Album Review: Apparat – DJ-Kicks (2010 LP)

One of electronic music’s most eclectic artists, Sascha Ring (aka Apparat), has been DJing and producing for more than a decade. Aside from his own productions, the Berlin-based musician has worked on albums with Modeselektor, Ellen Allien, and even a rock opera with Gianna Nannini. Experimental by nature, his style is notoriously difficult to pinpoint, though studio albums like 2007’s Walls, which features the pop-minimalist subtlety of “Arcadia” and the beautiful melodic journey of “Fractales” parts 1 and 2, certainly show why he is considered such a forerunner of the IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) movement.

Apparat’s contribution to the DJ-Kicks mix CD series was originally intended as a sort of musical journey through his life and influences, but its final incarnation was something quite different. Perhaps taking a step back from the more generic/less inspiring sounds of dance music in the past five years or so, Ring has put together a collection of newer songs and artists that inspire and excite him.

For him this could mean anything, which is the beauty of this incredibly diverse record. Boasting a hefty 24 tracks, many of the songs on DJ-Kicks are merely loops and glimpses into larger songs, interspersed with a few more expansive, full-bodied tracks. Some songs are so fleeting you barely have time to appreciate them, but all tracks have one thing in common: they showcase Apparat’s penchant for moody, off-kilter sounds and spatial effects, beneath delightful little melodies.

Opening with one of his originals, “Circle” – which, like the more driving, dense song “Sayulita” later in the record, sets the mood of the album perfectly, with its shimmering sounds and haunting vocals. The mix album weaves through tracks like the quietly drone-y Telefon Tel Aviv song “Lengthening Shadows”; the Autechre (featuring two members of, curiously, Napalm Death) remix of the the shuffling “Falling” by Scorn; the signature glitchy remix of Born Ruffians‘ “I Need a Life” by Four Tet; and the beefed up, dubstep/techno-infused “Tempest” by Ramadanman.

Although strictly an electronic music album, some more organic sounds slip in, and once again Thom Yorke shows what a diverse artist he himself is with the inclusion of the sombre and rhythmic “Harrowdown Hill”. The album swoops to an epic finish with Tim Hecker’s “Borderlands”, a song which echoes M83 or Ulrich Schnauss and finishes the record in a very grand, densely orchestral fashion. There’s no distinct journey in Apparat’s DJ-Kicks, but with all its subtleties and beautifully programmed moments, it’s a pleasurable listen all the same.

Review score: 7/10