nedjelja, 14. listopada 2012.

Apparat - Devil's Walk (2011)

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Heart-swelling and matured electronic pop from one of Germany's most endearing modern songsmiths. Four years since his acclaimed 'Walls' LP and the widely loved Moderat album with his MDSLKTR pals, Sascha Ring comfortably fulfils his status as a foremost composer of majestic electronic pop with 'The Devil's Walk', consolidating myriad electronic styles under the Apparat moniker with an unshakable emotive sincerity and elegantly classical yet fresh production style. We can largely attribute that sense of classicism to the prevalence of strings on many tracks, from the opening flush of mandolin on 'Sweet Unrest' to the pomping orchestrations of the Göteborg/Berlin String Theory on 'Escape', or the tensely rising crests of 'A Bang In The Void', but they're always considerately balanced against exquisite electronic backdrops, or vice versa, keeping the vibe timeless yet modern. At times you could be forgiven for thinking you're in the midst of a Radiohead side-project, especially with the quivering restraint of his vocals on 'Your House Is My World', or again at the towering highlight of 'A Bang In The Void'. But then again, he's somewhere between David Sylvian and Morten Harket on the stirring 'Song Of Los' and 'Ash/Black Veil', so essentially he's just got that sense of grand pop melancholy down to a fine art, and the collaboration with gothic Austrian songwriter Soap & Skin is little short of inspired. Recommended. - boomkat

Berlin-based producer Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, positioned his DJ Kicks mix, released in 2010, as a farewell to the dancefloor-focussed section of his career. His label Shitkatapult continues to release house and techno, but with The Devil’s Walk Ring appears to have abandoned tracks that aim to move bodies in favour of songs that aim to move hearts.
The sonic touchstones for The Devil’s Walk include Junior Boys, M83, the melancholic pop of Maximilian Hecker and, most obviously, Sigur Rós. The Icelandic band’s predilection for surging anthems that quiver between celebration and sorrow looms large on Song of Los and Black Water, while The Soft Voices Die is so indebted as to be pastiche.
Elsewhere Ring tends to keep on the right side of influence, but his magpie tendencies remain apparent. The richly melodic A Bang in the Void, for example, apes Steve Reich’s counterpoint works of the 1970s, as did Not a Number from his previous solo album, Walls (2007). Ring’s attention to detail is typically exquisite here: the looped bowing of a cello provides a droning bassline beneath pitch-bent chimes.
Vocally The Devil’s Walk finds Ring in lovelorn, po-faced mood. Song of Los, Black Water and Ash/Black Veil are essentially traditional power ballads given a tasteful electronic spritz: they’re catchy, melodramatic, and pretty cheesy. Candil de la Calle pulls a lot of the same moves, but the shuddering lurch of its dubstep-influenced rhythm establishes a more interesting push and pull between vocal and melody. Ring’s reliance on the power ballad form is puzzling. It’s when he steps away from it, as on closing track Your House is My World, where a tremulous banjo and strings cocoon his Vincent Gallo-like vocal, that he achieves his most startling effects.
It’s telling that one of the best songs here doesn’t feature Ring behind the microphone. Goodbye resonates with the doom-laden delivery of Anja Plaschg, aka Soap&Skin, intoning above scrabbly clouds of acoustic guitar and piano chords that sink like a corpse in water. If only there was more drama of this sort here, and a little less schmaltz, to bolster Ring’s talent as an arranger and a producer. - Chris Power

In music terms, walking with the devil is just another name for selling out. What does the devil want from you as you walk hand-in-hand, negotiating quick and safe passage to the fiery underworld? He wants you to accept that success can only be measured by the accumulation of personal fortune. He wants you to capitulate to the lure of pretty much everything beyond the parenthesis of simple artistic integrity. That is the cross all artists must bear. That is the temptation they must resist until their final sonic breath. And if Tony Wilson were more than a merely self-proclaimed music deity, that is the contract they would sign in blood. The Devil's Walk. On the face of it, there could not be a better title for the new record by Sascha Ring, aka Apparat.
It's highly unlikely that Sascha Ring, the prodigiously talented German producer behind the moniker, intended it quite this way. He could always claim things got lost in translation. But it has to be more than just sheer coincidence that pairs Apparat's most obvious attempt to court the mainstream (and make a buck, or two) with a seemingly willing pact with the enemy. And while this all might seem a little (or a lot) like hyperbolic criticism, to the well-educated ear the transition from the far more creatively-engaging unpredictability of Walls to the slightly archetypal quasi-anthemic homogeneity of The Devil's Walk couldn't be any starker. It'll totally divide opinion, of course. Plenty will clasp this record to their bosom. Despite its heavier tone, it is more approachable, more melodic. It'll chime more with the now-standard weekend emotions of euphoria, comedown, love/lust and inexplicable loss we all feel at regular or irregular intervals, depending on your thirst for whatever poison gets you through. And make no mistake about it: The Devil's Walk can be as persuasive and intoxicating as you want it to be. The acute complexity of temptation inevitably boils down to a simple yes or no. You'll take to this record or you won't. Making that decision, however, may take a little time.
What is immediately clear is that Apparat has now fully jumped the divide he was straddling with his previous material. At times, he leaps so far as to be in Snow Patrol territory. 'Escape' is the clearest example of how far he has travelled since the twitchy, beatsy glitch techno of Duplex. Orienting itself around scratchy-eyed, mid-comedown Sunday morning moods, major to minor piano chords, elegiac strings and Ring murmuring stuff about "_horizons_" and "_soft hands_", it's the kind of pop music that would prefer not to be classed as pop. And it's commonly beautific enough to appeal to TV advertisers, the world over. 'The Soft Voices Die' offers a similar pitch. Sigur Rós-light and production-heavy, it's too obviously imbued with what it desperately wants to be to offer up anything new. But this is Apparat (!?), you're saying. This is the guy that could drop your jaw with a Casiotone. Well, turn to the dark side and this is what happens.
Apparat diehards will argue that it's the album's (literally) darker aesthetic that propagates such a change of musical tack and allows for greater stylistic harmony. And that is partly correct. The Devil's Walk is certainly more streamlined, musically, and much more focused, thematically, than either Walls or Duplex. And in that sense, this is definitely a record that can be pushed to a certain market (clubbers), to perform a certain function (coming off drugs). But by limiting himself to one place, one mood and one texture - especially one that has already been covered ad nauseam within the IDM genre - Ring walks head first into cliché and self-parody.
Of course, the counter-argument to all this typically snobbish critique is equally valid. Even more so when you're Sascha Ring. This could very well be a record that catapults Apparat and places him in the company of other big-leaguers such as Ti?sto, Paul Van Dyk, Sasha etc - all hugely successful and, one imagines, hugely wealthy electronic music artists, in their own right. It bears all the necessary crossover qualities and will instantly appeal to more people than Walls ever could. So who's really laughing loudest here? And though The Devil's Walk isn't strictly a DJ/club album, it'd be greedily lapped up as a club-based live show. And, it should definitely be noted, there is obvious quality here. The Devil's... strongest cards are all largely quasi-euphoric paeans to ecstasy's often rather forlorn flipside. 'Song Of Los' pulls happier reflections from the chemical fog. The beautiful 'Goodbye' is Fever Ray-like in its metronomic post-everything gloom. The Timbaland, hip-hop beats of 'Candil De La Calle' are a welcome respite from the rest of the album's more conventional IDM constructs. Highlight 'Ash Black Veil' drives, ascends and scatters sonic effects like speed-addled, adrenalin-doused streams of post-weekend consciousness. It has to be said, there are worse records to rely on on a particularly fragile Sunday morning.
But still the question remains. Did he really dance with the devil? Just like temptation, it all boils down to a simple yes or no. - Gideon Brody

What is the state of electronic music in 2011? It’s a big question. In order to answer it, you might look first to the mainstream, where synths and Auto-Tune have overrun the pop landscape (seriously, even Maroon 5 has succumbed at this point). Or you might look at the dubstep scene, which has only been around for a decade or so but already spawned a “post-” movement, led by wunderkind James Blake. You might look at Radiohead, perhaps the elder statesmen of experimental electronics at this point. While 2000’s Kid A remains their crowning electronic achievement, this year’s The King of Limbs is as bleep-bloopy as anything they’ve recorded.

As exciting and important as all of those players are, though, the new album by Apparat might be the most accurate distillation of electronic music present and future, maybe because it strikes something of a balance between beat music, experimentation, sonic landscapes, and melody. On The Devil’s Walk, Apparat (a.k.a. Berlin musician Sascha Ring) explores many of the avenues that computers have to offer the musical world. But for the first time, he’s added live instruments to the mix, giving his music a tone that’s neither claustrophobic nor icy. It’s a midpoint between densely-orchestrated post-rock and ambient electro, and the results are pretty captivating.

Apparat’s music is sung in English, rather than Ring’s native German, and like many European artists, the language gap lends Ring’s lyrics a gentle poetry that complements the keening melodicism of his songs well. On “Escape”, a brief interlude filled with swelling strings gives way to a verse in which the singer “sneaked away on soft hands / Another world in the making”. Standout track “Song of Los”—possibly the closest the album has to a traditional single—seems to play on that German word los (very roughly, “lacking”) when Ring sings, “I just want to slide across / I am trying to get lost”.

Ring explores heavy themes such as solitude, loss, and death throughout the album, and you get the sense that even when he’s not singing about them, they’re on his mind. The stunning instrumental “A Bang in the Void”, which recalls Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros in its juxtaposition of flitting vibraphone, muted trumpet blares, effervescent falsetto sighs, and plodding synth-bass rhythm section, is sublimely melancholy. And “Goodbye”, a shadowy break-up song featuring tender guest vocals from the young Austrian musician Anja Plaschg, centers on the heartbreaking line “Bury your doubts and fall asleep / Find out I was just a bad dream”. Ring’s ability to pull off a line like this without veering too far into melodrama is one of his greatest strengths.

If there’s a complaint to be made about The Devil’s Walk, it’s that Apparat doesn’t really do anything to push electronic music forward. You probably won’t hear anything here that you haven’t heard before. But Apparat’s contribution to the geography of electronic music right now might be more important: he’s bridging the gap between electronic and indie, following in the footsteps of acts like Animal Collective and St. Vincent. And when it’s also beautiful, dreamy music that’s got something to say, what’s to complain about?- Billy Hepfinger

Apparat's Sascha Ring has kept busy the last few years with various mixes and side projects-- an entry into the DJ-Kicks series, his Moderat collaboration with fellow Berliners Modeselektor-- but hasn't released a proper solo album since 2007's Walls. That record, which brought together electro-shoegaze sweep with a vocal-driven pop approach, felt like a breakthrough for him. In place of the dance-floor glitch of his early-2000s work were songs with hooks, and his sense of lush atmosphere gave them a certain weight and grandiosity. Writers mentioned 1990s dream-poppers Slowdive, and that seemed like an apt comparison for the velvety digital fusion he was exploring.
Of course, a lot's changed in four years, and Ring's latest LP, The Devil's Walk, arrives at a time when vocal electronic music is more popular than ever. Though his style differs quite a bit from guys like James Blake or the chillwave set, there's nonetheless a bigger audience for pop set to programmed beats. And anyone checking in for the first time should find plenty to like here, right off the bat. Particularly in the record's front half, Ring shows off formidable production skill, wrapping his whispery vocals in some straight-up gorgeous arrangements. Synths swell up and retreat, drums skitter in and out frame-- there's a lot of motion but it's got grace and purpose.
But this isn't an instrumental record, and in order for it to succeed on multiple levels, the lyrics and songwriting should be on point, too. That happens some of the time-- "Song of Los" and "Black Water" showcase Ring at his most emotive, his melancholic vocals and phrases yearning and nearly anthemic. But several of these tracks have a vaguely cheesy, power-ballad quality about them. It's a hard thing to put your finger on, but much of The Devil's Walk seems like it was intended to be "epic"-- there are plenty of whisper-to-a-roar builds, at least on the vocal side-- and this pursuit of bigness gets tangled up in overly sentimental, conventional radio-pop delivery.
For example, if you were to remove the sparkling backdrop from "Escape", you'd be left with something that resembles a B-level Coldplay song, complete with some eyebrow-raising imagery of "the street rushing beneath" and "cracks in the concrete." Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with this sort of awestruck emoting; it just feels like a weird fit with Apparat's sonic approach, this very thoughtful and intricate techno. The styles work against each other. So, in the end, the record is a disjointed listen-- there are some really beautiful and even moving stretches but too many missed opportunities to truly bring together Ring's love of pop with his natural gift for beats. - Joe Colly

If you’ve placed a finger on the pulse of electronic music at any point over the last five years, it’s safe to say you’ll have encountered Apparat in one form or another. Sascha Ring, the Berlin artist who records under that name, has been a restless force in contemporary electronic music for a decade. In that time he’s released three acclaimed Apparat albums – the fourth, The Devil’s Walk, arrives in the autumn of 2011 – and performed his intense live show in front of thousands at clubs and festivals around the world. Apparat inspires a passionate following, to say the least: in just a few weeks, Sascha’s new track “Ash/Black Veil” has notched up 90,000 plays on Soundcloud.
Broadly speaking, Sascha, a tousle-haired, slightly dandyish figure and an expert programmer, produces richly textured, emotional electronica and heavy sci-fi soul. The missing link between Steve Reich and Radiohead, Apparat brings the kind of euphoric melancholy that impels you to punch the air with joy while tears stream down your cheeks. “The only thing you can do with the records I make is to try to somehow move people, to make them feel something,” says Sascha.
The Devil’s Walk, its title a nod to Shelley’s 1812 satirical poem of the same name, is the album on which Sascha grows up and raises his game. Having released his earlier records on cult electronics label Shitkatapult, where he worked for a number of years, this album is his first for Mute. And if his last one, 2007’s Walls, hinted at a move away from the heat of the dancefloor, The Devil’s Walk, with its cool, contemplative dream-pop and bruise-tender Sigur Rós texture, makes that explicit.
To some, Sascha will be better known as a member of Moderat, the gonzo electro supergroup consisting of him and his maverick pals Modeselektor. Their longheld Berlin bromance produced an acclaimed album in 2009, and in March this year Moderat played the last show of a riotous world tour at the Bloc Weekend festival. Thom Yorke adored that record and invited Moderat to support Radiohead. Others might recall, back in 2006, the dizzy synths of Orchestra of Bubbles, Sascha’s tuneful collaboration with fellow Berlin producer Ellen Allien.
For someone whose first love is techno – as a teenager in small-town east Germany he dived headfirst into the mid-’90s rave scene and never looked back – Sascha’s most trusted instrument was the computer. “I was always on the hunt for interesting sounds, electronic sounds,” he says. “But at some point, when everything got computerised and there was a plug-in for every sound, it felt like this whole thing is done and there isn’t much new sound to experience. So I started getting more interested in the old-school ‘songs’ thing.”
And so Sascha’s learned to compose on a wider range of ‘real’ instruments, which partly accounts for the traditional feel and undeniable warmth of The Devil’s Walk. “There’s a lot of computer stuff on the record, but it didn’t start in an electronic way. I have a piano and guitar at home, which I don’t play well, and sometimes the songs appear and so I record a crappy version at home and then I go to the studio and start working on it on a computer. In the past when I used real instruments it was the other way around.”
Though reluctant to elaborate on new songs such as “Song of Los”, “Black Water” or “Escape”, he’s keen to stress that these epic ballads, which are sung by Sascha, are not the work of a troubled man. “There’s definitely a theme to it, I just don’t want to say what everyone always says, which is: “It’s a very personal record.” Every song is about a single situation I experienced with a special person. That’s just where I got my ideas from. Sometimes you have a crazy weekend, you wake up on a Monday or Tuesday, and you recall something. Maybe it’s just sitting in a car with someone and for some reason you think about that.”
So the record’s about girls? “Yes, obviously the album is all about girls. Not such a special theme.”
One number Sascha doesn’t sing is “Goodbye”. For this he asked his friend Anja Plaschg, the young Austrian musician who records as Soap&Skin, whom he’s known for four years. He disliked the version of the song with his own vocals, and then he had the idea to send the song to Anja. “The next morning she sent me back her vocals and she was like, ‘Thank you, thank you! I really needed some inspiration.’ A very interesting, lucky situation.”
The Devil’s Walk began to take shape when Sascha was in Mexico at the start of 2010. On a break from the Moderat tour, he spent a couple of months on a working holiday in the west coast town of Sayulita with regular collaborators Joshua Eustis (of Telefon Tel Aviv) and Fredo Nogueira. “Normally I need a standard studio but in Mexico I learned to work on a laptop. We built a little bit of a studio for the drumkit and guitar and, maybe because I was working on songs, it just seemed to work out. It was a really good experience.”
Tanned and confident, he returned to Berlin thinking he had a whole album ready. Then he listened to it and realised that this was not the record he wanted to make. “It was way more electronic than the version you have now. I decided to rework it and that took one more year.”
Not only that, but when Sascha got home he found he had writer’s block and struggled to compose anything worthwhile for three or four months. “I was sitting around waiting for inspiration to come. It was a depressing time,” he says. “I felt like I’d used all my inspiration when I was in Mexico.”
A lifeline of sorts came in the form of an offer to put together a mix for K7’s DJ Kicks series. For this, Sascha could at least be creative with his mixing and he had a legitimate excuse to scour Beatport for the latest tracks, hoovering up new jams by the likes of Joy Orbison and Ramadanman. What’s more, nestled among cuts by Burial, Thom Yorke and Pantha De Prince was a new Apparat track, “Sayulita”, reworked from the Mexican session. “This was the first mix I’d done since I was 16,” he says, “it’s a résumé for the club chapter in my life.”
With his DJ pal Skate, Sascha embarked on a ten-date DJ jaunt around Europe, vowing to complete the Apparat album when he got back to Berlin. “I had 60 song ideas on my harddrive and I maybe managed to find six ideas I wanted to use for the album, so I still had to make new music at the end of last year.”
Informed as much by the Cure, Roxy Music and Cocteau Twins as James Blake and Four Tet, Sascha recorded The Devil’s Walk in his Berlin studio, a short walk from his apartment. After that Mexican slump, he was introduced to – and quickly inspired by – Patrick “Nackt” Christensen, formerly of Berlin electro-goth outfit Warren Suicide, who became Sascha’s co-producer. “He plays every instrument and has a very good feeling for not doing the obvious thing every time.”
Some numbers, such as “Ash/Black Veil” and “Your House is My World”, began life strummed on an ukelele, which Sascha and Nackt layered and layered until the songs virtually wrote itself. “You have these rare moments when you go to the studio and you start working on something and then instantly you go into a trance. Suddenly you wake up after hours and you’ve almost completed something.”
Having furnished the tracks with guitars, drums, keyboards and whatever else was lying around the studio, the natural progression is for Sascha to perform these new Apparat songs (and some older ones) with a live band. No longer a solo affair, Apparat is now a four-piece. “It’s hard to transform a computer record for the stage and that’s why I’m happy Nackt’s with me in the band. Finally I have a new project and everything is new. With a band things are different – it doesn’t feel like a step backwards.”
The album’s title is not just a reference to Shelley’s social critique, which, 200 years on, still manages to stir Sascha’s political sensibility; The Devil’s Walk also alludes to Apparat’s Mexican summer, when Sascha learned about the country’s attitude to the dead. “Skulls and death have a different meaning in Mexico. People celebrate funerals and I found that interesting, so I wanted to make this theme of the record and artwork.”
In the past, Sascha has been an outspoken voice online. Would he describe himself as a political artist? “Of course, I have opinions and I get upset when I read newspapers, but I’m trying to keep that out of my world. I wouldn’t write lyrics about political topics. For this record, I wanted to have it somewhere in the artwork, but not in an obvious way.”
You prefer to express yourself on Twitter? “Well, I’m trying to not use that too much because a lot of times you regret it. You get angry and instantly write something, which is good because its true, but it always causes a lot of discussion and sometimes you don’t want to discuss everything.”
In any case, all you could want to know about Sascha Ring and Apparat is in this tremendous record. The devil isn’t just in the details, he’s locked into every groove. And with Sascha at the controls, he’s certainly got all the best tunes. -

Starije stvari:

 For his latest full-length offering, Berlin's Sascha Ring has come closer than ever to integrating traditional songwrting into modern electronic sound design. "Walls" is an album that pulls together vocals, strings and dense layers of laptop composition, propped firmly upright by a glistening array of cutting edge beats. After the introductory digital atmospherics of 'Not A Number', the first real indication of this album's direction arrives in the form of 'Hailin' From The Edge', an unexpected move into soulful hip hop electronics. Next up, 'Useful Information' and 'Limelight' show a return to more established Apparat territory. These productions point to the kind of widescreen electronica with which Ring made his name - a reminder that whatever new genres he might experiment with, there's always a strength of technique at his disposal. Recent single 'Holdon' is one of four tracks here to feature the vocals of Raz Ohara, whose presence clearly displaces Ring from his familiar Apparat comfort zone. This track in particular marks a new, more streamlined approach to beat programming, which comes across as comparatively organic in this instance. As the album develops the scale seems to swell : there's the post-rock/hip hop crossover 'Arcadia', and later on comes 'Headup', which sounds like a shift into miniature stadium rock, complete with swathes of laptop textures only serving to accentuate the epic proportions of this ambitious album. - boomkat


That’s the s**t im talking about. “Duplex” is a great electronic album - one of the finest of the year so far - at once daring and traditional, experimental and conciliatory, tough and soothing. An amalgamation of ideas and production tools that span across varied styles and means of execution, bringing to life an unpretentious, brave fusion of intricate electronic constructions and a seemingly unconscious sprinkling of acoustic traditions. “Granular Bastard” opens proceedings brilliantly, taking its time, carefully showing its hand from the disjointed synthesis of the opening sequence to the eventual materialisation of the crunchy complexities of rhythm and the affecting melodies. Taking it slow, one breath at a time. Awesome. “Contradiction” follows in startling fashion, weaving in a gentle backdrop of sparse guitar to the broken, slowed-down beat and the reflective vocal that uncomfortably squeezes itself in. Flawed, vulnerable, genuinely moving. The rest of the album employs these principles as its guideline – veering from a heavily processed take on IDM through to gentle reflections and vocal renditions – at times appearing robust and angry, at others exposing its flaws, but always doing so with utmost originality and a desire to innovate that once in a while just devastates. There are very few IDM albums that take these sorts of risks, a thing that should be applauded. Highly Recommended. - boomkat

Apparat is the stage name for Sascha Ring, a German electronic musician living in Berlin and was previously a co-owner of Shitkatapult records. Starting out with dance floor-oriented techno, he later started to create ambient music and more recently became "more interested in designing sounds than beats".
In 2004, he appeared at a John Peel session. The tracks from this session were rerecorded and reworked in the studio and released as Silizium EP in 2005, as a tribute.
He collaborated with Ellen Allien in 2003 on the album Berlinette, and again in 2006 on the album Orchestra of Bubbles.
In 2007, he formed his own band to play the album Walls live. Raz Ohara joined him playing the stage piano and Jörg Waehner on drums. Next to playing these live shows, he continued to play his solo live sets, touring with Transforma Visuals.
In May 2009, he released the self-titled album with Modeselektor under the name Moderat on BPitch Control. They have collaborated previously on an EP named Auf Kosten Der Gesundheit which was released as a limited 12" in 2002.
In April 2009, he received the Qwartz Dancefloor (Electronic Music Award).
Apparat's single "Holdon" features in the trailer for the 2010 Teton Gravity Research ski film Light The Wick.
In 2011, he signed with the British Mute Records label, where he released his new record The Devil's Walk, named after a political poem by romantic English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, in September.
His track "Goodbye", featuring Soap&Skin, was featured in a climatic scene in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad.
His track "Black Water", was featured in episode 2 in series 6 of Skins (TV series).
Another track: 'Ash/Black Veil', also featured on the 2011 snowboard documentary The Art of Flight.

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