Berlin-based producer Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, positioned his DJ Kicks mix, released in 2010, as a farewell to the dancefloor-focussed section of his career. His label Shitkatapult continues to release house and techno, but with The Devil's Walk Ring appears to have abandoned tracks that aim to move bodies in favour of songs that aim to move hearts.
The sonic touchstones for The Devil's Walk include Junior Boys, M83, the melancholic pop of Maximilian Hecker and, most obviously, Sigur Rós. The Icelandic band's predilection for surging anthems that quiver between celebration and sorrow looms large on Song of Los and Black Water, while The Soft Voices Die is so indebted as to be pastiche.
Elsewhere Ring tends to keep on the right side of influence, but his magpie tendencies remain apparent. The richly melodic A Bang in the Void, for example, apes Steve Reich's counterpoint works of the 1970s, as did Not a Number from his previous solo album, Walls (2007). Ring's attention to detail is typically exquisite here: the looped bowing of a cello provides a droning bassline beneath pitch-bent chimes.
Vocally The Devil's Walk finds Ring in lovelorn, po-faced mood. Song of Los, Black Water and Ash/Black Veil are essentially traditional power ballads given a tasteful electronic spritz: they're catchy, melodramatic, and pretty cheesy. Candil de la Calle pulls a lot of the same moves, but the shuddering lurch of its dubstep-influenced rhythm establishes a more interesting push and pull between vocal and melody. Ring's reliance on the power ballad form is puzzling. It's when he steps away from it, as on closing track Your House is My World, where a tremulous banjo and strings cocoon his Vincent Gallo-like vocal, that he achieves his most startling effects.
It's telling that one of the best songs here doesn't feature Ring behind the microphone. Goodbye resonates with the doom-laden delivery of Anja Plaschg, aka Soap&Skin, intoning above scrabbly clouds of acoustic guitar and piano chords that sink like a corpse in water. If only there was more drama of this sort here, and a little less schmaltz, to bolster Ring's talent as an arranger and a producer.
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