Ah. I am so, so far behind. I can sense the reproachful glare of the stack of vinyls that waits for me to shed a few words about them, over there on the table. Just look at us, they say, you said you were going to take us for a spin and put us on your blog, and now we’re just sitting here. There’s a group of Astral Industries albums, they accumulate quickly, three new ones that are particularly grumpy, especially when they saw me walk over to them, looking, pondering, scratching my head, only to walk past them over to the shelf to grab AI-01.
Oh, come on, they complained, seriously? That one again? Lanterns. Why? Just because it’s that famous guy? Or because it’s the first one? It’s clear that they are a little envious of their oldest sibling. Maybe even more than just a little. Oh so precious and so rare, even this not so totally rare 2020 repress. You’ll never get this pile reduced if you keep passing us by to grab something off the shelf, they argue, and you know this one was quite controversial back when it was born.
Yes, yes, the pricing thing. So funny. Thirty-five Pounds was what you were asked to pay for this one, and people were all up in arms about it. As if that was a lot for more than an hour of some of the finest music Rod Modell ever published, in an insanely limited edition with no digital release whatsoever. AI-26 to 28 kept quiet – after all, under that thin layer of envy there was a lot of admiration for their famous brother. Thirty-five. Anyone that was smart enough to pick one up back then and then somehow turned stupid enough to sell it today would easily get more than five times as much for it. And that’s just a guess. No one really is that dumb.
Back then, AI-01’s artwork was even a point of discussion, crafted by the same artist that created every other AI release, the same kind of artwork AI-26 to 28 get praised for. That’s how it goes. Man, how can you do that, they said, publishing a Deepchord album and slip it into a sleeve that totally doesn’t look like what a typical Deepchord album should look like? Yeah. That discussion was even more ridiculous than the one about the price. The things they said. Called it bonkers to use these quirky hand-drawn illustrations. The three albums nod silently. First generations always have a harder time than the following ones, they know.
It’s how a great brand is created. This is what you need to do. Just stick to it and keep the artistic level high. Today, folks walk into record stores, see the latest Astral Industries, grab it off the shelf and don’t even look at the price. AI-26 to 28 add to this, some of them don’t even look at the artist’s name! They see another Theo Ellsworth cover and the next thing you hear is ka-ching, sold!
Of course they are referring to me. They are right, I must admit. But I’m not ashamed. I can’t possibly know all of the artists these folks keep finding for their (re-)releases. All I know is that they will be very much worth listening, that they will bring me joy. Do I need additional information or justification? No.
Rod Modell seems to have a deep respect for the label as his name pops up quite a few times in the Astral Industries catalogue. Four years after this album he returned as Deepchord for “Immersions”, once he partnered with Wolfgang Voigt, twice he dropped by with Chris Troy as Waveform Transmission and once he brought Shorelights to the label with Chris McNamara and Walter Wasacz.
The “Lanterns” will remain special among his contributions to the AI catalogue – and that’s not just due to its position at the start of the label’s history. Nor is it simply because it is the one that is closest to what folks would expect from a Deepchord album. It’s just really, really good. If anyone ever asked me which piece of music was an ideal definition of Dub Techno, “Red Lantern – Parts 1 & 2” would probably be among the final candidates. Just the right tempo, deep and warm kick, endlessly floating pads, plenty of space filled with bubbling, hissing and dripping sounds, with objects shaking, bouncing and rustling, the whole scenery inspired by “the eerie red glow that once beckoned sailors to the port of Amsterdam”. Seventeen lavish, genre-defining minutes.
Not that you couldn’t say this about the three remaining sides of the album. “Red Lantern – Part 3” continues the (sub)marine excursion, first as an ambient trip and then with some light rhythmic structures that even ring some “Secret Rhythm” bells – there are passages when this as enchanting as Friedman and Liebezeit’s “Out In The Sticks”, only as if enjoyed while hovering in the middle of the sea. If the first two parts were somewhat uncharacteristic for what Astral Industries would be known for, this third part has everything that makes it such a unique and adorable label.
Lighting up the “Blue Lantern” is a little similar in its basic process, “Blue Lantern – Part 1” showcasing fifteen minutes of pure Deepchord Dub Techno magic, “Blue Lantern – Part 2” providing a version that is deeper in Ambient realms. It’s fascinating to experience how Rod Modell is able to create rhythmic patterns that always find this amazing balance, providing propulsion without pushing, and creating soundscapes that are not an accompaniment but an integral part, merging in submersion. The second part is right at the border of Ambient and Dub Techno, a deeply buried kick drum unhurriedly repeating its three strokes somewhere at the bottom of the sea, sometimes drifting off, close to being inaudible, an echo of Dub Techno in this vast Ambient cosmos.
Over on the stack of records to be written about, AI-26 to 28 sigh. But I will keep my promise and pick them up soon. They give me this strange look, but there’s hope, AI-01 has had its turn. A precious one.
Release for Review:
DEEPCHORD – LANTERNS – ASTRAL INDUSTRIES – AI-01