Echo Relics: Reflections on the state of dub-techno at the end of 2012


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We find this amazing post that can put in a clear way what is Dubtechno and whats happen around this genre. SD explores Dub Techno in our Techno Gate side so…loves it and we want to inform who are interested in this kind of read.
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If dub-techno begins and ends with Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, as many naysayers claim, then 2012 was actually something of a watershed year for the genre. Original Rhythm & Sound, Basic Channel and Maurizio 12”s were re-released digitally, mostly for the first time, bringing one of the most significant back catalogues in all of electronic music up to date with a crisp and impersonal interpretation of the music as binary 1s and 0s. Couple that with other re-issues like Porter Rick’s groundbreaking debut (picked up by Type earlier in the year), a bit of supply and demand economics and it’s tempting to call it a year of renewed interest in dub chords, and reverb drenched techno.
There’s probably not too much need to read into the rationale behind most re-issues; sooner or later most Discogs relics will make the jump to the digital age. But check the recent slew of unnecessary 4×4 house reissue, cashing in on dancefloor trends before they burn out in a flurry of hash-tags and hastily back-edited posts. Make note also of the 2 part Drexciyan best-of, perfectly coinciding with the ice-cold electro stylings of nu-skool producers like Boddika and Trevino. Where these re-issues differ is the correlating dancefloor presence. If anything 2012 was the year bass music fell out of bed with dub-techno.
That melting pot of dub, dub-techno and dubstep that contained everyone from Deadbeat to Pinch seems to be dying a death with the cavernous technoid hybrids being replaced by the pounding industrial lurch of Blawan. You could list among the casualties 7even records, Deca Rhythm (and it’s co-honcho Headhunter), 2562 and Scuba: they all once had a healthy obsession with the dub stuff but have recently moved on to greener pastures. And while you might still catch shades of dub-techno in newcomers like Djrum, or snatches of Objekt in Brendon Moeller, these seem like anomalies that don’t really slot into any wider narrative – though the depreciation of dubstep’s stock value may have stunted the relevance of these kinds of efforts, leaving them out of a dancefloor policy that favours break-neck innovation and mutation.

Why the bass music/dub-techno axis is so interesting is the way the two genres are conceived. One’s an uncomfortable term marking one of the vaguest scenes around; a place marker that somehow encapsulates everything from NJ house rip-offs to acid-inflected 313 romps via juke. The other’s a term everyone seems to chuck around with the utmost confidence. I mean everyone knows what dub-techno is right? Take a few select scare quotes from RA reviews this year:

“Dub techno, more so than most genres, has an identifiable and well-tread sound aesthetic…” (RA link)

“Few subgenres in electronic music seem as fixed as dub techno: pick up a marbled 12-inch bearing the name of one physics concept or another, and you more or less know what you’re in for” (RA link)

So why then, is dub-techno such a sonic certainty in 2012? Generic, Basic Channel indebted tunes seem not just an attempt to revive the past (an action that has increasingly defined bass music), because this process is so ongoing that it ensures dub-techno’s past has never really gone away. It’s an aesthetic that’s been consolidated over and over again with the same key elements: dub chords, echo and reverb. It’s an aesthetic crystalized so perfectly on Deepchord’s The Coldest Season that most would have it as the last word of innovation, adding analogue noise washes to dub-techno’s already limited palette. That was 2007; but this is 5 years later, in 2012. Modern Love’s tight knit, home-grown producers (Andy Stott, Claro Intelecto, Pendle Coven/Demdike Stare) can all go on the casualty list. Even Echocord, usually a sure bet for dubtech junkies, have been silently branching out with recent efforts from Nick Hoppner and Echologist that you’d struggle to call dub-techno at all. Andrew Ryce highlights the problem (again on RA):

“Pretty much the only way for dub techno to sound interesting – or at least interest people – these days is to be so experimental that it barely even qualifies as “dub techno” anymore.”

But one question for anyone diagnosing a crisis of originality here: why won’t we allow dub-techno the same looseness of parameters we’d allow bass music? It’s pretty much a prerequisite of an age where releases come thicker and faster than ever that you have to wade through the generic middle of the road to get to the outer-regions of a scene, where all the good shit’s happening. If there’s so many people abandoning the conventional dub-techno sound, isn’t that a sign that dub-techno’s keeping up in a year that so many have heralded as defined by a lack of major narratives?

Yes, 2012 saw a lot of generic tracks; a lot releases that cover no new ground whatsoever – stuff I won’t mention that you can easily find without too much digging. But more than ever this last year saw people breaking out of that classic Basic Channel mould and moving away from using those Echospace clichés and widening dub-techno’s margins; chipping away at it’s pre-determined edges, branching out and expanding, rather than breaking away.

In that spirit here are 10 reports from the borderlines; 10 dub-techno-not-dub-techno tracks for the haters:

DB1 – Vanguard [Hidden Hawaii]

Grafting dub-techno onto ASC’s half-step, ambient-techno leanings, unknown producer DB1 came up with a blinder. Maybe it’s more dub-techno influenced halfstep than vice versa, but it’s that kind of prejudice that Felix K’s Hidden Hawaii imprint is smashing away at, one limited 10” at a time.

Seekersinternational – EvenThough (Edit) [Digitalis]

I tried to review Seekersinternational’s The Call From Below a few times but never has ‘lost for words’ been such a literal reaction. Crafting, immersive freefall dub ambiance out of echo chords, ambient washes and vinyl crackle, they’re treading well-worn territory but somehow manage to tread new paths through it. Well rehearsed arguments about the cold, machine aesthetic of electronic music can apply double to dub-techno – the inescapable warmth of ‘EvenThough’ answers these in spades.

Jouem – Certainty of Salvation [Mojuba]

Boutique house label Mojuba has provided a home for the svelte, dub-inflected slow-house of producers like Nick Sole and Sven Weisemann for years. 2012 saw them put out the first two parts of the their Episodes series from relative newcomers Jouem, pitching a sound in the increasingly narrow gap between dub-techno and dub-house. Imagine a rainy night in with the Smallville Records back catalogue and a few strips of codeine and you’re close.

Fluxion – Stations [Echocord]

For all the new blood in 2012, it was the dub-techno OG that became increasingly more marginal, taking the gravity out of this almost mythical middle-ground where dub-techno is the same thing to everyone. Forming part of the original Chain Reaction roster in the late 90s, Fluxion is about as classic they come. ‘Traces’ came out of nowhere with its proggy structures, limitless progression and surprising textures, with ‘Stations’ sounding like something Burial could stamp his name on in a few years.

Luke Hess – Restored [FXHE]

Like those early Maurizio records, Luke Hess represents the point where the classic sounds of Berlin and Detroit meet. The influences of his hometown shine through more than ever on the skittering high-hats and submerged synth washes of ‘Restored’.

Darling Farah – All Eyes [Civil Music]

Darling Farah’s noticeably absent from all the discussion of bass music above but if one man bucked the trend and sold dub-techno under the counter to that scene, it was Darling Farah. The smoky minimalism of his debut long player on Civil Music, Body, was rife with dub chords reverbing through the gaping spaces in his production.

Vril – Flux [Semantica]

Spain’s Semantica records sneaked out two stripped down dub-techno affairs from Vril and Mikkel Metal in a killer 2012 run that counted Surgeon, Skirt and Svreca amongst its success stories. ‘Flux’ is all pulse; undulating bass pressure surrounded by Jan Jelinek style ambient loops.

Purl & Deflektion – Inside the Trees [Dewtone Recordings]

Silent Season garnered serious praise (and RA label of the month) for ploughing the territory between dub-techno and geographically informed ambient this year. Expect fellow Canadians Dewtone Recordings to achieve similar heights next year.

Poisson Chat – Ray Manta [Poisson Chat Musique]

The home-made melodic bleeps and treated Transmat strings of Poission Chat’s ‘Ray Manta’ position it somewhere between Selected Ambient Works and the dub-techno we know and love. Much looser than people would normally allow, check the rhythmic breaks in the last quarter.
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There’s probably a million objections to some of these tracks counting as ‘dub-techno’ but you might be wrong in thinking that anyone searching for that extra depth is aping after something Basic Channel did back in the 90s. Dub chords are nothing exclusive to the genre, they’re just another bit of the production anatomy like piano licks or distorted 313 lines – something you can use without making an acid house tune or trying to be Marshall Jefferson. But 2012 was as year in which it wasn’t as easy to call dub-techno’s bluff anymore. Dub techno is as fractured, as generic, as forward thinking, as ubiquitous as any genre you expect in the digital age.
If this piece simply reads like a list of names and hyperlinks, I’m not sure what else to give you but a few blips on the monitor to show the patient’s alive and well. It’s meant to be something to scratch out dub-techno’s obituary that’s being written all too hastily between the lines of blog posts and YouTube comments. Maybe it’s just like Pharrell said: “nothing ever really dies”.
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A special shout goes out to Paul who runs the always on point Dub Techno Blog, for his help and awesome Youtube channel.

(via Sonicrouter)

SD…to feed the soul!

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2 thoughts on “Echo Relics: Reflections on the state of dub-techno at the end of 2012

  1. Hi SoundDesigners! These are all really good tracks. i would say that ‘dub techno’ is alive, well and thriving. I especially like the Purl & Deflektion cut. Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for turning me on to Dewtone.

    • Hi Philip,

      Thx for the comment! And yes…Dub Techno is the new upgrade, the 1st for the Techno in this century. 😉 It is the power of deepness that is real strong in this decade, 2nd…
      The cut of Jouem – Certainty of Salvation [Mojuba] is very unique, more house but strong. All the tracks are dawn good!!
      Strong love from SD to you and to the Dubtechno!!
      Hugz P.,

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