Rod Modell: Incense and Blacklight

[20 March 2008]

By Timothy Gabriele

Will they still be making minimalist dub 50 years from now? I can’t see why not. Electronic music tends to have an odd and ugly habit of publicly contracting the lifespan of its subgenres, but it’s hard to date traipsing shards of echoing synth washes lightly layered upon four-on-the-floor beats. At its best, Basic Channel flavored dub is a transcendent artform whose subtle beauties are so cherubically graceful, fiendishly unnerving and/or oneirically ineffable that they seem to circumvent the spacetime continuum. At its worst, its most incomplete, it’s wallpaper. 

German bedroom producer Rod Modell’s Incense and Blacklight, which is about his 60th release to date, is heavy on the former and only occasionally dulls itself down for the latter. It’s a varied piece, demonstrating its applications of more for less broadly and effortlessly. “Aloeswood” and its repetitive churning could alternately be a field recording from inside a laundry machine, a device from the death camps, or a night of clubbing from the subwoofer’s perspective. “Hotel Chez Moi” is a Pole-derived dub stagnation with various aerations bursting through the valves of its bubble-like exterior. “Red Light” is about as close as this music might ever get to being sleazy, the motions so dispassionate and perfunctory that it almost seems like porn music for zombies. “Morning Again” is perpetual horizon, only shimmers of light breaking through the mosaic of gauzy drone waves billowing past each other. “Cloud Over” is Kompakt style pop ambient whose rippling loops seem inescapable until you begin to relish being trapped within them. It’s exactly this type of voluntary hypnosis that seems to promise that Modell’s brand of encapsulation will sustain for years to come.

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