys, The Berg Sans Nipple

Apparat, ballyhooed Ellen Allien collaborator and Shitkatapult labelmeister Sascha Ring, has really outdone himself with this one. Walls achieves a multi-style fluency that many artists strain for, but rarely manage to pull off. So many jack-of-all-genres producers are forced to revert to wan, unconvincing phrases encumbered instead of liberated by their hybridity. Too often the postmodern statement sounds like so much waffling. Not the case here. The record’s 14 songs feel at once abundant and economical: like all good electronic music tied in one form or another to “minimal,” Walls folds the macro into the micro and vice versa. He’s got the harmonic sensibility and sonic brio to both suggest and demand; this coupling of implicit and overt desire, in both his vocals and production, infuses this record with glossy, turbocharged sensuality. It’s imaginative, prepossessing, and, in many spots, just badass.

Ring shows off his knack for pretty structures on the first track, which consists of little more than a winsome braid of glockenspiel lines twisting around each other like the meltings of crushed ice on a hot countertop. Immediately, we’re thrown from these Vespertinate shapes to the three-note, dirtnasty bassline that underpins the most dank, sensual track I’ve heard since Poni Hoax dropped “Budapest” last summer. “Hailin from the Edge” outlines the emotional contours of the disc in wristy, lyrical signatures, preparing you for the iridescent strings, silvery vocals, and knotty/naughty beats scudding through the rest of these lusty songs. They grow from this pattern without ensnaring the album with a flat, easily denoted identity; in other words, you can listen lots and not get bored.

The technoheads will surely get off on the cunning song structures, but Ring has made sure to load up each track with plenty of peripheral goodies as well: his deft mixing frequently unlocks the spatial magic of sound: hi-hats and hand claps arrive from unexpected angles to cripple a track’s erstwhile geometry. Paying attention to the hooks (and there are many) often results in delicious slaps to the face -- lone hits from a reverbed kickdrum, surreptitious, acidic synth lines, and one-note piano themes sweep in black and taloned, like falcons. For me, these gritty surprises are important; they distinguish Apparat’s mode of pop as one that can integrate the popular/pretty with the rugged/curious to alluring effect. Listening to Walls, you can hear snatches of Kid A, TV on the Radio, Timbaland (the drums on “Arcadia” are stolen almost directly from “Promiscuous”), and the grander side of Kranky Records, all artfully attached to colorful, elastic skeletons of synth and drum tone. Dipping into so many wells can dilute a record; instead, I leave Walls feeling like I’ve tasted some pretty stiff concentrate.

Walls exercises a sure grasp on the current pop moment, which means having a pinky on disco/'80s electro and a thumb on current hip-hop, while palming everything in between. It takes serious verve and literacy to both survey the field and author original gestures like this. Listen.

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