If you were to deconstruct the reasons behind Modeselektor’s reputation for being one of the most innovative acts in dance music today, then their live performances would be a central contributing factor. Yet, that’s perhaps unsurprising when you consider that the Berlin duo started out as warehouse party DJs and didn’t put out their first proper record until almost a decade after hooking up.
Since then, irrespective of how good their albums have been (and they have been very good), Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s superlative standing has been firmly grounded in their ability to render their bass-injected take on techno and IDM in the live arena.
As such, tonight’s show - their only live performance in the capital this year - feels pretty special, and the duo brings a number of acts associated with the their Monkeytown label to provide the undercard action.
Clash arrive as veteran experimenters Mouse On Mars are delivering the evening’s first live show, pummelling the growing crowd with an unrelenting barrage of electro and IDM. It’s an impressive performance, but 8pm is pretty early for such strong stuff.
Following them, Apparat’s more nuanced blend of electronics is better received, his selection of warm, expansive techno a master class in warm-up DJing.
Unsurprisingly, by the time Modeselektor take to the stage just after 10pm, the Roundhouse already feels like a sweaty hotbox. Framed within a rig of slanted lighting strips and backed by two screens of live-controlled graphics, the duo launches straight into the into the gurgling bass and syncopated kicks of ‘Blue Clouds’.
Most of tonight’s set material consists of re-worked tracks from their recent album ‘Monkeytown’. Numbers such as ‘Pretentious Friends’, ‘German Clap’ and ‘Grillwalker’ are rendered in real-time, whilst bass monster ‘Evil Twin’ is stripped to its bare components and gradually teased throughout the first half-hour of the show, its eventual arrival making for the mid-set highlight.
Later, the same approach sees the duo’s remix of Radiohead’s ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ and Thom Yorke collaboration ‘Shipwreck’ worked into similarly improvised, extended versions, whilst the off-kilter glitch of ‘Berlin’ brings proceedings to a climatic close.
It’s an impressive performance and complemented by the pair’s lively stage presence, whether orchestrating a mass sit-down or spraying a bottle of champagne over the front row.
Whilst these sorts of antics might have techno purists' eyes rolling and do invite comparison to the overblown buffoonery of EDM stars such as Steve Aoki, the integrity of the music itself offers a justification, or at least a negation, of the more ostensibly cartoonish elements of tonight’s show.
Although, if there is any disappointment tonight it is that, despite it being their only London gig of 2013, there are few surprises. Tonight’s performance is a variation on a set that the duo have been touring for more than a year now, and any hopes for special guest appearances, or perhaps a preview of the new Moderat material they’re currently working on with Apparat, are left unfulfilled.
However, it is somewhat churlish to make such complaints when what is played is as near flawless as tonight’s set. An ear-drum perforating reminder of why Modeselektor have achieved cult stardom in the last few years, tonight’s one-night stand is a success on all accounts.
Words: Peter Adkins
Photos: Michael Parker
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