Deep Space Network

Great ideas never date, and Deep Space Network's electronica is full of great, well-realised ideas. This German duo's time in the sun was the early to mid 1990's - ambient techno/trance's first "golden age" - when electronic dance music was spreading around the globe and ambient and downtempo offshoots flowered in abundance.

artist:
Deep Space Network

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Ambient techno/breaks/trance, tribal, dub, samples

decades active:
90's - 00's

essential releases:

  • Earth To Infinity (1992, Silent Records/Source)
  • Big Rooms (1993, Instinct/Source)
  • I.F. [with Dr Atmo] (1994, Fax Records)
  • I.F. 2 [with Dr Atmo] (1994, Fax Records)

Reviewed by Mike G

Great ideas never date, and Deep Space Network's electronica is full of great, well-realised ideas. This German duo's time in the sun was the early to mid 1990's - ambient techno/trance's first "golden age" - when electronic dance music was spreading around the globe and ambient and downtempo offshoots flowered in abundance. David Moufang (aka Move D) and Jonas Grossmann's short existence as a duo during this time yielded two fantastic DSN albums, as well as a number of fine collaborations with others.

Two classics

The debut Earth To Infinity (1992) was originally released in 1992 on the iconic San Francisco-based Silent Records. It shows a band pulling in ideas and samples from almost every musical direction and mixing them up with breathtaking confidence; art rock, old-school ambient, easy listening pop, jazzy improvisation, progressive rock, and of course sounds from the burgeoning club techno and trance scenes of the time. Field recordings and sampled TV dialogue add additional spice. Despite this potentially overwhelming arsenal of sounds, the execution is mostly uncluttered, fairly relaxed and gently psychedelic.

The 15 minute "Memphis To Mars"is prime DSN. It starts as spacey, slow-motion jazz spiced with snippets of a blues vocal sample, before effortlessly segueing into lazy a tribal groove with flutes and an odd, swooping synthetic melody. The myriad of spoken samples on "Soylent Green" seem to be suggesting a political point - the track veers from music at one point into pure sound collage - but the pretty bleeps and drones win the day, topped off by some highly effective violin solos. The only thing about Earth To Infinity that's dated is the reckless attitude to sampling so typical of the era; sampling both Led Zeppelin and The Doors on a single track these days would very quickly attract the wrath of the copyright cartels.

The duo's second album Big Rooms (1994) preserves the first album's freestyle approach but with its own fresh ideas. A more percussive approach is evident on some tracks and the results are compelling. The duo smartly opts for complex, tribal-flavoured rhythms on "Zen La" and "The Beyond Within", whereas many other artists would have stuck with more prosaic 4/4 techno patterns or simple breaks. Somewhat less melodic is the shuffling breakbeat of "Doors Of Perception" and squelchy techno of "Psycho Path", both which skirt the borders of atonality and dissonance with such endearing strangeness that repeated listens only reveal further depths.

Key collaborations

The two albums I.F. (1994) and I.F. 2 (1994) - the name being short for Intergalactic Federation - were made with fellow German artist Dr Atmo for Fax Records and feature longer tracks, offering a bigger canvas for Moufang and Grossmann to work on. These are powerful collaborations with Atmo - a lover of shadowy, cosmic Eastern melodies and percussion - where the whole ends up something greater than the sum of the parts.

I.F. contains the extraordinary "Ten Waves", a 25 minute psychedelic blissfest of bleeps, radio & TV samples and spacey melodies driven by a tabla drums and a steady, almost jazzy two-chord progression. This stoned masterpiece was a staple in dance party chill spaces in the 90's and stands up brilliantly today, every bit the equal of other extended chillout classics of the era like The Orb's "A Huge And Evergrowing Pulsating Brain". A little darker but equally intoxicating are "Kisy Loa" from the same album and the gorgeous, pulsing "Underwater" from the more dub-flavoured I.F. 2. Both these tracks in many ways represent the classic Fax Records ambient sound: soft edged bleeps, polyrhythmic patterns grounded with deep bass, and alternately warm and dark-edged chord progressions. And space. Lots of space.

...and the rest

Two non-essential DPN albums may also be of interest to fans.

Deep Space Network meets Higher Intelligence Agency (1996) is a collaboration with UK composer Bobby Bird in the realm of almost pure "bleep" ambient techno, a sound that was often associated during the 90's with pioneering electronic label Warp Records. Heavily percussive and intricate, its a decent example of the style without being outstanding.

Raise This Flap (2004) seemed to appear out of nowhere after a long period of silence. It's a funky but rather bloodless collection of downtempo techno and hip hop breaks. If anything it's a a fairly typical example of bedroom techno's retreat from melody and psychedelia after the 1990's in favour of cooler, quirky dissonance and digital noise. The style has it's fans, but if you really want to pick up where DSP's eclectic and trippy sound left off, then the output of labels like Emit Records, Interchill and Aleph Zero are better places to start, as well as some of Moufang's many releases on Fax Records.

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