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Artist: Rhythm & Sound

Album: Rhythm & Sound

Label: Rhythm & Sound

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The modern world routinely and unapologetically begs the question in its search for knowledge. “Why?” “Because.” The root is, of course, selfish in nature like every aspect of the human condition, a competitive, sometimes unconscious race between naïve psyches to unravel the Rubik’s cube before their peers.

Realizing this condition and questioning its legitimacy results in the postmodern. Few groups appear to epitomize this sense of clarity like Rhythm & Sound, the duo of Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald, the founders of the mysterious Berlin collective, Basic Channel.

Mark and Moritz remain almost anonymous in their creations, never including their names on recordings and refusing any interview requests. This apparent pretension, however, is more purist than pompous. Basic Channel, or Rhythm & Sound, however you choose to identify the duo, genuinely feel their music, a minimalist blend of dub and atmos, is more important than the knobs, faders, and design that brought it to be. There is no inherent need to look behind the curtain; the music’s coming out of the speakers.

Rhythm & Sound meanwhile, strip dub of any conventional or territorial meaning. The first track “No Partial,” the theme of which is borrowed from the Wailers’ “Higher Fieldmarshall Dub,” conjures up Island rock, circa 1979, but of course, the tune was composed in 2001 somewhere in the depths of Berlin. “Mango Drive,” a reworking of a Chosen Brothers tune from the late 70s, captures the up-tempo warmth of slow-burning spliff, not something (at least this writer) one would associate with what use to be the fascist capitol of the world.

The entire album, mostly comprised of vinyl recordings over the past four years, flows effortlessly from beginning to end, and much like the leaf associated with reggae and dub, fucks with time’s continuum with its methodical, unhurried rhythms. “Smile,” the only track with accompanying vocals (courtesy of Savage), spans over nine minutes, but disappears much too soon.

Part of the album’s appeal is Rhythm & Sound’s allocation of space. The buried bass beats (the only sound not run through the echo chamber) and various synths always leave room for an ever present vinyl warmth. Sometimes the duo brings the hiss to the forefront and manipulates it with stereo effects, but the noise is just as pleasant resting behind the sound.

Rhythm & Sound deconstruct the dub to a higher degree towards the album’s conclusion, reverting more towards their moniker than any known musical genre. “Roll Off” is a seductive, hiss-heavy drift through cavernous bubbles and occasional reverb-soaked invasions, while “Imprint” reveals very few remnants of structure.

Yet, the echo never disappears, always lingering in the ether. The echo, in some sense, captures the nature of Rhythm & Sound, the initial call and subsequent response that brings to light music’s irreducible duality. And as Mark and Moritz have made quite clear, it’s all about the music.

By Otis Hart

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