To electronic connoisseurs everywhere, Berlin is widely considered a hotbed of some of the genre’s most innovative offerings. Among the most venerated names in the already-illustrious Berlin scene are experimental duo (and sometimes Thom Yorke collaborators) Modeselektor and the ambient techno giant that is Apparat. Combine them, and you get what is arguably one of the most respected electronic “supergroups” around: Moderat.
If the paragraph above should indicate anything, it’s the level of excitement I felt going into the trio’s show at The Fonda. The closest I had come to catching a performance from them was Modeslektor’s closing set at Coachella 2012, which I was unceremoniously dragged away from by a now-ex-boyfriend to catch bits of Dr. Dre, Snoop, Holo-Tupac, et al. It remains one of my biggest music festival regrets to this day.
The sold-out Fonda crowd was first treated to a superb opening set from Joshua Eustis, AKA Telefon Tel Aviv. Following the tragic death of his musical partner, Charles Cooper, in 2009, it’d been some time since we’ve had the pleasure of hearing new music under the Telefon Tel Aviv moniker. Although his moody offerings rowed unabashedly into experimental territory, Eustis expertly straddled the line between creative innovation and accessibility. The bass-induced foot massage was also a definite plus.
It didn’t take much from Moderat to whip the sold-out crowd at The Fonda into a frenzy. Before the percussive intro to “Ghostmother” had even started, the trio’s mere presence on stage was met with surprisingly vocal approval for a set that swung on the comparatively mellow end of the electronic spectrum. As I soon found out, the adoration was well deserved because I witnessed what might have been one of the best shows I’ve seen at The Fonda. And for the record, I’ve seen many, many, many, many, many shows at The Fonda.
If there’s one thing Moderat has truly perfected, it’s the art of tension maintenance. Their deftly and deliciously layered tracks are filled with patiently crafted build-ups that lead into flowing crescendos before resuming the subtle intensity that preceded it, the perfect example of this being “Rusty Nails,” which, much like the rest of the evening’s offerings, was several orders of magnitude more stunning than its album counterpart.
The group’s more ambient-influenced tracks in their catalogue also translated stunningly here. I spent a not insignificant amount of time listening to “Last Time” on repeat in 2014 and was pleased to hear how well it worked live, especially since the incorporation of mellower tracks late into a set is always a somewhat risky maneuver. From a pacing standpoint, there are few who could equal these three, let alone better them.
Although Moderat’s two-encore set was just shy of the two-hour mark, I left The Fonda yearning for more, and although I want to thank these guys profusely for allowing me to experience what was truly one of the most expertly crafted electronic sets I’ve yet witnessed, I also can’t help but hate them just a little for raising the bar so damn high. See them the next chance you get. I know I will.
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