DeepChord - Hash-Bar Loops

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  • Providing the most universally loved works in the post-Basic Channel phase of the genre, Rod Modell's a hard man to escape if you like dub techno. Like Deepchord presents Echospace's Liumin, Hash-Bar Loops—actually the first proper "solo" DeepChord disc not just made up of versions and variations—is a record based around a specific time and a place, this time inspired by Modell's stay in Amsterdam rather than the metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo. It sounds like it too: Loops is comparatively rustic and smokescreened, nailing the hazily laid-back vibe of the infamous city in the same way that Tokyo's constant chatter fought through the industrial pollution of Liumin. Loops is less concerned with sonic largesse and monolithic rhythms and more content to curl up in a corner of its smoke-filled bedroom. Loops makes even more prominent use of ambience and field recordings, bridging the distance between ambient and techno, one of the album's primary strengths. The steady thump of the kick drum wades in and out of an ever-swirling cloud, beating steadily in the unconscious on tracks like "Sofitel" and "Black Cavendish"—like some reassuring maternal heartbeat—and breaking out into club-ready abandon on "Crimson" and "Merlot." The latter is one of Loops' most immediate moments, as the clouds suddenly part for a stunning bit of scenic night driving, the brief glints of artificial light flash by too quickly to make out anything more than basic shapes in the exciting and heady rush of it all. "Merlot" is fairly straightforward, but its sound design is exemplary. Yet it's that contrast between good sound and tired structures that eats away at the album as a whole, and raises a lot of questions about what exactly differentiates "good" and "bad" dub techno. Pick out any individual moment on Hash-Bar Loops and you're bound to be impressed, at least for a few minutes. Whether it's the disorienting polyrhythmic effect of the multi-layered "City Centre," where a synth melody seems to float on an alternate plane than the rhythm section, or the wrenching pseudo-boogie bassline on "Electromagnetic," Modell's work is packed with those little moments of jaw-dropping beauty. But is that enough? Listening over Hash-Bar Loops intently, the feeling of heard-it-all-before deja vu looms large, because no matter how well Modell has mastered his art—and he is a master—there's no escaping the fact that he seems to be working within an established template, a flaw worsened by the immovable linearity that defines the album's beat-driven sections. Hash-Bar Loops is essentially a no-frills Modell album, more personal, private and down to earth. That might make for a more approachable work, but at the same time there's little that matches the ingenuity and complexity of tracks like "Celestialis" or the endless space-age spiral of his most expansive and challenging work as CV313. Modell chooses smaller-scale embellishments, like the illusory snares that gently bevel the kick on "Balm," but they often get lost in the album's overwhelming length and soupy soundscapes. While it might be more conceptually consistent than some other comparable albums—namely Liumin—it never rises above the status of "good dub techno album," and at a time when it feels like there are more mindless and emotionless copycats than ever, that's just not enough. Those who love dub techno will find a lot to love in Hash-Bar Loops, but those unsatisfied with the genre's apparent stagnation will find yet another scapegoat retreading a rapidly aging formula.
  • Tracklist
      01. Spirits 02. Stars 03. Sofitel 04. Merlot 05. Tangier 06. Electromagnetic 07. Balm 08. Oude Kerk 09. City Centre 10. Crimson 11. Black Cavendish 12. Neon And Rain