Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary have been making music as Modeselektor for some 15 years. But the Berlin-based duo truly jumped up a few rungs on the visibility scale in the mid ’00s when Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke started hyping their deft, minimal brand of Northern European electro. And as with their last Modeselektor full-length — 2007’s Happy Birthday! — Yorke makes a guest appearance on two tracks for their new effort, Monkeytown, but that’s just part of the album’s charm. Stream it here in its entirety, a week prior to its September 27 release.
Monkeytown began as an instrumental project, but the duo soon realized that these new songs “called for a voice,” says Szary. “We didn’t really think about who should sing over what track, but it all came pretty naturally and just popped up.” They reached out to Yorke, L.A. avant-garde rapper Busdriver, NYC blip-hoppers Anti-Pop Consortium, and several others.
Bronsert and Szary were surprised that their preferred collaborators replied so positively. “It was kind of breathtaking how fast everyone came up with great ideas and how they all got totally engaged in our music,” Szary says.
Yorke explains his interest in working with the duo: “I was just driving round Berlin with them, with Gernot’s arms flying round while he drives, listening to all these beats and shit that were so good. They keep transcending, like Kraftwerk during the krautrock thing… Right from the beginning I loved the fact they weren’t dead serious but were total fucking experts, [and] that gave their music such an energy.
“I think it’s probably their fault really that I got back so heavily into dance music and DJIng,” Yorke adds. “So you can blame them. Ha!”
One of the record’s standout tracks, “Pretentious Friends” features Busdriver, who also dropped rhymes on Moderat, Modeselektor’s 2009 collaboration with fellow German beatsmith Apparat. “Whenever I have a piece of Gernot and Sebastian’s music to deal with, I’m perplexed, overwhelmed, and panicked,” says Busdriver, aka Regan Farquhar. “What could I do to improve or even be heard on this deafeningly display of dancefloor jackhammering? I decided to write an honest song about pricks.”
While other guests on the album have been pals of Modeselektor for some time, Romanian-born singer Miss Platnum, who sings on the soulful, bouncy jam “Berlin,” was new to the fold. “Gernot was in the car one night, driving through Berlin and listening to a radio show on his car stereo,” Szary explains. “There was a song by Miss Platnum, and he really liked her voice right away, and got fascinated by it. We contacted her the very next day, and before we could blink, she showed up at our studio.”