Many try, but few artists succeed in making music like Rod Modell. The prolific Detroiter has been at work since the mid-'80s, producing a steady output of experimental material that somehow manages to retain a singular artistic vision. The Deepchord project—originally consisting of Modell and Mike Schommer—began around the turn of the '00s with a series of highly regarded 12" singles inspired by the dub-techno fusions of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, and Moritz Von Oswald's M-Series. Far from being just another dub-techno knockoff, the duo demonstrated a unique mastery of the form, simultaneously filling the void left by Basic Channel's departure while still pushing the genre towards further unexplored processes.
Eventually, Schommer left the group, and Deepchord became something of a defining alias for Modell as a producer. Projects in the latter half of the '00s—like Echospace, his collaboration with Steven Hitchell—saw him moving away from the dancefloor towards a kind of cerebral techno that demands a pair of headphones and an open mind. Last year he released Hash-Bar Loops, his debut solo LP as Deepchord, and his first on the Glaswegian Soma imprint. Now, amidst a furor of Modell-related activity, comes his latest LP, Sommer, which picks up loosely where his last left off.
An old Modell quote taken from an interview with Textura is instructive: "I like music that unfolds in slow motion, so the listener doesn't miss anything. I like to show my listeners a frame-by-frame scan. Time-stretched to see the details." Like the majority of his recent output, Sommer is less a compilation of individual tracks than it is one long, evolving work that unfolds gradually, like a journey across some rain-swept Midwestern highway. There's a sense of wonder to it all, with ghostly melodies manifesting and disappearing over an omnipresent connective drone of sample hiss and tape delay.
It's an evocative work, one that brings forth intense visual imagery, though, oddly, none of the subject matter touches on the warm German weather hinted at in the LP's title. Instead, we're given a meditative atmosphere, the sort of headspace that emerges from observing the subtleties of storm clouds and fog. It's said that he recorded the album while under the influence of his waterfront home, a fact that explains the overtly coastal qualities of tracks like "Aquatic" (go figure), "Beneteau," and "Flow Induced Vibrations." Elsewhere, this meteorological fixation is given a less terrestrial foil via the floating pads of "Aeronautics" and the birdcall-laden "Gliding."
One of Deepchord's defining elements in recent years has been been the project's ability to convey near-solid imagery through careful sonic collage. Modell is a practitioner of a sort of musique concrète, going out to remote locations with a microphone in search of strange acoustic environments. It's within the way in which he manipulates the found sounds from his travels into alien tones that the complexity of the album can be appreciated. These samples, as on "Fourier" and "Alfama," form a constantly morphing projection that surrounds the LP's nearly codified heartbeat-like dub-techno rhythms with a cocoon of personality. The overall effect is to create a record that's both deeply personal and emotionally affecting—these are felt moods and physical localities conveyed almost telepathically through music. And it's the mastery of this technique that makes Sommer, and much of the recent Deepchord material, such a compelling listening experience.