A compressed (not comprehensive) overview of dub techno history: the influences of Jamaican dub music and Detroit techno, the origins with Basic Channel, and connecting it all to dub techno today.
Dub Monitor Spotify Playlist, which includes all tracks from this video:
This video is intended for those who are curious about the roots of the dub techno genre, but not sure how to trace a path from its start to the present day. Some of the information contained is common knowledge, while other bits are the result of original “primary source” research by me. Unfortunately short YouTube videos aren’t a format that is conducive to being entirely comprehensive, but this should be enough to get you started on your own path researching the style.
The first topic covered is the influence of dub music, which contributed the heavy use of delay and reverb (aka echo) to the dub techno genre, as well as ideas like live mixing and versions. Next the role of Detroit techno and its importation into the German dance music scene is discussed. This brings us to the true starting point of dub techno in Berlin with Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, forming Basic Channel, Maurizio, and other projects. We’ll also of course discuss their labels, such as Chain Reaction, Rhythm & Sound, and Burial mix. Dub techno after the 90’s is also covered, including labels like Echocord and Silent Season. We’ll briefly touch on gear, such as the Roland RE-201 Space Echo and the Echoplex, as well as the similarities and differences between dub techno and dubstep. Finally we’ll talk about the future of dub techno – the need for greater diversity and moving on from nostalgia towards another wave of innovation.
Original version of this introduction (written in 2012) included below:
While the “dub” term is largely a reference to similar effects used in dub reggae, it’s easiest to think of modern dub techno as a style of techno that heavily employs delay and reverb effects, often for the purpose of creating a “space” or atmosphere. This is often most noticeable in what people call “dub chords,” a common feature of dub techno tracks that consists of (typically minor) chords that seem to echo around the listener’s head. Dub techno is largely concerned with the “space” which sound occupies, and on texture.
Most people credit the invention of dub techno to Basic Channel – a duo out of Berlin consisting of Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus. But other pioneers include Deepchord (Rod Modell) and Echospace (Rod Modell and Steven Hitchell), originating from Chicago and Detroit.
It’s worth noting that “dub techno” can be a contentious term – many of the top artists in this genre prefer the term “deep techno” or refuse to give any sort of genre labeling to their music whatsoever. There are lots of varying opinions on how closely related contemporary “dub techno” is to dub reggae, or even to the original “dub” style of mixing tracks that is associated with this subgenre of reggae. As such, it’s often a good idea to clarify what you mean when you are calling a track “dubby” or “dubbed-out.” Personally, we don’t think that you need to be a dub reggae connoisseur in order to appreciate or understand dub techno. But we’ve ran into a few people who disagree.
To further complicate things, dubstep has recently seen a massive rise in popularity. Dubstep is a genre that arose in the UK in the late 90s and has been spreading ever since. But what is the relation between dub techno and dubstep? Historical origins aside, there aren’t that many sonic similarities between the two genres. While both are notable for their use of reverb effects, the differences that usually exist in tempo, drum patterns, basslines, and song structure really make these two genres stand apart. Of course, dubstep is an extremely diverse genre of music, so some styles of dubstep might be closer to dub techno than others.