Ellen Allien’s BPitch Control is one of Germany’s more eclectic dance-music labels, firmly rooted in the dark Deutsche techno sound but constantly stretching beyond. Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor, arguably the label’s most celebrated artists aside from Queen Ellen, mark the arrival of their second album with an even broader range of beats than what was displayed on Hello Mom!, their 2005 debut.
Techno-influenced dubstep, grime, and breaks abound on Happy Birthday! alongside some interesting guest vocalists. Opener “Godspeed” takes a dancehall riddim and adds grimey bass and techie synths, setting the tone for an album’s worth of cross-genre juxtapositions. Not too far removed from U.K. grime, entries like “2000007,” featuring French hip-hoppers TTC, and “The Dark Side of the Sun,” featuring the Puppetmastaz, border on cheese only because of their proximity to hip-hop’s often silly British sibling. Still, the Selektors’ rhythms keep things interesting, and the slower tempo ends up putting the tunes somewhere between the hyperspeed of the English sound and the jiggy grooves of current U.S. hip-hop.
The album’s title track actually sounds like some Balkan gypsy jam from the twenty-fourth century, and a pair of dance-floor destroyers that could sound at home on Ed Banger Records makes sure that all bases are covered. Even the few deeper cuts, including a collaboration with Thom Yorke that sounds like an outtake from Eraser, can’t help but break up the beats and keep the album from dipping into straight techno. There’s a ton going on in every tune, so you can listen intently for the multitude of hidden bits and bobs or simply rock out to the crunchy breaks. The duo has managed to make an album to please both the blogging music nerds and the hipper club-hopping set.
Their influences are obvious, but Bronsert and Szary never rest in any one style. Although many deejays bring a variety of sounds into a single set, these guys have taken things a big step further and crammed multiple genres into each song. They even make dubstep danceable, and deserve quite a bit of credit for that.