Gathered together as Moderat, Modeselektor (Sebastian Szary and Gernot Bronsert) and Apparat (Sascha Ring) tracked and edited synth jam sessions and crusted samples with spatial processing to generate II, the trio’s dubby, viscous, digitally masked, and amended sophomore full-length. After six months working in Modeselektor’s “tower” studio located on the 12th floor of a high-rise off Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, Moderat printed 10 tracks, assertive and fortified with subtleties and are now preparing to transform them live through Ableton Live sessions, trigger-launched and hand-played outboard gear, pedal chains plus a plethora of realtime MIDI controller and mixer tweaking. In these outtakes, Szary and Ring, along with II’s mix engineer Francesco Donadello, reveal a few more details about capturing a solid frequency response, dealing with a low-end-saturated mix, and the initial thought process behind the group’s synchronized multi-projector live show accompaniment (handled, as before, by Berlin visual collective Pfadfinderei).
Sascha Ring: I use a Bock 151 tube condenser mic because it has a thickness and presence. It lets me record up close but is forgiving. For me, the good thing about the voice is it is such an intuitive instrument. I’m not very good at playing any instrument, so when I sing I have a direct approach to the ideas in my head and I use that. Sometimes I would sing a melody and it will turn into something else later on, but most of the time it was a really serious vocal recording and I’d do like 40 takes driving me crazy.
Sebastian Szary: I feel Sascha’s voice is much better [on II style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;"] than on the first one. After four years he has developed his voice, so that’s the reason we forced him to sing on so many tracks, and we would build songs not only tracks. The way we produce together, not thinking like Modeselektor versus Apparat, is even more powerful on this record. On Moderat, we helped fix each other’s lost ideas, but on this one we made completely new tracks starting with fresh parts not just used old ones we found on hard drives.
Ring: When we were monitoring, the fun speakers are the Genelec 1038As, because they have tons of bass. But on the small Genelec 8040A, you don’t get drawn away by an ocean of bass so those are my favorite. And Szary brought his little kitchen radio with a minijack input that was used many times so we could tell what is too much overdrive, etc. in a track. That was a secret weapon, a lifesaver; it was an extra impartial engineer.
Francesco Donadello:Szary, Gernot, and Sascha love big bass sounds! So as mix engineer I’d always have to put a lot of attention on this area. Usually I’d listen to the whole mix to understand what should stick out and what should stay in the background, then I’d listen to the kick(s) and see what frequency they are tuned in, and sometimes I was changing the tuning according to the bass line. Then I would find some way to put the bass around the kick(s) with the right EQ and compression, or sidechain comp, if necessary. However, on most songs there was already a heavy sidechain compression going on, so this case I was mostly working on the EQ and fine-tuning the sidechain compressor parameters, like attack and release. Also, the granular synth sounds generated a lot of density in the mix, on a wide spectrum of frequencies, so it was definitely more difficult to create space for the other sounds in the mix. Every song needed different treatments, of course, but in general I have to say that I was very respectful of the mix they gave me. I would just start from their mixes and try to see where I could improve them; sometimes I was just bypassing plugins, or I was processing some tracks through analog gear, to tape or substituting plug-in reverb with analog reverbs like the EMT. I was just there to make it better, working a lot on automation and dynamics, giving more body and punch, and trying to put more life into it so it will catch the listener’s attention.
Szary: Between the albums a lot happened in the touring world. We call it the ‘LED war,’ because since the time we toured the Moderat album in 2009 now when you see a superstar DJ they are solo with some CDJs and a huge LED wall or shaped glowing platform or something that didn’t exist before. After seeing all the stages touring as Modeselektor we feel the music should speak the language, not the LED shows. We didn’t think about how we would tour II when we were recording it, but we have been thinking about the music when planning the upcoming shows, and we are thinking more about using the stage depth, because our music is not a wall. We don’t want to be forced into competing with these shows, or have our music change because we’re thinking too much about lights.