Reviewed By: Andy Green
Rod Modell aka Deepchord releases his new long player, Auratones, on Soma which (over recent years) has established itself as the second home for the producer’s burgeoning catalogue.
The trend has been for his club focussed, deep and driving dub techno to be released through the Glasgow label whilst live projects and his cv313 work to remain on the Echospace [Detroit] imprint.
Surprisingly though, the last Deepchord album was back in 2015 so the heads have certainly been looking forward to this new album presented as a segued 2 CD set or as the 13 separate tracks cut onto a pair of heavy-weight, gold marbled 12’s.
I began reviewing the record from digital files my own (bought!) vinyl copy arrived recently and despite the 20-25 minutes of bass heavy music per side, the quality is dynamic and detailed (this matters to Deepchord collectors and listeners).
Immediately apparent on this album are the familiar elements of Modell’s deep and organic techno. Fuzzy, rolling and cavenous basslines with thick kick drums that merge into the driving systole of most tracks which is then placed amongst swirling clouds of static, synesthetic frequencies and intangible, atonal melodies.
Collectors of Modell will certainly appreciate this re-acquaintance with this quite unique brew of dub techno. It’s become a signature sound whilst other dub techno producers stay with more clinical and accurate sound-scapes. Its facile to make comparison with previous albums like the last Ultraviolet Music and Hash-bar loops, both also large bodies of techno released by Soma in recent years.
However, sitting down to listen properly and mmerse yourself in the rich textures and the album reveals its ethereal beauty and hypnotic lightness. Compared with earlier records the percussion is set further back into the mix, its less dominant which allows the tracks to breathe with less effort.
It is this gentle shift in mood and tone that make it quite distinct from those previous albums and recent 12’s. The album is also punctuated by sumptuous beatless tracks like ‘Roca’ which further lighten the sonic pressure adding colour and light to the album.
Imagine the breeze whispering through autumn hued trees, sunlight dancing on azure water or the lazy, chatter of twilight. These are the scenes painted on this album.
There are no weak tracks on this album and listening through the running order adds to listening experience. Sit through the entirety for 90 minutes to reward yourself with a genuinely cerebral, calming journey.
The first half slowly builds a little tension which is then released over the second. Lagonda is a wonderful building piece; its signature is an 8-bar looped melody rising amongst the hiss and swirling effects. The lower frequency pulse steadily builds below before fading away.
Portafino suggests kindly, dreamy voices but the message is ambiguous. Underwater Galaxies has a solid kick and bassline offset with reversed strings…perhaps a cello which I can’t recall being used before. Azure could be my pick here…..more barely-there voices and sumptuous deep off beat kick that also disappears into the ether as the track soothes the mind.
Reflecting further on this album and earlier albums it becomes apparent that Modell has a remarkable talent for creating moods and conjuring landscapes from his machines and studio and yet how this achieved is incredibly difficult to deconstruct.
I am reminded of Impressionism, characterised by vague technique but with the aim of depicting natural scenes of changing light, the passing of time and movement. Modell’s paintings suggest inviting places and moments but ultimately its down to the listener to interpret the sound and create their own space to reside.