The birth of… dub techno

Jamaica’s influence on the evolution of modern dance music is immense.  The reggae sound system diaspora in New York and London helped birth hip-hop, jungle and dubstep, along with a host of other sub-genres. But, surprisingly, it was in Berlin that dub collided with minimal techno and profoundly changed things.

Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald (aka Basic Channel) were a pair of dub reggae enthusiasts living in Berlin during the techno explosion in the early 90s. With its interplay between high and low end, dub shared musical DNA with the more stripped-down percussion tracks coming from Detroit, those that were being played at parties in the city’s reclaimed industrial spaces. They set up a studio in Kreuzberg by the Spree (now home of Ernestus’ Hard Wax label and record shop) and between 1993 and 1995 went to work on a series of Basic Channel releases which were to become the blueprint for dub techno.

The pair combined drum tracks like those they were hearing by Jeff Mills and Blake Baxter, with studio techniques used by dub producers where a version of a recording was stripped down to expose certain elements of the track, the vocals often completely cut, or disembodied in a thick layer of echo and chorus.

The result was a series of deep, driving, minimal techno tracks imbued with a spaciousness that is testament to their love of Jamaican dub. They are at once timeless but also capture a point in time after the fall of the wall. To this day, they have never been out of press.

Release: 1993

– Jack Carolan

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