III finds Moderat, the hybrid trio of Apparat's Sascha Ring and Modeselektor's Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, embracing unrestrained, raw emotion while evoking a decidedly dystopian dreamscape. The album, which masterfully combines introspective ambience with hard-hitting IDM and infuses it all with a pop sensibility, not only marks the conclusion to the outfit's electronic pop trilogy but also achieves what they sought out to do on 2013's II and 2009's Moderat.
The previous two installments in the trilogy saw the trio grapple with sounding like the sum of its parts as they walk the line between a heavier Berlin club sound and purely blissful pop. They continue this equation on III, creating standout tracks like lead single "Reminder" and concluding track "Ethereal" that play like modern pop songs fit for Berghain.
The outfit managed to capture that feeling in the video for "Reminder." Watch it below.
Previously, the outfit relied on collaborators to provide vocals. III instead features Ring's sombre voice wailing sinuously in a range that is often reminiscent of Thom Yorke's during Radiohead's Amnesiac and Kid A years.
It is this tweaking of the old formula that sets this album apart from the rest. Ring's vocals lend additional layers to the already onion-like tracks and make the gloomy moments mournful, and the upbeat ones contemplative.
The album's heights are almost melodramatic, even bombastic at points, as demonstrated in the most Gothic-sounding parts of "Ghostmother" and the dissonance of "Intruder." At the other end of the album's sonic spectrum are moments of hushed intimacy, subtle percussives, and melodic layerings of synths as heard on "The Fool," "Finder," and "Ethereal."
The thing is, each of the nine tracks on the album contains elements of these emotive extremes. The syncopated staccato that swirls and layers on "Finder," for example, is straightforward, until (almost suddenly) the song crescendos and evolves into something undefinable in terms of genre and emotion alike.
The song -- and the whole album -- is melodic until it is cacophonous, and it's dissonantly chaotic until it is blissfully organized again, but when those shifts actually happen is difficult to pin down. But isn't that uncertainty, that seemingly endless vacillation between dancing to lose oneself and losing oneself to dance, exactly where the tenets of electronic music and pop music meet in the middle of the dance floor anyway?