April 29, 2009

Rhythm & Sound – s/t (2001, Rhythm & Sound)

Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald have long been considered pioneers in the techno genre for their early-mid '90s releases under the name Basic Channel. In a period of two years they produced nine 12”s that are still considered “classic” by today's standards. The style was incredibly deep, echoing and other-worldly dance music that accentuated the hisses and pops associated with house records and transformed them into an active element in their musical spectrum. In the next few years they would continue releasing a great volume of 12”s under the names Maurizio and Round One through Round Five, where they began to incorporate sounds from dub reggae as well as vocalists to their spacey rhythmic workouts. In '97, the pair regrouped under the name Rhythm & Sound and started a collaboration with reggae vocalist Paul St. Hilaire aka Tikiman. Rhythm & Sound developed on the foundation established by the Basic Channel sound, and took it in a dub reggae direction, incorporating authentic vintage equipment such as the Roland Space Echo and spring reverb, which feature heavily on old '70s and '80s reggae records. The buzz of distorted filters, tape hiss and crackling vinyl were brought more to the forefront, ebbing and flowing around the mix like waves of ambient static. The dub reggae sound was reinterpreted and stripped down to show its rhythmic connection to minimal house music, and essentially this was the beginning of the dub techno sound which has become more popular in recent years, and frequently emulated and developed upon by artists like Deepchord and Echospace, Quantec and others. Rhythm & Sound's self-titled CD, released on their own label in '01, was their second full-length and my personal favorite as it is the most ambient and experimental of their work. The CD collects tracks from five of their 12”s, with only one featuring any vocals, the haunting throb of “Smile”, featuring a drifting spoken word flow from a vocalist named Savage. Many of the tracks leave the 4/4 pulse of techno behind entirely and explore pounding, echoing chords and pulses of sub-bass, while sheets of soft noise ripple and swish around the stereo field. This is music to get lost in. Rhythm & Sound's other CDs feature tracks from their Burial Mix 10” series, which are more song-oriented, featuring a vocal mix and then an instrumental dub mix of each track. The vocals are contributed by classic reggae artists from the '70s and '80s, and have a fantastic chilled out sound. This music is best heard on vinyl! (BONUS TIP: Mark & Moritz now run a dub reggae re-issue label called Basic Replay, which has re-released some of the very best of the back catalogue of the classic Wackies reggae/digidub label from the early to mid '80s!)