Dub techno was created by Moritz Von Oswald & Mark Ernestus in the 1990’s. They released music under the name Basic Channel and formed a label called Chain Reaction. Minimalism was already prevalent as a defining characteristic of techno, however, Basic Channel incorporated delay effects on their tracks, as heard in dub music. Dub techno in its very nature is meant to be more ambient than straight techno itself, organically letting every individual element breathe and fully encompass the space it occupies. Here are five dub techno records in no particular order that we here at Monument deem essential.
Yagya – Rigning (2009) [Delsin Records]
Icelandic producer Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson has been perfecting his atmospheric, ethereal sounds for nearly two decades now. Releasing under multiple monikers, Yagya is perhaps the most well known. While most dub techno follows the patterns set out by Basic Channel, Rigning is laid out differently. The record relies upon a criterion of songs rather than soundscapes.
Essentially, Rigning is one very long piece of music split into different components. Yayga’s compositions are evocative, generally leaving the rhythmic section in the passenger seat while the emotional atmospherics drive. Throughout Rigning, a storm passes through, beginning with gentle drizzle and eventually turns into a downpour. Rigning Sjö sees the storm reach its full potential, before moving off to the most danceable track of the album, Rigning Níu.
Rigning shows the potential that dub techno has, combining tone and inflection with emotion, to make a truly engaging and memorable record which stands out among its counterparts.
Various Artists – Decay Product (1997) [Chain Reaction]
The only full-length release of Torsten Pröfrock‘s confusingly-titled Various Artists alias, Decay Product is a perfect encapsulation of the sound of Chain Reaction. As the original members of Basic Channel moved their dub techno ever closer to dub music, Chain Reaction pushed the genre to its more abstract, technoid forms. Decay Product is as steel-gray and cold as the genre gets, sounding more like Antarctica than Kingston. The rhythms have been stripped down to a barely there bass pulse, over which develop sparse ripples of chords at the pace of glaciers calving.
Even on the tracks where a more distinct rhythm is present like “Melted” or “Erosion 2”, the ever-present haze envelops the track, leaving the impression of a club night experienced from within a womb or a chemical-induced facsimile of such. The peaks of the album though are the tracks that let the listener truly disappear into a blissful fog like “No. 3 (Debit)”, where 8 minutes seem to pass in an instant, or the beatless “Resilent 1.2”, which is the closest the album comes to a sense of euphoria.
Deadbeat – Radio Rothko (2010) [The Agriculture]
Dub techno as a genre does not seem to lend itself as easily to the album-length mix CD format as other forms of dance music. Out of the somewhat slim pickings, there are at least two releases that can be put up there with any classic: Scion’s Arrange and Process Basic Channel Tracks and this, Deadbeat’s Radio Rothko. While the former focuses on morphing Basic Channel material into something very different and dancefloor-oriented, Radio Rothko lets the music speak for itself, showcasing how varied the genre can be without leaving its boundaries. The tracks present on the mix cover most of the predominant sounds of dub techno, with about half of the tracklist being Basic Channel and Chain Reaction releases, and the rest spread out between echospace, Echocord and Modern Love, along with some of Deadbeat’s original productions.
Through the haze of Various Artists’s “No.3 (Debit)” and Basic Channel’s “Quadrant Dub I”, the mix starts almost beatless, only transitioning into dancefloor territory with the exceptional drop into Quantec’s “Electromagnetic Pulse”. Deadbeat’s transitions consistently stand out, a rarity in a genre where DJs often like transitions to be almost unnoticeable. Another highlight in a similar vein is Monolake’s “Static”, which is as propulsive as you can get on a dub techno mix, starting a very memorable section of the album, ending with the euphoric dub stabs of Rhythm & Sound’s “Mango Drive”. As “Deep Structure” finishes the mix with its refrain of “structured beats”, all you’ll want is to fall back into the layers of sound, just like you can lose yourself into the layers of a Rothko painting.
Deepchord – Sommer (2012) [Soma]
Rod Modell‘s work as Deepchord is unparalleled within the realm of contemporary dub techno. Sommer sees Deepchord move further away from the framework set out by Basic Channel than on his previous Hash-Bar Loops. Sampling sounds which would be more fitting to ambient music, such as waves and wind-chimes, Sommer moves away from the ice-cold tundra where dub techno has been known to reside.
Glow is where our journey begins, with an air of beginning which would fit an early morning sunrise. Aquatic has a delicate beauty to it which resonates through flow, as if to watch the ripples appear after a rock has been skimmed against a calm lake.
Tracks such as Cruising Towards Dawn & Flow Induced Vibrations follow the regular dub techno rhythmic structure with a healthy dose of reverb, but what makes Sommer flow so well is that Deepchord balances these with ambient tracks which keep the listener enthralled until the beats return. Wind Farm closes the record out with ambient soundscapes which transport the listener to a humid, tropical landscape. Sommer combines intricate sound design with a lesser used concept within dub techno to form an enthralling journey through sound.
Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers (2014) [Modern Love]
Manchester’s Andy Stott’s unique style features aggressive glitches, hazy synths and enormous bass. The easiest way to describe Stott’s sound is like being assaulted by sound. It packs a punch unlike almost anything you’ve ever heard before which is suitable for a dancefloor; and yet, the sludge which makes him so unique seems so normalised now. Back in 2014, when Faith In Strangers was released, however, Stott took the electronic community by storm. Prior to this, 2012’s Luxury Problems put Stott on people’s radars. Faith In Strangers solidified Stott’s position as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary electronic music.
Faith In Strangers moves between ice-cold clarity and murky ambience, Stott using Alison Skidmore’s vocals to create haunting atmospheres which shake the listener to the core. While Stott’s aggressive style can be heard throughout Faith In Strangers on songs such as How It Was and Damage, he also showcases a haunted beauty with On Oath. Science & Industry is the most straight-forward track on Faith In Strangers, encompassing Stott’s sound to the core.
The record’s title track winds the record down with a post-punk number which is warm and clean, using an electric bass to guide the listener to a surprisingly clean landing. Stott then wraps things up with one final direction change, Skidmore’s vocals appearing alongside huge bass and disconcerting strings. Stott’s voice within dub techno may be one of the most unique there is, and Faith In Strangers is a testament to that.