Deepchord‘s first full length, The Coldest Season from 2006, remains a defining dub techno moment. It’s the ultimate atmospheric album, ideal for the overpowering beauty of cold, desolate arctic landscapes.
This year’s Liumin takes us into other territories. Where Season was meditative, complete-in-itself, this album is adventurous, groove-centered, with samples and street noises masterfully leaked in, layered in the mix discreetly, tastefully, connecting each track to the following. Much more of an urban album, Liumin opens with In Echospace, an atmospheric build-up with a very thinly sketched beat coming in towards the end, and is defined with the following Summer Haze. Like most tracks on here it moves forward in another way, still meditative but not sedative; not desolated, but populated. Water is dripping from faucets, trains are passing by, we hear the wind, records played in the distance, voices in different languages. It makes for the ideal soundtrack for a confused, disoriented walk around town.
Burnt Stage and Firefly are the dreamiest of pulsating-expanding deep house tracks, returning to those melancholic pads that we know and love from Vladislav Delay and Yagya. Sub-Marine, Maglev and Float on the other hand seem to have gotten distracted into rather formulaic undercurrents, aimlessly flowing through the ocean of standard techno sounds. Far from bad, but hardly something that I’ll come back for in the future. The same goes for the entire second disc, which is ambient music built around Japanese field recordings. Some parts are very beautiful, but it needs the right time and place to be appreciated fully. Not the kind of stuff I play daily.
Having already betrayed all expectations of how an Echospace album is supposed to sound, DeepChord are allowed to drift further in the direction of dub music, too. Thus, they can sample. Something it seems like they’ve been waiting years for. Very discreetly they introduce (what I presume is) a classic roots reggae trumpet into BCN Dub, camouflaging it with edits, delay, echo, virtuously creating depth and building atmosphere bit by bit, and not letting the sample play out fully until nine minutes into the song. It’s a beautiful moment, and also a respectful tip of the hat to the dub masters of decades past.