Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell aren’t exactly a marriage of convenience, but it’s only inevitable that we judge them together as the alias to which they give their names. Objectively, it seems that they each support one another. But they are two very different people: Modell likes noise, he plays Merzbow albums while eating breakfast, he’s an ambient architect, tension designer, and is the one that conjures up the background noises that sound like mating insects. Hitchell, on the other hand, loves 70s music, he’s the one who adds the dub touch, and the one that makes Modell’s cold, ambient noise stretch into space like a cosmic symphony. Both like techno, but Rod prefers it on the rocks, like his whiskey, and Stephen is more attuned to the Detroit romanticism and the deepness of certain house that tends to open up. When talking about music, they never agree, and must look despairingly across at each other. But, to make “Liumin”, and also “The Coldest Season” (2007), just like the innumerable 12”’s that their label and others have pressed, Modell and Hitchell need each other. From this tension and contrast comes the secret recipe.
With this said, it’s also clear that on “Liumin” nothing appears that hasn’t been seen on the duo’s previous releases. The music continues to be like the surface of a metallic gray lake, calm although eventually cracked by the soft waves, with its deep black abyss and monstrous reverb. Light refracts in the sound, introducing obtuse angles, absorbing and rejecting it. It’s a mirror with the opposite side showing, not the good side. The echoes sound with force and extend kilometres away from your ears. The techno-dub of Echospace hasn’t renounced any signs of identity: King Tubby and Basic Channel benefit the experimental re-visioning of this Berlín-Detroit core with a dark cape of isolating noise, which brings to mind contamination in the atmosphere of a big city: it’s always there, and even the rain can’t get rid of it. Although it’s always here and it’s toxic, it doesn’t hinder the music flowing like air and recharging with energy as if it were oxygen.
The one thing that seems new, or at least different, from “The Coldest Season” is the intensity. “Liumin” plays at a higher bpm rate and doesn’t conform to suspension in a turbulent levitation (here’s a metaphor: like the squall before a storm, multiplied by 10 and prolonged infinitely), which then becomes an insistent bass line that gets buried in the album. Just like the first album by Kaito without arpeggios, or like the homonym and instrumental sound of Rhythm & Sound (2001), “Liumin” is at first dense and hypnotizing, then later small details take it in one direction or another. Here, these details point towards a romanticism – the cyberpunk of a hesitant megapolis, somewhere between tradition and the impassive future, a mix 80s Detroit, complete with its severity, and modern Tokyo.
Because “Liumin” is Tokyo. Rod Modell spent a few days there recording sounds night and day across the city, from its small quiet alleys to its congested streets, from its canals to its parks. The result appears on the second CD of the limited edition album. These are field recordings with ambient post-production and touches of drones, identified in the booklet as “mystical vibroacoustic-phenomena”, a distilled atmosphere of all life’s particles, in a similar vain to what Thomas Brinkmann did in “Tokio +1” (2004) a few years back. The result integrates the rhythmic operations of Hitchell into “Liumin”. In spite of this, it’s necessary to recognize that “Liumin Reduced” is more solid, has more history, and is difficult in its building of new music from such powerful and ethereal bases such as these. Not everything on the record can identify one hundred percent to this duality of zen + rave, or rather the sound of a rave ten thousand miles away, and pieces like “BCN Dub” escape the Japanese generalization, the quiet discipline, and the balance between speeds that dominate the majority of the album. But, when these contrasting and complimentary moments take place, like in “Firefly”, “Sub-Marine”, “Float” and “Burnt Sage”, they work to perfection, and “Liumin” becomes what we want it to be. Echospace is at the best place in its brief history, able to make a record that didn’t look back towards “The Coldest Season”. Its beauty and unrest are on a grand scale. You must play it at an insane volume while lying on your back, and wait for hours and go through consecutive listens for the effect to take over. Let yourself rock like a dead body in the sea. I’d like to return to the metaphor above: that moment before a storm while below, the ocean begins to roughly move in waves, tensing up like a scared cat, and all in its own solar scale. Majestic, right? Right. Javier Blánquez