With the release of Orchestra of Bubbles in 2006, an album-length collaboration with Ellen Allien, and the Apparat solo album, Walls, a year later, Berlin resident Sascha Ring exhibited the flexibility of his signature sound and further developed an enthusiastic and eclectic fan base. His work fuses techno elements with more pop-oriented song structures, integrating noise and melody in imaginative and emotionally resonant fashion. At times, Ring’s work straddles the divide between the club and the real world, binding the ethereal to the concrete. He has a proclivity toward stuttered beats and seems to actively avoid the 4/4 time redolent of house and techno. Like other maverick electronic music producers—Kieran Hebden and Nathan Fake come to mind—Apparat music, whether suggestive of Radiohead or Border Community, is a world of its own.
Things to Be Frickled compiles 11 Apparat remixes for a variety of artists (one accompanied by Allien) and, on a second disc, eleven mixes of his work by others. The first disc is, as is to be expected, by far the more coherent, offering a cogent look at his work as a remixer and an apt introduction to his aesthetic in general. He is particularly canny at flushing out the aspects of other’s music that can be extracted and adopted into his amniotic, serotonin–stimulant compositions.
Of the more aggressive, mind-bending excursions here, the most notable are Apparat’s rewrites of Boys Noize’s “Shine Shine,” and, more spectacularly, Swayzak’s moody and melancholic 2007 single, “Smile and Receive.” On the latter, he chops up Cassy Britton’s despondent vocals into fragments, the appearance of which signal coming explosions. The phrase “headphone epic” is an appropriate descriptor. It is both cerebral and visceral, movement of the mind swinging ahead of a slower, more consistent movement of the body. As a DJ friend of mine remarked, tongue not fully in cheek, “It takes me higher.”
Apparat’s treatment of Raz O’Hara’s “Where He At?” is exemplary of his work at the other end of the spectrum. Choosing to keep the song’s general structure in place, he crafts a ballad gone cosmic. A simple, sad piano figure is nestled woozily among crackling tape sounds and huge umbrellas of emotive droning, a perfect compliment to the whimsical timbre of Raz O’Hara’s vocals. (The experiment a success, O’Hara contributed vocals to a number of tracks on Walls, including the album’s first single, “Hold On.”) Elsewhere, to expectedly euphoric effect, Apparat takes on remixing duty for like-minded producers Nathan Fake and Seattle denizen Lusine, as well as turning Francesco Tristano’s piano cover of Derrick May’s techno standard, “Strings of Life,” into a patient, pensive urban dreamscape.
The second disc, remixes of Apparat, is most interesting in the way that all the remixers chosen represent Apparat’s various interests. Modeselektor’s take on “Hold On” is a block-party-ready slug in the face, while the Chris De Luca vs. Phon.O version takes its tip from modern hip-hop production. The Telefon Tel Aviv mixes evince a sensibility akin to Apparat’s, showcasing beat-driven ambient soundscapes. Their mix of “Arcadia” leaves the ground for the final three minutes, when, taking a cue from The Field, they splice together a repetitive, otherworldly coda. Unfortunately, the Boys Noize take on the same track (the best thing, along with the remix of “My Moon, My Man,” that Alex Ridha has done) is not included in its 12 minute and 30 second entirety. All we get is a calm, ether-soaked sample. Nice, but not in the same league as the long version.
While Walls and Orchestra of Bubbles are documents of where Apparat has been at in the past few years, Things to Be Frickled, as well as compiling some recent work that was only available digitally and on vinyl, is a document of where he has come from, his interests, his style, and his singularity. Not that knowing where he is coming from prepares one for where he will be going next. Wherever that may be, I expect it to be both comfort and surprise, like an old friend who, appearing after a long absence, reminds you just how astonishing his presence really is.
Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Sascha Funke – Mango
Nathan Fake – Drowing in a Sea of Love