Echonaut – Noosphere Navigation System (2017, ODrex Music)

The popularity of dub techno seems to be increasing recently (see last week’s review of Wanderwelle). Furthermore, the Jamaican-influenced electronic music’s influence cannot be understated. Monolake’s Robert Henke contributed to Ableton Live, and Pitchfork has issued rave reviews of Demdike Stare and Andy Stott. Not to mention, there are also countless netlabels issuing such music. One such netlabel, ODrex Music, has been releasing a steady stream of dub and ambient techno since 1995. Their more recent release comes from Poughkeepsie, NY-based techno producer Bob Brass, who operates under the name Echonaut. His latest, “Noosphere Navigation System,” is a space-themed EP that breathes life into the genre. While the three main tracks are fantastic, there are also plenty of great reworks from the multiple remixers throughout.

The EP’s opener, “Star Chart,” smears dusty pads over cymbal washes and a thumping kick. The atmospheric effects repeat the rhythms like ocean waves on a distant, unexplored planet. Asphalt Layer’s remix keeps the kick drums and space station atmospheres of the track. However, chopped synths, deep bass, and frantic percussion transforms the chill track into an exciting and energetic techno tune. Similarly, John Ov3rblast keeps a fairly energetic pace with four-on-the-floor techno rhythms on his remix. In contrast to the original, the synths are further spaced and chilled out, making for a great ambient techno rework. Lastly, Substak’s remix reduces the track to merely smooth pads, noise, and the kick drum rhythm. It’s extremely minimalistic, yet it emphasizes more of the chilled-out mood on the original track.

The second track, “Navigate,” morphs and mutates minor chords over a slow beat like an alien organism. Subset’s remix furthers the dub effects, yet adds variety to the drums to create a true reggae-techno hybrid. A second remix from Twin Peetz increases the tempo for a ambient techno journey that’s perfect for underground European clubs. Moolsaasa’s remix slows to the original tempo, but adds adrenaline through its build-ups and breaks of percussion. The finale, “Orbiting,” is the EP’s shortest and most mainstream track. Analog chords and pads pulse over a simple drum rhythm with delightfully melancholic melodies throughout. A second remix from Substak speeds the tempo while focusing on the dub elements. Finally, Ethereal Music gives the EP’s most unique remix with acoustic guitar melodies and a downtempo feel.

Dub techno is perhaps notorious for being a fairly minimal and repetitive genre. As expected, there are plenty of tracks throughout “Noosphere Navigation System” that fit the bill. The music works well for the background, but if one listens closely, there are enough evolving and engaging elements to enjoy. But where it really shines is through each track’s remixes. Each producer brings their own unique spin on Echonaut’s sound. Sometimes, the remixes focus on minimalist repetition, while others bring fresh drums and instruments to the sound palette. In any case, each producer knows what a good remix is, and they all succeed in further exploring Echonaut’s soundworld. Overall, “Noosphere Navigation System” is a delightfully chilled EP that’s great for late night drives and poolside listening. Just as I said with Wanderwelle, you’ll want to listen to this before the brisk fall air arrives.

Title: Noosphere Navigation System

Artist: Echonaut

Genre: Ambient techno/dub techno

Available to download at https://odrexmusic.bandcamp.com/album/noosphere-navigation-system!

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