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Rod Modell: Incense and Black Light

Rod Modell: Incense and Black Light

Release Date:2008

By Michaelangelo Matos | Posted 6/4/2008

Though he co-founded Deepchord, a Detroit dance label devoted to minimal techno, and has worked as a mastering engineer for minimal Godhead Richie Hawtin's M_nus label, Rod Modell came to light and remains best known for his ambient work. Though there are beats on Incense and Black Light, they're seldom the point. The focus here is clearly on the subtle play of elements Modell works into the mix. Often too subtle: Though "Aloeswood" and "Hotel Chez Moi," Incense and Black Light's pair of lead-off cuts, gain a little traction up close on headphones, it isn't enough to keep your attention. For that, beats help, and things pick up considerably on "Body Sonic," whose submerged pulses focus a mutating chime to beautiful effect.

Not that this is a particularly good reason for the next couple songs in the album's sequence to rewrite "Body Sonic" essentially wholesale, but Modell's formula is so winning that, if anything, "Cloud Over" is even lovelier than "Body Sonic," while "Temple" stretches out the cooler aspects of "Cloud Over." Maybe it's a coincidence that the ambiance that takes over again on "Ultraviolet World" and "Subway" suddenly has more to sink your ears into than the album openers, but probably not, with its pulse submerged under staticky tendrils of machine-generated aural tadpoles, swimming about in the inky blackness of Modell's backdrops. The last three songs lose steam again, with "Red Light" following the bouncing space-noise into tedium and "Into Day" and "Morning Again" giving the album a dull-gray matte finish.

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