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The Devil's Walk
Apparat The Devil's Walk
Released 23 September 2011
Producer Sascha Ring
Label Mute
Length 48:09
Genre Electronic
Website apparat.net

The Devil’s Walk, Apparat’s (Sascha Ring) first release proper since 2007’s critically acclaimed Walls makes for an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable listen. Although stylistically dissimilar to his previous release both in tone and song structure, The Devil’s Walk serves to provide an amplified version of Apparat’s most lauded qualities, his ability to evoke melancholy from the simplest of sounds, intelligent use of his inherent techno sensibilities and not to forget his beautiful (and undervalued) vocal delivery.

'Sweet Unrest' makes for a hypnotic introduction to the album with smooth synths, looping Asian-inspired strings and the eventual angelic choir that sores and dips beautifully with the lower choir tones. Although over all too soon, the track highlights Apparat’s sequencing strengths and ability to transform the relatively simple into glorious emotional displays.

Surprisingly, but far from inadequately, the pace remains quite leisurely with the next two tracks. 'Song of Los' with its constant techno bass beat and pounding synth couplet shepherds the album’s first vocal delivery quite well with lovely piano tinkling in the distance. Although possibly one of the album’s weaker tracks, it serves to form the beginning of a consistent emotional trend throughout the album, particularly from the weepy backing vocals mid-point onwards, whose euphoric atmosphere demands repeated attention. 'Black Water' is a highlight. Although a tiresome comparison, the influence of My Bloody Valentine is very much on show here as the dense sound layers (with constant repetitive beat and baseline) begin to wash over the tender vocals and threaten to explode with a harshness and aggression you’d come to expect. It never comes however, as an exercise in control sees the crescendo rapidly dissipating, leaving lone whispered vocals, therapeutic rainfall and a chance to catch your breath.

An unexpected and significant u-turn is taken on 'Goodbye'. Devoid of electronics, with an ever present heartbeat paced monotonous beat, a smattering of random strings and a simple piano piece all ensure the emphasis is centred on the blissful vocals, almost Nick Drake-like in its delivery. Lyrically, the mood is glum and the sense of hope fades away in sync with the decaying sounds. A lovely if somewhat gloomy new dimension to Apparat’s catalogue.

'Candil de la Calle' and 'The Soft Voices Die' unearth familiar territory and probably for the first and second time on the album. More beat orientated with a layer of blips and hi-hat/tambourine effects, the vocals which are arguably the albums best, line up strikingly beside the breathy waves of synth and bass on 'Candil de la Calle' in a track quite similar to one of the standout Walls tracks 'Birds'. Muted sirens lead 'The Soft Voices Die' into a simple piano and glockenspiel lead which continues to grow in stature and atmosphere. As the pacy drums begin to kick in, in addition to lovely violin strings that take hold, an expected release in energy is expected but similar to 'Black Water', sounds are drawn in in favour of a sudden hushed vocalised finish. Unlike 'Black Water' however, the piece is unable to induce the tension or excitement on the same level and unfortunately becomes the track that could have been.

The shimmery 'Escape' is a real beauty and yet another patient one at that. A ballad of dramatic proportions, Ring’s vocals waver and break in emotion amidst the poignant backdrop, giving way to symphonic interludes and soft piano keys. Probably the milestone track of the album or even Apparat’s complete discography, it succeeds in allowing the so called electronic musician to break new ground by embracing an electronic free format and still remain faithful to his musical origins.

Between the forgettable 'Ash/Black Veil' and 'Your House Is My World', 'A Bang in the Void' with its tinkling layers atop a chugging brass and horn section is Apparat at his comfort level. Playing it safe, yes, but fitting in neatly amidst the somewhat downcast tone of the album, the Walls like instrumental is one of the more optimistic and hopeful tracks. Although indeed a brief respite, it is fair to say taken as a whole, The Devil's Walk is very much a deeply personal and sad experience. An off-putting description in theory maybe, but to combine both powerful lyrics with passion provoking sonic landscapes within an electronic corral is no mean feat, more so a genuine success.

- Conor Hynds