The makers of the seminal The Coldest Season make another great record, without ever relying on their own tricks.
Given the pure, perfect chill of Rod Modell and Steve Hitchell's last collaboration as DeepChord Presents Echospace, 2007's fittingly-named The Coldest Season, it was hard to expect anything else but more impeccably managed, glacially beautiful ambient dub landscapes on Liumin. As befits two men with such a wide range of talents and interests, however, Liumin is entirely different. Just as the duo's cover art has shifted from an abstract, wintry still life to a vividly colourful portrait of a city at night, they've moved from the stark charms of The Coldest Season to something that you'd have to call dubby techno rather than dub techno.
The product of plenty of touring around the world (and featuring plenty of field recordings to supplement it), even the quieter opener "In Echospace" boasts thick, rich washes of static that surge like waves on a beach. The standout "BCN Dub" uses what sounds like a tinny radio broadcast of foreign pop music, along with the most propulsive beat Modell and Hitchell have ever used under this name, to propel the 12-minute track effortlessly along. Both "Float" and "Sub-Marine" also have rhythm tracks that belie the connotations of their titles to great effect, and even the more peaceful "Burnt Sage" and "Firefly" burble along happily in a way that effortlessly disproves the silly contention that ambient dub techno has to stick to one speed or mode. Hell, the fractured, echoing loop that powers "Maglev" is glancingly reminiscent of the Chemical Brothers' fine remix of Primal Scream's "Burning Wheel", which is not a comparison you would ever expect.
By the time Liumin closes with the distant voices and gentle synthesized clouds of "Warm", Modell and Hitchell have put together another 80-minute album that never outstays its welcome. What's even more impressive is that they've done so without going back over the ground they covered on their debut as DeepChord Presents Echospace. Both men have produced copious amounts of worthwhile music on their own under various aliases, but Liumin and The Coldest Season are clear proof that they bring out the best in each other.