Apparat: The Devil’s Walk (Mute)
I should just get it out of the way and profess that sometimes I miss the old Apparat. I’ve always found Sascha to be in finest form when he gets down and dirty and throws his IDM trickery full-on at the dancefloor. His EPs for BPitch Control and Shitkatapult have often showcased this meeting of worlds in a great way, with his early LPs tending to shy from such obvious physicality and leaning more toward sublime melodies and intricate detailing. He’s flirted with proper songs for years now, singing over some of his tracks and lending them a very different quality, despite these works sharing the same attention to detail and immaculate production. It’s funny how much the presence of lyrics and the human voice and completely change one’s perception of a piece of music. In reality, though, when I let go of my attachment to his dancefloor records, this is an extremely accomplished album. It’s certainly the most concise but ambitious of his more vocal-oriented works. I know that he’s also embraced a live band on stage, opting out of his previous solo setup of a laptop and a controller, which no doubt also affects how this music sounds. But rest assured, the large majority of The Devil’s Walk is still electronic, even as there are numerous flourishes of guitar, feedback, effects and more organic touches. Ultimately, this is a really stunning collection of songs, gorgeous production and supremely well-crafted, as anyone familiar with Apparat’s backcatalogue is sure to expect. His vocals are surprisingly clear and strong, although the lyrics themselves I haven’t found myself feeling strongly about much one way or the other. My favorites are the tracks where he’s not afraid to combine his technical chops with his newfound appreciation for songs, like the epic “Ash/Black Veil” which combines a Thom Yorke-like vocal and more active electronic backdrop (not too far off from the Moderat release last year). Soap&Skin’s vocal on “Goodbye” is quite nice as a dreamy ballad, while “Candi De La Calle” incorporate some of his rolling, repetitive chords and pads (think 2002’s “Koax”) in a new, more organic way. It’s an album that’s best heard with no preconceptions of where he’s come from or where he’s going, and it is good to give it time to grow. I’ve found it much stronger as a whole work than standalone tracks, strong stuff showing off yet another facet of Apparat’s elaborate repertoire.