Modeselektor, Presents Modeselektion Vol.01

[Monkeytown Records]

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Modeselektion Vol.01 is a compilation that demonstrates why the term “bass” has become so popular as a way to describe the current state of electronic dance music. In their inimitable style, Modeselektor have been pulling tracks from a myriad of styles, leaving one a tendency to scratch their heads at the tracklist. Techno brushes up against dubstep and house rubs shoulders with funky. What holds it all together, though, is the prevalence of heavy bass. It’s the common element in each of these songs, although its used in different ways, across styles and production techniques. There are quite a few dubstep compilations on the market right now, but Modeselektor seem to cut to the heart of the matter by identifying what all modern dance music has in common these days: the almighty low-end.

On the playful side of things, opener “Das Geheimnis” by Siriusmo is one of the strongest tracks of the collection, with squiggling bass melodies and clipped vocal samples punctuated the thick beats. Putting it up against the looping digital bass of “Pussy Posse” by Elan, though, highlights both the contrasts and the commonality of their production. Elan’s track comes straight out of the beat scenes of Los Angeles and Russia, layered in video game melodies and sharp snares, but that bouncing, carefree bass line connects them across the compilation. Cylob’s “Pepper Spray” channels the voice of video game Portal‘s GLaDOS artificial intelligence for a thoroughly quirky and creepy closing salvo. Players of the original game will find the constantly repeating “pepper spray” in that voice to be ominous and menacing. The bass here is frenetically paced and used to show the madcap adventure to which the track alludes.

Sometimes, though, the artists on offer use their bass lines as atmosphere, such as the way that Apparat stretches out his gritty melodic textures on “King of Clubs,” showing a patient, cinematic approach to bass music. A minimal song by Tadd Mullinix & Daniel Mateo, “The Good Star,” takes the concept of “bass melody” to the limit, stripping most anything else away and leaving a skeletal low-end that bounces up and down with the sparse drum pattern. Elsewhere, Shed’s “With Bag and Baggage” is a techno masterpiece, a stuttering drum pattern giving way to looping waves of atmospheric bass synths. Marcel Dettman coats his “Lyrate” in bass, but it’s used in such a subtle way that you become convinced you are submerged in the depths of the song.

Simultaneously body-moving and dark as a sonic war, SBTRKT’s “The Unspoken” relentlessly hammers syncopated beats and a wobbling bass stab to great effect. Tempered by the whistling of the synth melody, this track is coated in a sweaty grime of dance bravado. This heavy aura of darkness is a common use for bass. While not as intense as SBTRKT’s contribution, the compilation curators themselves play with the bass on “VW Jetta,” where the bass is sometimes creeping in the background and at other times way out front like an oncoming train.

Not all of the songs here use the bass in dominant ways, preferring to let the drums and melodies do the heavy lifting. Ikonika & Optimum’s “Hum” is a good example of this, with a lush twinkling melody over top and light percussion providing the main thrust of the song, and the bass used in tandem with those elements. “Kristall” by Housemeister is similar, letting the layers of synths be the main component you take away and the bass serving the song underneath.

Over the course of the compilation’s 18 tracks, Modeselektor select a tour of bass music, showing how these different styles work together through their common element. Too often compilations gather together a lot of like-sounding songs for cohesion. With a long history of DJing and performing, it appears Modeselektor have a way of looking at dance music without borders and boxes. It’s a perspective that is always welcome in this age of classification and genre. By distilling the music down to one element in common, the listener gets a sense of wide variety and possibility.

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