Deepchord - Hash Bar Loops (Soma)
I've always enjoyed Rod Modell's work as Deepchord - his ability to manipulate and deconstruct the basic building blocks of house, techno and dub has made him one of the most intriguing modern electronic propositions, and the depth of sound conjured is second to none. Previous album The Coldest Season, released on Modern Love, rather than his own Deepchord imprint was a perfect synthesis of his sparse dub sound and Modern Love's own experimental ethos, so bearing in mind Soma's reputation for dancefloor-orientated house and techno, one would expect this to contain more focused material than the twenty minute live performances he's taken to putting on the flip sides of vinyls as CV313. Opening with Spirits, we plough headlong into proper Deepchord territory; delicate washes of white noise, massively refined sound-desk work and groans of synthesisers slowly sweeping and decaying, before building into Vainquer-esque dub-techno on Stars and Sofitel. The majority of the album sticks with a similar sound palette of cavernous bass, far-away synths and reductionist percussive riffs, but with these simple tools Hitchell manages to build a narrative that guides us through Amsterdam (where the album was recorded), from the heady, stoned vibes of its coffee shops and bars, to the throb of the city centre and the blare of its red light districts and nightclubs. There's few obvious breakdowns, and like most of Deepchord work, it seems to be extracted from long, extended jams rather than designed for DJs. At the heart of the album is the shuffling Oude Kirk, which utilises a chattering percussive riff reflecting Amsterdam's ever-moving tramways, and smoothly seques into City Centre, the most focussed track of the album with a kickdrum high in the mix, sensory encounters fleeting, transient and washed away into nothingness.
Closing the album off are Black Cavendish and Neon and Rain, polar opposites of the bustle at the heart of the album that paint a much bleaker picture. Black Cavendish, again focusses on a kickdrum, but elevates it high into the mix, with a claustrophobic amount of sub-bass. With hisses panning around the speakers and little let up, it serves as a paranoid counterpoint to the sunny dub of Merlot or Balm and leaves the listener drained and shaken. In contrast, Neon and Rain is a beatless, doom-laden peice of ambience that draws all colour from the synth stabs and groans with far away blasts of noise. It's the perfect coda to a powerful piece of modern dub that proves Modell is a force to be reckoned with.