One of what I'm sure will be many great releases that I missed from last year, The Coldest Season is a minimal techno gem that is more suited for wrapping yourself in a big warm blanket than blasting onto club floors. A collaboration between DeepChord's Rod Modell and Soultek's Steve Hitchell, Echospace pulses with an effervescent post Basic Channel vibe that was created completely on a gear-chasers dream of vintage analogue equipment (including a Roland Space Echo, Echoplex, Korg tape delay, vintage signal processors and numerous analog synthesizers). The title suggests it, and the stark artwork furthers the notion, but this is perfect music for weather that makes you shiver.
Musically, there's not a ton of variety here, but that's not really the point. Nine tracks stretch out to nearly eighty minutes, and create an atmosphere that's completely enveloping, with wafting clouds of dense ambience and passages where thick, dub-infected techno beats slam just under the surface. Opening track "First Point Of Aries" does both of those things, starting out with several minutes of cracking, hissy washes before a sly bassline and some warm melodic glints dance off a thumping kick drum. "Ocean Of Emptiness" is almost twelve minutes of weightlessness, with no rhythmic anchors to hold down slowly-swarming drifts that linger like a fog that just won't burn off.
As mentioned above, there aren't any big surprises here, but there isn't a single misstep either. When the duo locks into a beat (as on "Celestialis"), it never feels overlong and the subtle blends of atmosphere and texture play out so well that it's the sort of record that will give back as much as you want. In other words, it's perfect listening for both serious chilling, or focused tasks (it's great writing and coding music). Everything is bathed in a sort of soft gauzy wrap, and even when organs kick in during the closer of "Empyrean," some heady delay and lush layering curls off any hard edges.
So, The Coldest Season is a hell of a debut, but it's not really a debut given the skilled backgrounds of both Modell and Hitchell. It's easily one of the best things I've heard in this genre since Wolfgang Voigt's releases as Gas, and is basically a must-have for any fan of deep listening electronic music.