After the German originators Basic Channel, Rod Modell’s DeepChord project is the standard bearer for dub techno. The American producer is a specialist of this atmospheric, ambient type of 4/4, informed by the Jamaican dub studio techniques of delay, reverb, tape echo, and all-around desk wizardry. Modell also has an ear for sound design that puts him one step ahead of the competition.
Michigan, USA’s DeepChord was originally a duo, but fellow producer Mike Schommer left the outfit in 2002. Auratones is Modell’s latest work and it’s a marvel of aquatic reverberations and immersive power, the equal of his classic albums for Modern Love, Astral Industries, and regular home, Soma.
Unlike Modell’s previous material, it’s less in tune with actual dub. Whereas tunes such as “Celestialis” from 2007’s The Coldest Season featured a pronounced dub reggae organ echoing off into infinity, those features are absent here. Auratones, in fact, resembles more closely his 2014 Lanterns LP for Astral Industries, which mixed a new age ambient mysticism with funked up excursions into techno—such as “Red Lantern Part 1"—rather than his last artist album for Soma, Ultraviolet Music, which is a generally more dancefloor leaning affair.
On Auratones, “Varanasi” is a swirling mass of synth smears and susurrating frequencies, from which emerge liquefied dub chord clangs. “Portofino” begins with caressing pads, and distant spoken word vocals, before a speedy kick underpins an abyssal dive into meditative sound. “Point Reyes," named after the wide-open hills and undulating landscape of the California coast near San Francisco, is a more upbeat track, where crisp snares, percussive touches, skipping hats, and a lush techno chord riff combine to create alchemy. “Devil Ray” takes a memorable lead line and ratchets up the beats, with flying hats and tough kicks, while a great morphing scene of delays and granular textures mutates in the ether.
Modell’s great ability is crafting virtual spaces. Auratones floods the listener with blissful electronic oceans of sound, stimulating the imagination. “Roca 9” is an entirely ambient piece, a new age creation that offers a balm from the stresses of 24-hour connectivity in a technology-obsessed world. “Azure” brings the drums back, with a submerged breakbeat this time, but the ambient tones are even further out.
As Basic Channel began in Berlin as a response to both the dub techniques of Jamaican reggae and the sounds and rhythms of Detroit dance music, DeepChord began near Detroit in tribute to that European hybrid. Today, DeepChord has very much a sound of his own that chimes with the popularity of ambient music now. Apart from the occasional track (such as “Devil Ray”) Auratones is not aimed at club DJs, but at the sofa surfers and headphone dreamers who enjoy getting lost in seas of reverb and echo. It’s an impeccably made modern ambient record that sets the bar high for dub techno’s sound sculptors.
01. Fog Hotel
02. Moving Lights
03. Wind In Trees
07. Point Reyes
08. Underwater Galaxies
09. Roca 9
11. Devil Ray
Auratones LP is scheduled for October 20 release, with "Signals" streaming in full below.