Despite his reputation as arch studio boffin, producer Sascha Ring – aka Apparat – makes unapologetically beautiful music. Unlike some of his IDM peers, Ring is not interested so much in abrasion or near-mathematical deconstruction, but with music that swells and soars with classical grandeur. Among current producers, he bears a resemblance in tone to Ulrich Schnauss (although the production is more technically impressive), or a less cluttered Chris Clark. Moreover, some of Walls‘ latter tracks build on Bladerunner-style futurism into the sonic blur of shoegaze, recalling Slowdive or, most of all, M83′s brilliant ‘Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts‘. Like these latter acts, Apparat embues the vivid, fractal soundscapes with a pop sensibility, using vocals on roughly half the tracks – largely successfully.
‘Not A Number’ opens ‘Walls‘ with the unashamably trippy flourescent swirl of the album cover, embellished with some vaguely orientatal strings. ‘Hailing From the Edge’ is more contrived, one of the vocal tracks that seeks a Timbaland electro sleaziness – with the apparent intention of sounding like an edgier Junior Boys – but coming off like a Justin Timberlake album out-take. ‘Useless Information’ picks up where the opener left off, with traditional orchestrations underpinning the cloudburts of acid effects and nebulous synths.
‘Limelight’ is more sonically adventurous, with fractured shards of vocal peppering between cavernous beats and other thunderous percussive effects, redolent of Kelpe’s ‘Sea Inside Body‘. ‘Hold On’ is a closer to the R&B pretensions of ‘Hailin’ from the Edge’ but less conventionally so, built over a mutant booty shaker that is too warped to dance to. Better still is the two-piece suite of ‘Fractales’, a psychedlic mash up of speeded up synths and ephereal textures.
But in fact it is the final third of ‘Walls‘ that works best, starting with the slow-mo digital pop of ‘Birds’, part-Postal Service, part-Junior Boys, but more abstract than either of those acts. ‘Arcadia’ too builds a vast, spacious neon world around a Thom Yorke-esque falsetto, in an future pop masterpiece worthy of the Flaming Lips’ ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots‘. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ returns to the Vangelis-inspired cinematics of M83 while ‘Headup’, another highlight, builds into a breathless shoegaze crescendo worthy of Slowdive or Blonde Redhead.
Despite a few misses, ‘Walls‘ is a fine album bucks a trend in which electronica seems increasingly entrenched in a creative cul-de-sac. If you like this, check out some of the aforementioned artists and albums, especially M83′s ‘Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts‘ (but not their disappointing follow-up ‘Before the Dawn Heals Us‘, or perhaps (Chris) Clarke’s ‘Body Riddle‘.