Deepchord Presents Echospace – Liumin

Deepchord Presents Echospace - Liumin

Deepchord Presents Echospace - Liumin

Echospace’s first album, The Coldest Season, acted as a de facto summary of minimal techno forms at their chilliest, hearkening back to the boingy, static-y Basic Channel/Chain Reaction template, the deep echo and complex rhythms of dub techno artists exemplified by Pole, the tumultuous swooshing of Thomas Köner, and the hissing ambient grandeur of GAS. An 80-minute behemoth, it was this grand scale that really set The Coldest Season apart from its peers, and which allowed it to carry its theme of the comfort of isolation to its bleakly numbing but triumphantly perseverant conclusion. That album’s monolithic status made a repeat unlikely, but sure enough, three years on Echospace is back with another 80-minute behemoth, though this time they trade in the theme of stark isolation to explore the overwhelming rush of cities and the excitement of strange places.

That’s not to say that Echospace have fully reinvented themselves. Rod Modell is still supplying field recordings as source material and Steve Hitchell is still there to help him stitch all the layers together into a smoothly progressing whole. Liumin finds the duo changing modes – they are now expanding instead of synthesizing and refining. This is even more of a complete front to back work than The Coldest Season was. At the same time, the tracks here also stick out more as standalone songs than one would expect. Liumin follows the trajectory of a bell curve, bookended by two atmospheric beatless tracks, with increasing action on the first half which crests directly in the middle of the album, and then slowly recedes in the same fashion to a calm, flat-lined end.

“In Echospace” begins the album and acts as a segue from past to present. Introducing the field recordings of Japanese train stations and urban life that weave their way in and out through the course of the album, it is an apropos starting point for what will be a journey, even though the train is not picking you up for a ride, but dropping you off in the middle of the city. It also signals that the omnipresent hiss you’ve come to expect from Echospace has been jettisoned for more clarity and motion. “Summer Haze” follows, transforming the atmosphere into a jubilant one, bringing in a 4/4 thump and skittering melodicism that both gradually evolve, adding more percussion patterns until the track feels like it’s smearing past you at a rate too quick to fully process, like passing through a city lit by neon and moonlight. “Sub-Marine” takes over from there, feeling more trance-y and cerebral with some slightly funky dub noises suggesting descent to a deeper, more intense section of the city. After the initial surge of excitement, “Burnt Sage” brings in a careful and quiet microhouse beat, dark synthetic strings, and some faraway echoes which sound like water trickling down the sides of a sewer, and it feels like trouble. Luckily “BCN Dub” brings some voices back into the mix and picks up the pace with a throbbing thump and some echoed woodblock which slowly is subsumed by a scratchy synth chord and a distant sounding, but over-amplified reggae horn section which slowly intensifies and distorts until it is running the show. This unexpected touch feels like pure genius, and it provides a touch of exoticism as well as the climax of the album – a surrender to the city’s intuitively incongruent but organically seamless cacophony of activity. The album plays out much like it began, but now the tracks indicate a confident merging with the city in the smooth self-assuredness of “Firefly” and the tunneling groove of “Maglev”. “Float” and “Warm” continue the dialing down to a place of peace and serenity, the lights and banging now just audio and visual tracers banging around inside your tired but sensually satisfied skull.

These guys’ control of gradients of intensity both within and between songs is masterful, lifting you up and then laying you back down. If you’ve listened to much dub techno, you probably know what this sounds like for the most part. On the grounds of this tradition, these tracks measure up with the best. But the real experience here is the pure immersion and the unfolding of a lengthy narrative in sound. The field recordings of a train station in foreign lands are an obvious nod to Monolake’s Hongkong, another masterpiece of transportive ambient dub from over a decade before, of which Liumin bears a striking resemblance. Echospace have never privileged ingenuity in sound, but always in form and function. There’s always room for more masterpieces in a genre. All it takes is an artist with the vision and talent of Echospace to make their own room. On Liumin they take the same clay many have used, but where most simply manage tracks with a nice feel, they use it to sculpt something intelligible and grand.

Echospace

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