Sascha Ring is a man on a multifarious mission. His work as Apparat, as well as Moderat with Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, has seen him placed squarely at the forefront of the forward trajectory of German dance music in the last decade or so, as it has moved into more ambient, emotionally driven and “challenging” territory. Moderat can be seen as Ring’s more secure day job, with its focus being on aiming the majority of their work at the chin strokingly cognizant dance crowd, whereas Apparat has always felt like something more akin to a passion, as Ring allows himself to explore areas of self-interest rather than deliver a recognisable brand to the audience.

LP5 is Apparat’s first release since 2013’s Krieg und Frieden and continues Ring’s journey into more expansive and experimental territory, but not always as successfully as its predecessor did. Cellist Philipp Thimm is once again a collaborator and the album features a range of classical instruments, including trumpet, trombone, a harp and stringed instruments which are used sparsely across the album, hidden within a mix which often feels over-layered whilst at others frustratingly being bland.

The album begins with the downtempo ‘VOI_DO’, which has echoes of bands like The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation about it, but there is a little more jazz than doom here (which is a shame). The vocal over this track is exquisite, with just a hint of autotune which adds to the eerie and emotionally distant feeling evoked from the timbre of the music. There is a feeling that Bon Iver has been used as something of a comparison point for Sascha Ring on this track and the album as a whole. ‘DAWAN’ follows and it is a slice of contemporary, keyboard-soaked psychedelia which sounds something like a collaboration between Tame Impala and Four Tet. There is a shuffling D‘n’B-lite drum pattern in the background which never becomes overly intrusive when you are willing for it to do so. The track has a degree of tension running through it as the swells of sound build and build, the drums get ever so slightly more frantic and then… ‘DAWAN’ just ends. The crescendo that the listener is yearning for never materialises, which frustrates rather than pleasantly surprises. The song lasts less than five minutes which is agonisingly short for a song which doesn’t resolve or peak in the manner that it perhaps should.

A number of the tracks on LP5 have a melancholic and cinematic feel to them, notably the keyboard-drenched, gently-strummed acoustic guitar and piano refrains of ‘EQ_BREAK’ and ‘OUTLIER’, both of which feel plaintive and ripe to be used in a film with a hero seen repeatedly trudging through open expanses of nothingness as an obvious visual metaphor for their emotional well-being. These tracks have echoes of post-rock acts such as Sigur Rós or Mono and are undeniably beautiful in their solemnity and earnestness. The album is not just contemplative introspection, though. ‘CORANTE’ uses a burgeoning, urgent and pulsating string arrangement to propel the track forward, whilst album closer ‘IN GRAVITAS’ has two minutes of James Blake-esque navel gazing before distempered guitar tones lead to a nascent keyboard line which becomes more established and takes over the track along with the most direct and immediate beat on the album. There is a nagging insistence to this section of the song which is something of a release in light of the seeming hesitation to let loose which many of the other tracks on the album suffer from.

The production on the album lacks bass (and courage) in places. On ‘HEROIST’, for example, you are crying out for the sub-bass present in the background to be reverberating the hell out of your teeth and guts. In actuality, it is all too distant, polite even, existing as it does to the periphery of the track. This brings to the fore one of the main issues with this album, which is that there is an entirely different work here buried under the mix as it stands. LP5 could have been a ground-breaking album with a little more bravery in the production, but as it is it feels almost as if the extremes of the instrumentation were reined in to appeal to a wider audience. As good as LP5 is (and it is good), it feels like a number of opportunities have been lost in order to make this album more of a civilised (i.e. neutered) affair. It is a good album, but everything exists here to have potentially made it a great album but there is arguably a lack of conviction about really pushing the boundaries aside.

The album works best when listened to as a whole, and this is something that Sascha Ring’s later output as Apparat has in common with itself. The listener is taken on a journey, but their expectations may not always be met. Whether this is considered a good or bad thing will be down to the individual in each case but, for me, I felt as though the exploratory field that I was being led towards was less adventurous than it could have been.