May 4, 2009

ARTIST PROFILE : Rod Modell aka Deepchord, Echospace, et al (Detroit, MI)

[This is an updated profile I wrote a couple years ago for my blog, which I am now using just to post my own music and updates, rather than reviews]
Rod Modell, out of Detroit, MI, has produced some of the most captivating, intriguing, enjoyable electronic music I have ever heard. Coming from someone who has collected electronic music obsessively for over a decade, this is a strong statement, and I stand by it. Along with Mike Schommer (aka Techniker), Rod started the Deepchord label in the mid-'90s and began releasing 12"s in extremely scarce editions. I began hearing a buzz about Deepchord on some discussion forums around '01, and was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of "DC10" on yellow vinyl when it first came out. I had been introduced to the Berlin techno sound of the '90s by way of the production duo Basic Channel and their many side-projects, plus their record label Chain Reaction which released many landmark minimal/dub techno 12"s and albums of the decade. A fascinating, mysterious house-inspired sound, usually structured around a 4/4 kicking beat, but often drifting into ambient, abstract and experimental territories. I was captivated by the style, which to me was taking a lot of the progressive production and sonically-fascinating elements of genres like IDM, industrial, darkwave and ambient, but blending it with the body-moving techno beat and deep basslines. When I read comparisons between Deepchord and Basic Channel's legendary dub-techno Rhythm & Sound project, I had to hear what the fuss was about. I was totally blown away.
Deepchord's style takes the Berlin house sound in a direction that is more dreamy, ethereal, warm, dub-reggae-tinged, sometimes almost tropical sounding yet other-worldly. The beats stay minimal and maintain a hypnotic pulse throughout the experience while a soft wash of analogue static and warm synthesizer tones rise and fall, punctuated by an occasional, percussive, nearly-infinitely-echoing "deep chord". Some of the pieces incorporate field recordings and organic audio sounds, as well as live hand percussion like conga drums, which give the pieces a beautiful, timeless, and not-digital sound. In some ways, the Deepchord sound is a beautiful synergy of the minimal house sound combined with lush ambient space music. I understand that a collaboration with Steve Roach was in discussion for a while but never came together, which is a shame as it sounds like a perfect fit and makes a lot of sense as a direction that both house producers and ambient/experimental producers will be exploring further in the future.
Much of Deepchord's back-catalog is now out of print, and sells for collector's prices on eBay and Luckily, there was a compilation CD made, entitled "Vibrasound", which collected many of the '99 through '04-era tracks, including all of "DC10", most (but not ALL) of "DC11", and none of "DC12", plus a few other gorgeous tracks. There is also a very nice mega-mix CD put together with Kevin Hanton, entitled "Illuminati Audio Science" that is required listening, and maybe not so difficult to track down. In the past couple years, Rod Modell has gotten very active again with a new record label/project called Echospace in collaboration with Stephen Hitchell of Soultek, several new Deepchord records, a new pseudonym called CV313 which harkens back to the DC10/11 era in a beautiful way, and a whole mess of remixes for other artists including Convextion, a gorgeous rework of Juan Atkins/Model 500's "Starlight", and several others.
Since I wrote this profile in 2007, Rod Modell released a couple of CDs on the more ambient side of the spectrum. CV313's fantastic "Subtraktive" was rereleased on vinyl, previously having been a limited 3" CD release of 150 copies. Echospace did a few more remixes as well as expanded, digital versions of their "OBMX" and "Sonorous" 12"s, and Stephen Hitchell began releasing his solo work under the name Intrusion. The classic track "Grand Bend" from "DC10" was remastered and remixed for an essential 2x12". Deepchord circa 2001-2005 is definitely my favorite era of Rod Modell's work, comprising his "DC10" through "DC16" 12"s, his two 12"s for Echocord Records, and the "Electromagnetic Dowsing" 12". Anything you can find by these artists is worth hearing.