Apparat’s latest album is one those of releases that settles for being ‘nice’. With that comes some positives. After all, ‘nice’ is always preferable to ‘not nice’. Unfortunately, LP5 seems comfortable not pushing any boundaries. Tracks unravel steadily, with heavy attention shown towards atmosphere and production (both of which are the album’s strong points). Rarely are there any momentous changes to melodic composition, such is the ambient nature of the work. LP5 is an impressive record on the surface, but I’m often just as tired as I am satisfied.
There are some clear standouts: “CARONTE” benefits from a wonderful string arrangement; “DAWAN” stands as one of the more weighty numbers, driven along by delightful live percussion; “HEROIST” basically sounds like a really good Thom Yorke number. LP5 ends on a high note too, when closing track “IN GRAVITAS” finally gets into gear. Its climax is essentially a full-on roaring house track, and it sounds fantastic. This highlight alone exposes the album’s largest frustration: it’s overly committed to a mid-tempo pace throughout. LP5 is luscious, often inventive with the way it arranges sounds, but it’s rarely that compelling. It is, as we established, ‘nice’.6 10
Favourite tracks // CARONTE
Following the release of this project Apparattold told fans: ‘I made a record. It’s called LP5 because I didn’t wanna make up a bullshit title and a story to go with it. It is about music and only that.’ Fair play to him, he was right. LP5 has no story and no obvious purpose. It exists, sounding immaculate and saying nothing. At times one wonders why he bothered at all.
The album is beautifully produced, the sort of thing you’d play to feel smug about an exorbitantly expensive new sound system. But as Apparat says, the music is an end in itself. Sometimes it drifts, sometimes instrumentals break through the crackling haze to form an arrangement. When this happens a lot of Radiohead comes through, a lot of Thom Yorke. Falsetto harmonies and a liquid backdrop in “HEROIST” echo A Moon Shaped Pool, while “BRANDENBURG” is orchestral and melodic, its soft edged piano sitting just in front of the mix. The album is nothing if not textured. It’s often sumptuous to listen to.
And yet I can’t help but feel LP5 has joined a growing club of production wankers. I could go track by track reaching for clumsy metaphors about how well its fleeting, unfinished arrangements sound, but is that really enough? Middling prose in a beautiful font is still middling prose. That’s my problem with LP5 in a nutshell; there’s no bigger picture to take in. As good as it sounds, it’s ultimately the sonic equivalent of a book of carpet samples.6 10
Favourite tracks // HEROIST
Apparat has settled on a particular path with LP5. Each track is a meandering, gradual, comforting mix of whirring synths, quietly agitated beats, and strings of all varieties. It makes for a thoroughly pleasant experience, but without a great deal of variety or highlight in sight it’s easy for the pleasant to become the forgettable.
“DAWAN” exemplifies the tone of the first half of LP5. Fitting somewhere between Thom Yorke, the likes of SOHN from the turn of the decade, and more recent Bon Iver material, instrumentals sound organic despite being largely electronic, and Ring’s vocal floats along without a great deal of consequence. On the flip side, “CARONTE” features a lusher string accompaniment with a stronger vocal before diving into a sizzling bass synth line which develops the track into a warm, busy crescendo complete with horn section.
Make no mistake, there are some lovely moments here. The ambient samples that line many of the tracks further add to its natural atmosphere and some of the heaving, quivering synths that wallow in a swamp of reverb are very pretty. It’s clear too where Ring’s influence impacts collaborations with Modeselektor under his Moderat alias, with many of the drum patterns and glitchy decoration feeling familiar. But without the punch that comes with those other projects and collaborations, and without a forceful direction or purpose to tracks and the vocals within them, it’s all too easy for LP5 to fall into the background.
There’s nothing here to dislike and you’ll no doubt have a nice outing with it if you take it for a spin, but ultimately there’s no staying power here and very little to love. While it never professes to be anything more than a collection of nice moods and moments, it makes it hard to give it more than nice nods and remarks in return.6 10
Favourite tracks // DAWAN