- Before dance music (and techno specifically) established its universal grip, the late '80s saw an outcrop of musique concrete-influenced experimental artists who produced ambient and experimental music incorporating intentional noise and field recordings. Lazily dubbed "industrial," the likes of Hafler Trio, Cindytalk and Zoviet France pioneered challenging works that played with the sonic balance between quiet and clamor, repetition and random resonance while leaving emotional interpretation up to the listener. The industrial music era was thrown asunder when participants like Psychic TV and KLF embraced acid house and spooky acts like Current 93 delved into folk.
Fast-forward to 2010 and Echospace's new album Liumin, which incorporates field recordings, atmospheric ambience and altogether battered and distressed sounding analog machines on its nine evocative tracks. Echospace's Stephen Hitchell and Rod Modell defined the depths of dub techno on their 2007 release The Coldest Season. The duo's new work extends and expands the genre. Based around street recordings made in Japan, Liumin's songs weave delicate synthesized loops and faint rhythmic sketches with random chatter, subway rumblings and other natural sonorities. The submerged kicks that guided The Coldest Season through the reverberating synth fog are now but ghostly apparitions, barely audible outlines on songs like "Firefly" and "Maglev."
Liumin's subtle compositions encourage active listening. It takes concentration to tease out the lo-fi layers on "Summer Haze." Opener "In Echospace" and "Burnt Sage" require focused attention to recognize and follow their creative and melodic arc. These tracks inhabit a grey area between exceptional productions and forgettable background din; the lack of definition on Liumin often makes for a tough slog. But there are real triumphs as well. "BCN Dub," for instance, uses fragments of a King Tubby-style dub track overlaid with a steppers-dub style cadence (sans kicks) to completely hypnotic effect. "Sub-Marine" is also one of the album's more explicitly rhythmic numbers, using just melodic loops and microscopic synth pusles to define the beat.
Late '80s industrial artists created an exigent take on electroacoustic music that contrasted and sometimes opposed the soothing and "pretty" output of ambient contemporaries like Brian Eno and Vangelis. In a similar way, Echospace challenge conventions that have developed around dub and minimal techno while embracing a very personal and artistic approach. The outcome on Liumin is both arduous and gratifying, which is often the mark of art at its best.
01. In Echospace
02. Summer Haze
04. Burnt Sage
05. BCN Dub