Monday, May 15, 2006

"The Future Sound of Berlin" : Basic Channel - Chain Reaction - Rhythm & Sound

Massively hailed in the world of mid/early 1990's techno, most notably by The Wire, Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus' 'Basic Channel' project stomped out some of the most sublime, maddeningly redundant, confoundingly long, bass-heavy, grainy, minimalist excursions into 'heroin house' (as it was being called then) ever dedicated to wax. And by wax, I mean vinyl. These guys were/are a firm advocate of the format and its inherent surface, fuzz and analog warmth bringing more depth to their booming vertical-techno scapes. The Von Oswald/Ernestus run Hard Wax record shop in Berlin was essentially *the* place to pick up the most recent 12" techno transmissions from around the world and over time also became the home base of their various self-run labels and musical imprints. Not content with releasing their own musics and opening a record shop to cater to the growing German scene, they then established their own mastering studio Dubplates & Mastering, set up to ensure a desired dynamic quality for the vinyl and in-house control of the releases.

Basic Channel ceased transmissions in 1995 but were followed by a string of other German variations on the Detroit Techno/Jamaican Dub themes. Among the most important was Chain Reaction, which released non-Von Oswald/Ernestus productions and helped launch the careers of dub-influenced minimal techno producers such as Monolake, Scion, Substance, Vainqueur and Thomas Koner's Porter Ricks project with Andrew Mellwig.

Simultaneous with Chain Reaction, Von Oswald/Ernestus manifested their own next step in the fusion of Dub's bass and Techno's boom with Rhythm & Sound. Released on two separate imprints Burial Mix and the self-titled Rhythm & Sound, the former dedicated to vocal-based Reggae tracks and the latter Dubbed-out instrumental excursions. Bringing in a global cast of Toasters and MC's - their transnational Dub/Reggae project gave platform to some of the greatest vocalists in the history of Jamaican music. Stepping up to the mic on Rhythm & Sound tracks were: Sugar Minott, Love Joys, Chosen Brothers, Paul St. Hilaire and on the legendary "King in My Empire" featuring the deeply soulful voice of Cornel Campbell, among many others over the course of their 10" (historically, the format of choice in Reggae) vinyl releases.

Always progressing in their digging deeper into the bass and the history of Dub, Von Oswald/Ernestus have now established the Basic Replay imprint, which specializes in classic and out-of-print reggae and dancehall reissues. Seemingly having come full-circle in their musical evolution back to the original Jamaican sounds that inspired them from the onset, its uncertain quite what is to come next from this transnational/cross cultural institution, but the quality, depth and bass of their history (and no doubt, future-sound) is undeniable.

Link to The Wire 'Underground Resistors' article on Basic Channel

Link to The Wire 'Future Sound of Berlin' article on Chain Reaction

Link to Basic Channel site

Link to Chain Reaction site

Link to Rhythm & Sound / Burial Mix site