Rhythm and Sound

By Masta G

Plastic People was shaken to its very foundations last Sunday night. The dubwise antics of German duo Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald, otherwise known as Rhythm and Sound, rocked the Shoreditch venue with a dark but strangely therapeutic menace whose appeal nevertheless far outweighed the potential horrors of a rapidly approaching Monday.

The two producers have done pioneering work in the worlds of Detroit techno (as Basic Channel) and heavy dub. Not only have they won considerable recognition as producers in their own right but they have also gained credit (with this writer amongst many others) for their reissuing of dub and early dancehall classics from the New York based Wackies label. They also recently picked out and reissued the brilliant UK dancehall tune Call Me Rambo on their Basic Replay imprint. Dub is reggae music reduced to its constituent parts and reshaped at the mixing desk from the basis of a bare minimum (just the rhythm and the occasional sound) and the duo have pushed this stripped down aesthetic as far as it will go. Their rigorously minimalist approach to dub production techniques has won many admirers and this attitude can perhaps explain the crossover with the Detroit techno sound which has also inspired the pair.

With such a fine pedigree, it's no surprise that they effortlessly carry off in the dancehall what they do so convincingly on record. Driving dancefloor specials were played at breakneck speed alongside the inevitably slower, skanking riddims of more traditional dub, the two selectors working the mixer with (dare I say it) teutonic intensity. A proper soundsystem is always important, but for this kind of music it's essential. Fortunately, Plastic People's majestic rig stood up well to the dub pressure and also accommodated the vocal talents of Tikiman and a Jah Shaka deejay, whose singing and toasting provided a suitably righteous and melodic accompaniment to the heavy bass. While their chat engaged the minds of the small but dedicated crowd, this kind of heavy dub has an intense, almost primal appeal which connects with the listener at a far more basic level. The starkness of the dub sound system experience is, at its best, something which defies any sense of time and place and it was with some surprise, as well as a great deal of satisfaction, that I found myself stumbling home along Curtain Road in the small hours of another Monday morning.
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