The captivating subgenre of electronic music known as dub techno combines the spaciousness and echoes of dub reggae with the driving beats and hypnotic rhythms of techno. Its immersive soundscapes, characterized by layers of echoing textures and reverberating effects, create a sense of expansive depth. Deep pulsating basslines anchor tracks, while minimalistic and precise percussion adds rhythm. With a moderate tempo, dub techno pulls listeners into a contemplative and introspective experience. Anyone listening to Black Rhino Radio will know dub techno is one of our favourite electronic music genres.
The roots of the genre can be found where much of where its parent genre can trace its roots - the creatively fertile crossroads of early 90s Berlin and Detroit. Inspired by the dub-reggae sound pioneered by Jamaican producers in the 1970s and the pulsating beats of Motor City Roland TR-99 techno, artists began experimenting with the fusion of these two distinct worlds. Notably, the Basic Channel label, founded by Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, was pivotal in shaping the genre's foundation.
Basic Channel's seminal releases, such as Phylyps Trak (1993) and Quadrant Dub (1994), established dub techno's atmospheric and hypnotic nature through their deep basslines, sparse percussion, and ethereal reverberations. The Chain Reaction label, an offshoot of Basic Channel, further contributed to dub techno's evolution with releases from artists like Fluxion, Vladislav Delay, and Monolake. As with Basic Channel, Chain Reaction was primarily centred in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, where Ernestus also ran the legendary Hard Wax. In addition to being one of the seminal techno-specific record stores in the world, it also acted as the distributor for all Basic Channel releases and offshoots. It was here where much of Detroit's pioneers were introduced to the German capital (and Europe), creating the Berlin-Detroit axis.
Simultaneously to the rise of Basic Channel, Detroit artists like Rod Modell (co-founder of both Deepchord and Echospace) and Andy Stott incorporated dub-inspired elements into their productions. As a result, albums like The Coldest Season (2007) by Echospace and Vantage Isle Sessions (2008) by Deepchord became benchmarks in the genre.
As the late 1990s and early 2000s unfolded, dub techno expanded its reach beyond its birthplaces. Labels like Denmark's Echocord, Basic Channel offshoot Rhythm & Sound, and Cologne's Kompakt embraced the genre, releasing groundbreaking albums and tracks of their own. For example, Rhythm & Sound's self-titled album series, featuring collaborations with reggae vocalists, added a distinct dub authenticity to the genre. The influence of dub techno extended beyond the genre itself, permeating other genres such as dubstep and experimental electronic music. Artists like Burial and Shackleton incorporated dub-infused textures into their works. During this time, the genre also found its natural live home in intimate, dimly lit venues with powerful sound systems. Seminal locations like Berlin's Tresor, Detroit's Motor Lounge, and London's Plastic People provided the perfect environment for immersion into its cavernous soundscapes.
In the contemporary scene, a new generation of artists emerged, ready to push the boundaries of the genre. Artists like Porter Ricks, Shed, Huerco S, Sandwell District, Donato Dozzy, and his side project Voices From The Lake have all infused dub techno with experimental textures, intricate rhythms, and evolving sound design. Releases like Porter Ricks' Biokinetics and Voices From The Lake's self-titled album are widely considered seminal moments of the genre. Italian duo Babe Roots further push the boundaries of dub techno through their own atmospheric, dub-infused productions. Their music has seen release on labels such as Rohs! Records, Echocord, and ZamZam Sounds captures incorporate deep basslines, mesmerizing textures, and hypnotic rhythms. Besides, at Friday's event, this sound can be well experienced on popular Eps like Dub Sessions 1 (2016), Takeover (2018), and Through We (2021)
But aside from its rich history and genre synthesis, Dub techno's impact extends beyond the music itself. Its immersive qualities, atmospheric textures, and minimalistic percussion evoke a sense of self-reflection, an escape from modern life's fast-paced and chaotic nature. Furthermore, its fusion of dub reggae and techno elements has social and political implications within the electronic music landscape. Its roots in Jamaica, dub reggae has long been associated with social commentary and resistance against oppression. By incorporating these elements into techno, dub techno artists brought a sense of subversion and political consciousness to the genre. The spaciousness and echoes of dub resonated with a desire for introspection and contemplation, offering the always-welcome alternative to the mainstream club culture. In other words, dub techno is one of those things that is more a philosophy or feeling than a definitive genre.
The influence of dub techno on electronic music cannot be overstated. Its atmospheric and immersive qualities have permeated various genres, shaping the sonic landscapes of dubstep, ambient, and experimental electronic music. Moreover, its experimental nature has encouraged artists to push the boundaries of electronic music. Collaborations between dub techno pioneers and musicians from different backgrounds have resulted in captivating sonic fusions. Examples of this come from Deadbeat and vocalist Paul St. Hilaire (Infinity Dub Sessions, 2015) and Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald Trio (reComposed).
From its origins in Berlin and Detroit, dub techno has grown into a global phenomenon. The contributions of key figures such as Basic Channel, Deepchord, Rhythm & Sound, and Babe Roots have shaped the genre's foundation and propelled its evolution. Offering a space for introspection, rumination, and social commentary, dub techno remains a testament to electronic music's ability to transcend sonic and cultural boundaries.