Deepchord: 20 Electrostatic Soundfields

According to the press release, Rod Modell's third Deepchord full-length for Soma Records is said to distance itself from dance music tropes in focusing on immersive audio-sculptures derived from video-soundtrack and installation works produced between 2008 and 2012. That statement turns out to be a bit misleading, however, as not all of the twenty settings lack rhythmic oomph—some, in fact, possess as much forward drive as any dance-related track in the Deepchord catalogue and are anything but static. Two tracks into the recording, “De Wallen,” for example, presents the Deepchord sound in all its glory, with a submerged bass drum pattern providing kinetic propulsion for a complex weave of smears and melodic phrases; the later “Amsterdam Remnant 6” offers a rare and upfront riff on rootsy, bass-heavy dub-techno. Others, such as “Praying Wheel,” include a rhythmic dimension while eschewing an urgent forward drive. Instead, they drift peacefully, as if dazed by the sun.

Under other circumstances, a listener might grow weary of an eighty-minute, twenty-track recording, but Modell keeps the listener engaged by adjusting the track durations throughout, with some as short as one minute and two as long as ten. The shorter pieces are the more ambient-like and also bring into sharper relief field recording details that help connect the listener to a specific locale. Of the longer pieces, the ten-minute colossus“Aerosphere” distills the Deepchord style into a single track in having a galloping pulse provide the fuel and a skittering forcefield of surges and flickers the decoration. In such pieces, micro-slivers flutter rapidly across stereo fields so deep and rich they more than justify the choice of “Oceanic” as a track title.

What also helps make the recording memorable is the palpable sense of place it conveys, with a number of pieces—travel documentaries for the ears—referencing different spots within Amsterdam and three others Barcelona's El Raval district; “Trompettersteeg,” for instance, includes late-night field recordings of street life (church bells too) in Amsterdam's Oude Kerk, while traffic noise, voices, and street sounds in the remarkable soundpainting “Barcelona” enable the listener to make an immediate connection to the setting. Modell's approach prevents the recording from seeming hermetic, as if it was created in a room divorced from the world outside.

Details aside, 20 Electrostatic Soundfields is quintessential Deepchord material, packed as it is with deep, dense soundfields within which chords dubbily echo and ethereal washes ebb and flow. An occasional recognizable element makes its way to the surface—the faint glimmer of a piano in “Whispering Pines,” for instance—but more often than not the material assumes an abstract character as a result of Modell's liberal application of granular synthesis processing and generative music techniques. If there's a downside to the recording, it's one that applies more to the artist than listener: by issuing such a definitive Deepchord collection, Modell makes the acquisition of others seem almost unnecessary. The listener in this case is the big winner.

October 2013