Switched On – Deepchord: Functional Designs (Soma Recordings)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s The Story?

Detroit musician, producer and field recorder Rod Modell returns from a relative sabbatical with Functional Designs, hid first album in five years.

Remaining with Glasgow label Soma Recordings, Modell has taken an enforced absence (see our interview with him) but one which has led to him coming back with more musical intent than ever. While it might sound strange to say that about an artist who makes very ambient music, Modell’s brand of ambience has an otherworldly intensity at its core.

What’s The Music Like?

This is indeed music on a deeply ambient plain. On first glance not a lot has changed in the Deepchord world – but given the earthy, weather beaten vistas we associate with him that is not a bad thingat all.

Amber sets the scene, with sheets of rain sweeping across the sonic picture, a wide open and comforting view if not completely settled. A four to the floor rhythm is established at the start of Darkness Falls, which is thick with outdoor ambience. Strangers is especially good, a moody cut that has a dub-infused undercarriage.

Deepchord compositions often feel like musical weather systems, such as Panacast, but Cloudsat feels in much more of a hurry to get across the sky. Ebb And Flow, on the other hand, is an effortless and beautiful sequence depicting slow progress against a warm bed of keyboard sounds. Warmer still is the dubby Sun, where a sonorous bass drum supports the heat haze of an incredibly restful added-note chord.

Does It All Work?

It does. As with almost all Deepchord compositions there is a surety to his work that is at once compelling and reassuring.

Is It Recommended?

Yes – and it’s great to have him back at the start of a new chapter.

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