Deepchord: Hash-Bar Loops
Soma Records

Rod Modell, justly celebrated for the oceanically deep dub-techno style he's developed over a large number of releases as both Deepchord (on Modern Love, Echospace [Detroit], and on DeepChord, the label he co-founded with Mike Schommer) and in partnership with Stephen Hitchell as Echospace (2007's The Coldest Season by DeepChord presents Echospace perhaps the most well-known of their collaborations), refines his Deepchord style even further on Hash-Bar Loops. In one sense, the album picks up where the 2010 Deepchord Presents Echospace release, Liumin (Modern Love), left off, as just as that album used field recordings from Japan as a creative starting point, so too does Hash-Bar Loops use a specific geographic locale as a springboard, in this case Amsterdam, well-known not just for Rembrandt and Van Gogh but, in keeping with the allusive album title, its infamous cafés. If it is the case that, as accompanying info states, Hash-Bar Loops “tells the tale of a hazy extended stay in Amsterdam, where the album was in the most part formed,” no one who's frequented such havens should be surprised that the album originated in part out of such hazy experiences. Track titles such as “Oude Kerk” and “City Centre” render the album's connection to the Netherlands city all the more explicit and enhance the sense of place that emerges as one absorbs the album's contents.

The album's twelve tracks include dreamily atmospheric settings (the album's bookends “Spirits” and “Neon and Rain”), which almost seem on the verge of drowning under the accumulated weight of the textures, and primarily pulsating uptempo tracks, which achieve high-velocity when Modell undergirds them with insistent tech-house beats. After emerging from the thick ambient swamp of “Spirits,” the material grows alert and clear-headed as it segues into the unwavering attack of “Sofitel” before turning more soulful for “Merlot.” In material such as “Tangier,” whose textural density recalls the pioneering output associated with Basic Channel and Chain Reaction, mutating life-forms swim within thick baths, while burbling chords fight to be heard within an opaque blanket of smothering swirls during “Electromagnetic.” A more pronounced house feel emerges in some of the tracks, such as “City Centre,” whose bass-thudding tempo pitches the Deepchord sound at a steamy broil. A metronomic kick drum is never far away, regardless of whether the overlaid materials involve synthetic elements, samples, or field recordings, and the album benefits from the ultra-rich textural swarms that Modell fashions throughout. So indelibly does Hash-Bar Loops capture his Deepchord style, the album would serve as a perfect entry point for anyone coming to the Detroit-based producer's work for the first time.

June 2011