You might say that the sound of Deepchord results from one of techno’s rock-hardest truths: Jack into the primordial 4/4 throb, the universal language of kick-drum, and the rest of your track’s sonic spectrum is fair game for experiments of the maddest science.
Deepchord’s lab book in this case is a dark-art manual for contacting the Jamaican-dub spirit world, a volume its Detroit-based progenitor Rod Modell was most likely handed by someone from Berlin’s Basic Channel label. In its heyday, Basic Channel’s style was often tagged "heroin house," a term coined ostensibly to account for the fleeting subgenre’s pulsing silvery narcosis. If an opiate reference leaves you cold, however, you can think of it as "scuba house": dance jams for the diving bell.
Let’s face it, though. All along calling the sport scuba "diving" has been a way of covering up what it really is, and the properties it shares with Deepchord: the sensation of sitting at the bottom of the ocean for a long time and savoring the healing properties of otherworldly ambience. Along those lines, "Deepchord" and "Echospace" would be great brand names for long-range Navy Seal audio espionage gear, the kind you could use to make spine-tingling underwater field recordings of the sort of drifty, murmuring echoes and chthonic subbass tremors, that permeate Vantage Isle.
And while the Deepchord/Echospace universe promotes a carefully vintage style, purist should note that it’s not wholly analog. Mitchell professes his love for early digital synths, like the landmark Yamaha DX7. As he says in an interview with Resident Advisor, it’s a hardware sound, one that distinctly separates it from the kind of computer-software plug-in steez that’s the current benchmark for convenient techno production.
Released on triple-pack last year as the latest and most epic of Echospace’s near-cultishly coveted vinyl productions, it takes material played live at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2001, and in the great spirit of electronic musical anonymity, allows it to be devoured by a wolf-pack of various pseudonyms and collaborations. If you simply heard the album and didn’t read about it, you wouldn’t know it was the same dubby minimal techno track thirteen times.
That’s a testament to the unexpected broadness of palette that is left after it’s been decided that you’re amputating music down to its barest filtered flicker. The original dubby excursion gets eaten up, obliterated, leaving behind a beatless void on the fourth track, gets resurrected via hardcore throb on the standout seventh track, morphs into a refined and alluring nightclub pulse on the eleventh.
Despite all the diversity, Vantage Isle does not, however, span the full geographical expanse of Deepchord’s The Coldest Season, which went from tundra to valley to desert plain. Instead its sequence of inspired variations creates a pulsing, silvery rainforest of microcosmic depth. The listener ends up in a position kind of like the protagonist in Kafka’s "A Country Doctor," who on first inspecting his young patient finds no physical incursion, only upon a second closer glance to discover a grotesque wound in the same place where there was just bare skin.
Such is the effect of this strand of minimal electronics: With its enshrouded maternal heartbeats and diaphonous synths burbles it can lurk in the background of your aural space interminably, only to reach out and smack you without warning. Great for drug addicts, OCD-sufferers, and anyone else with over-acute hearing and/or insomnia.