By Dimitri NasrallahGernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of the Berlin-based duo Modeselektor have the ability to fuse their most energetic aspects of dancehall, IDM, and hip-hop into the kind of full-bodied techno that usually fits snugly between Ellen Allien’s Bpitch Control and T. Raumschmiere’s Shitkatapult imprints.
With a critically lauded debut album (2005’s Hello Mom!) and high-profile remixes (Miss Kittin, Thom Yorke), they’ve spent their time bubbling up from a crowded scene of similar hopefuls. If they’ve been looking for a break, this fall’s release of their second album, Happy Birthday! should establish them as one of the more notable electronic acts to emerge from a bumper-crop year.
Happy Birthday! is a culmination of everything they do best. Like the Wighnomy Brothers, they have a knack for finding a track’s pressure points and turning them up. The new album’s title track rocks an infectious dancehall shuffle that has been the staple of their recent live shows, while the standout TTC collaboration, "2000007,” fuses futuristic hip-hop with a stomping IDM kick reminiscent of fellow Berliner Apparat, with whom they sometimes play as Moderat. And yet on "Sucker Pin” and "The Black Book,” they drop the fusions altogether in favour of banging three a.m. techno tracks that could be played in their home city’s famed Watergate club.
Then there’s the Thom Yorke factor. The Radiohead singer admires Modeselektor enough to collaborate on "The White Flash,” a tip of the hat to the caustic electronic experiments Radiohead dabbled with on Kid A’s "Idioteque.” "He really is a Modeselektor fan, which is still amazing to us!” writes Szarzy via email. "He mentioned us in 2003, on a German TV show, telling the interviewer that we are one of his favourite acts.”
Yorke’s not the only one taking back the duo’s phone calls these days. French rappers Maximo Park, Otto Von Schirach, Gonzales’ Puppetmastaz, and Paul St. Hilaire all chime in to make Happy Birthday! a fantastically varied album.