- Rod Modell is best known as DeepChord, the creative force behind popular dub techno records such as Vantage Isle and The Coldest Season, but that moniker is just the tip of the iceberg. Modell’s back catalogue is enormous, encompassing ambient and sound-art releases on obscure labels which even the Discogs radar doesn't pick up: imprints such as Silentes, Hypnos, Amplexus, Linear Logic and Silver to name a few. Modell’s latest album, Incense and Black Light, showcases the breadth and depth of this oeuvre. More abstract than his gentle dub atmospheres, more varied and violent than his ambient work, it is a record of hissing, coiling atmospheres that stands as a cross section of his output, taking in everything from the glitchy drones of his releases on Silent Records to the hard-edged techno of recent live DeepChord performances.
Based on ten field recordings made during a single night (presumably in Japan), the album is ten discrete snapshots rather than a cohesive whole or narrative. An album of dark environmental explorations then, it seems like a shift in focus for the label, too. The oddly named Plop! is otherwise known for albums of low-key, leftfield minimalism with gently poppy elements that fall somewhere between the sound of 12k and Morr Music.
The standout track is ‘Temple’ which is at its best when heard loud. After the laidback dubbiness of ‘Cloud Over’, Modell ramps up tension with undulating waves of sound over steady beats. The beatless but forceful ‘Ultraviolet World’ that follows should also be turned up loud. In fact, it’s clear from the first moments of the vacuum-powered opener ‘Aloeswood’ that all of the tracks, regardless of tempo, benefit from high volume listening, including the sheet-of-sound drone-dub of ‘Into Day’. Elsewhere Modell’s signature atmosphere infuses the vignettes, with flanges and delays blowing through windy spaces on 'Hotel Chez Moi' and 'Subway'.
Modell makes a show of his lighter side on ‘Body Sonic’. Funky, melodic and vaguely ‘oriental’, its squelchy beats sound almost over the top in the context of this catalogue of reductions, and it’s therefore the only track to tip the balance of the album dangerously into soundtrack territory. Nevertheless, Incense and Black Light is both soothing and harrowing in equal measure, and it has a breadth that will appeal to fans of Modell’s abstract works as well as those interested in the darker side of DeepChord.
02 Hotel Chez Moi
03 Body Sonic
04 Cloud Over
06 Ultraviolet World
08 Red Light
09 Into Day
10 Morning Again