Applying lessons learned may be more important than learning them. Sascha Ring, throughout his experiences as a solo artist (as Apparat), label head (German electro imprint Shitkatapult), and collaborator (he partnered with Ellen Allien in 2006 on the masterful Orchestra of Bubbles), has obviously learned a great deal, both practically and aesthetically. With Walls, his proper follow-up to 2003’s solo affair, Duplex, Ring has absorbed his life experience into an expansive, warm, and endlessly enjoyable document, one that challenges the boundaries of previously explored territory while inviting discovery of new elements of emotion and sound.
Bringing back European soul enthusiast Raz Ohara (who helped with 2005’s Silizium EP) to accentuate the accessibility of Walls was a rewarding decision. Ohara lends vocals to four of the thirteen tracks, turning “Hailin’ from the Edge” and “Hold On” into electro-soul gems a la Jamie Lidell. On “Headup” and “Over and Over,” Ohara resigns to a complementary role, allowing himself to coexist with Apparat’s micro-detailed instrumentation. Using Ohara as an added instrument permits Ring to dictate the longing, ruminative mood of these tracks, demanding repeated inspection and ultimately creating uniformity.
On his own, Ring skillfully applies the most gratifying moments of his collaborations with Allien while continuing to enlist the services of Kathrin Pfander and Lisa Stepf for string arrangements. “Fractacles Pt. I” combines Apparat’s trademark glitch shuffling with the dance-floor beats dominating Orchestra of Bubbles‘ best moments. “Useless Information” rides a solid beat and electronic splashes over driving orchestral strings, delivering a round emotional experience.
“Arcadia” sums up Apparat best — his booming beats, his intricate arrangements, his vocals and his learned knowledge. It’s worthy of displaying and even more worthy of pleasurably exploring.