Ambient dub techno is not exactly the most varied field to work in or try and listen to. As with certain rarified subspecies of heavy metal, it’s the kind of music that tends to sound identical to outsiders until and unless they spend some serious time listening to it, and even if they find the deep pulse of the music pleasant, it’s not shocking that a lot of people don’t want to bother. Steve Hitchell’s newest LP as Variant is a clear example of the good stuff.
Hitchell’s a busy man, especially since Rod Modell’s Echospace label has had a resurgence (at least partially based around Hitchell and Modell’s work, especially Deepchord presents Echospace’s The Coldest Season from 2007), and keeping track of his pseudonyms alone takes some doing. That’s him as Intrusion contributing a whole disc of remixes to the excellent new Brock Van Wey album, and while those remixes were a bit underwhelming (mostly just because Van Wey’s work on White Clouds Drift On and On ranks among the finest ambient music), with The Setting Sun Hitchell proves again just how good he is at this stuff. The music Echospace releases comes with a shockingly high average of quality (intrigued newcomers to ambient techno wouldn’t be ill served by checking out Pole, Gas and then anything on this label), it can sometimes get a little monochromatic even for the genre. Seeing as how Echospace is extremely choosey about who they release music by, that’s to be expected, but Variant here offers up something that’s just as richly dubbed out as anything else on label even as it’s just slightly more colourful and varied. In a genre that’s all about minute shifts and subtleties that makes all the difference, and The Setting Sun is an enveloping, aurally rewarding album.