First things first: What are we dealing with here? You could call this a dub techno mix, and you'd be right. Anyone who's read a blog in the last three years could tell you that. But I think that what Scott Monteith has set out to do here is something more: more particular, more ambitious, perhaps even more edifying.
To discover what, we need to talk about particularity. About a particular time and place, and a particular sound: Berlin in the early '90s, and a cold, reverberant thrum. The pulse of dub reggae running through Japanese-built machinery, filters frothing; the room tone suggestive of nothing so much as the untold empty structures in the recently re-unified city, walls trembling with the sound of techno bubbling up through the pipes below. Every building a subwoofer connected via subterranean conduit.
We're talking about Basic Channel, of course, without whom none of the music on this mix would have been possible. It's true that BC's Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald are directly responsible for only three tracks here(Basic Channel's "Quadrant Dub," Maurizio's"M6" and Rhythm & Sound's "Mango Walk"). But their influence stretches beyond those, beyond even their immediate circle (represented here by Basic Channel/Chain Reaction collaborators Various Artists, Monolake, and Substance & Vainqueur). Basic Channel's influence runs, like a blood transfusion, through virtually every sound on this recording.
But this isn't a Basic Channel mix. It's also not a dub-techno survey. Twelve of the 19 tracks were recorded in just the past two years, tilting the selection too far towards the present to serve as a comprehensive retrospective. (It does, however, suggest something of the way the style has flourished recently.) No, there's nothing authoritative or didactic about the mix. Scott Monteith wasn't there at the beginning; almost no one was, aside from a small handful of individuals who pooled their creativity into a unique and, in some sense, short-lived project. But their music flowed into a conduit that reached him anyway, all the way in Kitchener, Ontario. It became an integral part of his own productions, albeit in different measures and different ways. A kind of Platonic ideal of dub techno has maintained in much of Deadbeat's music, just as it is maintained on every track included here. If I might venture a biographical observation, I suspect that much of this mix is about teasing out an idea that must have come to Monteith when he first heard this music over a decade ago, an ocean away from its source: the sense of a latent potentiality in the music, just waiting to be realized.
Which brings us back to particularity. Not just a particular time and place, but also the idea of a sound dissolving into particles. Even, perhaps, dissolving time and place into particles as well, not just metaphorically but literally, via the black art of recording. A moment in time in Berlin—a kind of seed extracted from Jamaican soil and re-planted in a different technological and cultural context—granulizes, rolls downriver. Over and over again, with every recording, spreading, scattering, planting the seeds of new versions, each not just the model but in some sense the clone of the former. Imagine these particles silting up, like a river delta. From a single point emerges a cone, spreading out into the shape of a megaphone's bell. It's only fitting that Basic Channel's logo was based upon the symbol found on drain covers in Berlin; their music was always about conduits and flow, sedimentation and erosion, the idea of musical history as a kind of river delta. Deadbeat's mix is a contour map of that delta as it lies today, in slow flux.
(added: 2010-03-08 16:03:24 )