Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Moritz Von Oswald & Strategy at Kremwerk: May 3 | Carla dal Forno & Tess Roby at Kremwerk: May 30

Two preeminent shows bracket the month of May at Kremwerk. The first of them sees electronic artists from the Blackest Ever Black and Italians Do It Better labels in a showcase featuring the minimal synthwave and pop of Carla dal Forno and Tess Roby. Dal Forno's music speaks to a post-punk production quality expressed through its rough-hewn edges, yet there's a timeless, earthly and sensual quality to its stony, rounded forms. Her strength lies in a lack of braggadocio and showmanship, its a music of sensual intimacy, a vantage into a darkly flowing internal electronic songscape. The second night is a more unprecedented affair with the founder of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Rhythm & Sound and Berlin's Hard Wax and Dubplates & Mastering institutions. Hailed as the razor-sharp summit of techno's cutting edge in the 1990s, most notably in the pages of The Wire and their March 1998 cover story given over to "The Future Sound of Berlin". Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus' Basic Channel project stomped out some of the most sublime, bass heavy, grainy, extended and minimalist excursions into minimal techno and post-house ever dedicated to wax. By way of introduction, The Quietus' "The Strange and Frightening World of... Basic Channel", establishes the parameters of their early transmissions, and the mystery of their cryptic and austere aesthetic approach to the visual element and design, which only aided the impenetrable mystery of the productions. Through a near-absolute lack of engagement with any press, Ernestus and Von Oswald created a body of work divorced from the persona of any identifiable producers, a music of deep organic personality, seemingly running on freefall, pursuing it's own oblique and abstract goals. This mystery only recently rectified decades later with Von Oswald's extensive interview "Channeling Rhythm & Sound, Basically", in the July 2009 issue of The Wire. They remain vinyl advocates, and espouse it as the ideal format for their productions; it's inherent distortion, surface noise, and analog warmth lending variance and depth as the stylus passes across the surface of their horizontally progressive technoscapes. Not content at the time with releasing their own music and opening Hard Wax 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. In short time, both becoming mainstays of the scene and ground zero for all high quality cutting and mastering of underground music throughout central Europe.

Basic Channel ceased transmissions in 1995 but were followed by a string of other German variations on the Detroit techno/Jamaican dub themes inspired by their trailblazing work. Biba Kopf's "Underground Resistors" mapping the new territory and artists populating the expanse left in the wake of Basic Channel's initial forays. Among the most notable were the releases issuing from Chain Reaction which released a tide of non-Von Oswald & Ernestus productions, and helped launch the careers of minimal techno producers such as Monolake, Scion, Vladislav Delay, Substance, Vainqueur and Thomas Köner's Porter Ricks project with Andrew Mellwig. While in the throes of Chain Reaction's productive boom, Von Oswald & Ernestus manifest their own next venture into a music more closely aligned with the source of their inspiration; Jamaican dub and reggae. Overtly paying homage to the wellspring of Caribbean music from the 1970s and early 1980s which they revered, the two also established the Basic Replay and relaunched Wackies label to reissue rare and luminary works by the likes of Keith Hudson and Wayne Jarrett. Concurrently with this reissue venture, they marked out their own modern, minimalist territory in the realms of dub and vocal reggae with the initiation of Rhythm & Sound and Burial Mix. These dub and reggae projects gave platform to some of the greatest vocalists in the history of Jamaican music; Sugar Minott, Love Joys, Chosen Brothers, Paul St. Hilaire and Cornell Campbell, all stepped up to the mic to collaborate with the German gentlemen. Ernestus and Von Oswald have since largely gone their separate ways, yet each have continued to express their love of, and debt owed to electro-acoustic improv, jazz, indigenous peoples, afro-soul and rhythm music. Von Oswald with a improvisational trio comprising himself alongside Sasu Ripatti, and Max Loderbauer, as well as a project with long-standing musical collective, Ordo Sakhna devoted to the roots music of Kyrgyzstan. Ernestus' transnational ventures have brought him into the heart of African rhythm music, as the producer and locus of the Dakar-Berlin collaboration, Ndagga Rhythm Force. Their pan-cultural meeting best described by Ernestus himself in his synopsis of Yermande; "Rather than submitting to the routine, discrete gradations of recording, producing and mixing, the music is tangibly permeated with deadly intent from the off. Lethally it plays a coiled, clipped, percussive venom and thumping bass against the soaring, open-throated spirituality of Mbene Seck’s singing. Six chunks of stunning, next-level mbalax, then, funky as anything." Photo credit: Yusaku Aoki