DeepChord :: Lanterns (Astral Industries)

DeepChord presents Lanterns on new London-based label Astral Industries, which turns out to be some of his finest work to date.

So this came right out of left field. Astral Industries is a brand new UK label (and club night) based in London setting its sights on becoming a leading purveyor of “hazy, lo-fi and dubbed out frequencies.” What better way to launch your label, then, than with a new album by none other than Rod Modell himself?

That Lanterns also turns out to be some of DeepChord’s finest work to date is a major coup for the label. Astral Industries aren’t one to shy away from controversy when it comes to their release policies either. Take the bonkers, hand-drawn artwork for the release, for example, which might at first be seen as inappropriate given other labels’ graphical realization of DeepChord’s work, but which is clearly going to be a major image and brand identity for Astral Industries.

Then, there’s the issue of the formats on which Lanterns is being released. Now, try to contain yourself as you read this. Lanterns is released in a limited run of just five hundred copies on double, 180g translucent crystal vinyl, one marbled red and the other blue, housed in a heavyweight gatefold sleeve with unique artwork on each panel, and a matte-finished poster with additional unique artwork.

And that’s it.

No re-presses, no compact disc edition and, most controversially, no digital. Ever. In other words, if you really are a DeepChord fan, you need to get off your arse and seriously hunt this record down. The overall package is of the highest quality, the only thing missing being poly-lined sleeves, and the artwork, whilst extremely quirky, looks amazing on the physical product.

This is to say nothing of the price that, even at the spec listed above, is astronomically high. I mention this because although Lanterns gets the strongest recommendation possible, such pricing policies should not be encouraged. Astral Industries have publicly stated that the markup is applied by retailers and therefore largely out of their hands, but who really knows?

Anyway, the point is that Lanterns sees DeepChord turn to a style more reminiscent of Stephen Hitchell’s cv313 project, presenting four tracks with a running time of fifteen to seventeen minutes each, a genuinely epic project worthy of being referred to as an album, not an EP.

“Red Lantern (Parts 1 & 2)” pipes warm, glowing drones through dimly lit caverns that resonate with sounds of echoing water droplets, bubbling underground streams, reverb drenched chimes, hollowed out percussion and chitinous hi-hats, then drops the latter for a fast-paced rhythmic breathing and cool ambient drift.

But as a near seventeen minute excursion into sunset-drenched coastal soundscapes, “Red Lantern (Part 3)” is easily the highlight of Lanterns. The hiss and sigh of drifting leaves across hard ground mingle with more underwater bubbling, a bass throb that ebbs and flows like the sonic equivalent of a spinning lighthouse ray and a soft, repeating digital signal which are beamed through the sweltering, hazy, spellbinding panorama directly into the brain of the entranced listener (that would be you).

On early playthroughs, it is all too easy to dismiss “Blue Lantern” as the inferior disc—a misnomer in any case, given the quality of all the material here—but deeper, more focused listening reveals this to be a fallacy. “Blue Lantern (Part 1)” is definitely chillier experience and the most repetitive of the four tracks on the EP, but the minimal palette and slight development actually work in its favour.

An arrhythmic heartbeat, richoteting, red-hot pebbles, a rustling curtain of cascading crystal chimes and more glistening drones create a dense, swirling, opiate filled potion that, taken in these monumental doses, induce hallucinations and mirages of the most sublime order. “Blue Lantern (Part 2)” is effectively a more ambient extension of the first part, with just a muted version of the subterranean bass left to provide the propulsion for the oases of atmospheric debris that the piece washes up on the listeners shores.

You are strongly urged to seek a copy of Lanterns out, if you can find one, as this is easily some of the finest material of 2014 to date. Hopefull there is more of this sublime material to come from Modell. If they keep this up, the Astral Industries catalog is going to make for an astounding collection.

Lanterns is out now on Astral Industries.

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