Sat directly underneath the main concert hall of DR’s Koncerthuset, “Studie 1” is not so much a music venue as a faithful recreation of a rather swish regional airport. In one sense this befits Moderat, the fusion of Berlin “legends” and “pioneers” (hack-speak for “bands people have heard of”) Apparat and Modeselektor, whose latest album, II, sees them tackle a broad and accessible range of electronica. Like the album itself, the venue is very clean and tasteful, but I keep expecting songs to be interrupted by a distorted voice saying “Final call for passengers on the SAS flight to Gdansk…”
Stuck behind the four inter-crossing panels that form Moderat’s backdrop, opener and fellow Berliner Anstam is visible as little more than a backlit shadow. Unperturbed, he jitters around, explaining that the next song is about Terry Gilliam. Cinematic references are obvious in the music, as grandiose themes are dismantled under pounding drums and noises bleeding into the mix. Only when his set ends to I realize I’ve spent the entirety of it trying to come up with anagrams of Anstam (spoiler: turns out there are none).
I am trying to deal with this personal crisis as Moderat shuffle on stage. Not by any means the most charismatic of musicians, they do seem in good spirits as Sascha Ring attempts some of the worst stage banter I have ever heard in my life (excerpt: “We are finally in Copenhagen. I hope you will like that fact.”). Three men behind workstations, like a mutilated Kraftwerk, the band relies on multiple layers of lights and projections behind them to give some visual life to the music.
Unsurprisingly, the setlist consists mainly of tracks from their second album, but the live interpretation of these tracks has a different set of values. In such a large space many of the more subtle or quiet sections of the album are completely lost, and throughout the set they are steadily eliminated in favour of straightforward club beats. This isn’t so much music for dancing as it is for standing-awkwardly-with-phone-in-one-hand-and-other-hand-punching-the-air.
Sasha Ring is also allowed much more space for vocals, which on the album generally signal the least interesting tracks. Live, however, they seem to garner the greatest response from the audience, perhaps because they provide the most palpable connection between band and audience. The evening is sold out, but most people in the crowd seem to be spending more time taking pictures of each other than listening to the music. Once again, during the break before the encore, I snap back into reality and discover I have spent the last hour looking at the ceiling and making a mental list of thing I have to do next week.