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Model 500 - Starlight

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Artist: Model 500

Album: Starlight

Label: Echospace

Review date: Sep. 10, 2008

Originally released back in 1995, Model 500’s “Starlight” is a dazzling production. Gossamer-light, yet possessed of full body impact, its kit stripped back to one pulsing bass and teeth-clacking hi-hats, it showed ‘Magic’ Juan Atkins had quickly learnt the rules of reduction that sustained his then co-producer, Moritz Von Oswald (Maurizio, Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound) so well. With the compact between Berlin and Detroit at its height during the early to mid 1990s (check also the 3MB collaborations with Atkins and Eddie Fowlkes, or the Tresor compilations from the period), “Starlight” is one of the period’s peaks.

“Starlight” is also a puzzling thing, its rigorous minimalist aesthetic allowing for a kind of heavyweight ambivalence to inhabit its audio architecture. It’s a heavy tune with no definable emotional tang beyond an odd ‘fleeting rapture’; in this respect, it fits nicely with the Basic Channel aesthetic, where the productions of Von Oswald and collaborator Mark Ernestus are glorious and overwhelming, but distant – not cold, but somehow removed. Their impact relies on submission; you willingly lose yourself in the luster of their gun-metal, greyscale noises – grainy reverb and tape hiss, rolling waves of texture, endless plateaus of rhythm.

Detroit-based duo Echospace’s Rob Modell and Steve Hitchell have grabbed the ‘dub techno’ baton and run the slow, steady relay for the past few years, their profile in the ascendancy as each of their 12” singles further refines their techno asceticism. Their moment draws on the language first spoken by Von Oswald and Ernestus, and their pack of “Starlight” remixes make for astonishingly beautiful listening. Much like Basic Channel, they’re fond of the ultimate program – tracks that fade in and out as though they’ve no beginning or ending. These mammoth dub techno productions appear as though they’ve always existed, and Modell and Hitchell have merely channeled them to vinyl (or CD) at a particularly conducive moment. The duo uses their antennae as conduit, setting patterns moving and tweaking the parameters, carefully micro-managing the results.

As a result, the “Starlight” remixes are both grandiose/sublime and attentive to the tiniest detail. (With productions like this, micro and macro dissolve into one another.) Modell’s “DeepChord Remix” moves in lunar cycles, great blustery waves of synth hum flooding the space between the headphones and lapping against your earlobes. The “Convextion Remix” (by guest Gerard Hanson) skips at a sprightlier pace, leaping in 6/8 time but managing somehow to stay blissfully static. By the closing “Intrusion Dub” (Hitchell solo), the rhythm’s gone to sea and you’re left with pure texture, something reminiscent of Pole, or a decaying Porter Ricks production. These remixes are the rust on the the ship, the barnacles attached to “Starlight”’s hull, but they’re not fouling organisms. Rather, they leave all kinds of gorgeous patterns, new layers or strata on a relic’s surface.

By Jon Dale

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