Echologist, Subterranean


Buy CD
Buy MP3s

Brendon Moeller is one producer whose name pops up rather often, in part because he’s steadily releasing music in different sectors of electronic music under a variety of aliases. The hallmark of a Moeller production, though, is the deepness of dub, whether it’s mixed into minimal techno, sprawling experimental pieces, or African-inspired jazz studies. Where traditional dub is often associated with rough edges and makeshift studios, his Echologist alias completely incorporates dub into modern production techniques with all the stark craftsmanship of minimal techno. The second Echologist album, Subterranean, fully resides in the spaces between the rhythms, exploring the possibilities of forgoing most of the kicks and snares often associated with dub techno. It’s a compelling album in small doses, showing a mastery of sound manipulation. Unfortunately, its shifting between gorgeous soundscapes also gives way to tedious studio explorations that fail to build on their boldness.

At the album’s onset, an hour of shifting and wavering reverb bass with varying amounts of intensity sounds ideal. Immaculately crafted percussion cascades in and out of the atmosphere while bass and synth bubble along the surface. It fits in alongside Mokira’s and Deadbeat’s modern dub inventions, but ventures further into truly abstract territory. “Slow Burn (Filter Dub)” exemplifies the inventive ways in which Moeller uses dub’s eccentric qualities to his advantage, its pulsing melody providing listeners with solid footing while chaotic reverb churns endlessly underneath. There is cacophony right next to harmony and Moeller keeps them moving in tandem. The lush “Swell (Modular Take)” reinterprets the shuffling complexity of the preceding “Deliberate,” improving on its central sounds with a more direct rhythm that encircles the melody with hypnotic grace. These are wonderfully fresh dub tracks that turn a unique lens on the style that pushes it forward.

On the other end of the spectrum, some tracks take this angle too far and become difficult to process. The album gives off the impression that it’s meant to be listened to actively rather than as background music, so the sound density in some compositions works to Subterranean‘s disadvantage. “Lunar Cycle” sounds beautiful when isolated into slices of pure sound, but as an extended composition becomes an exercise in sound manipulation, as if process was the focus instead of the end result. Much of the momentum “Deliberate” creates is hampered by the frequently shifting focus of its dub flourishes. The closing ten-minute “Creation” does not take its cue from the swirling and beautiful moments of tracks like “Slow Burn (Filter Dub)” or “Swell (Modular Take),” instead meandering through strong textural undercurrents without leading to anywhere in particular.

While it’s easy to appreciate the diligence necessary to craft these compositions, Subterranean would have been stronger if Moeller had tempered his production methods and applied some of them to a variety of melodic themes instead of processing the same one eight different ways. Although the album can be favorably compared to the work other contemporary dub pioneers, its intense focus on process prevents it from having the kind of expansive impact of Deadbeat’s Drawn and Quartered or Mokira’s Time Axis Manipulation. Subterranean offers flashes of brilliance that are unfortunately held back by the tedium between them.

Popular posts in review

  • None found