From Iceland — The Master Of Rhythm & Sound: Moritz Von Oswald

The Master Of Rhythm & Sound: Moritz Von Oswald

Published September 19, 2016

The Master Of Rhythm & Sound: Moritz Von Oswald
Photo by
Dave Walker

You can hardly overstate the effects of dub techno and minimal techno on electronic music. These two genres, originating in the early 90s, created musical ripples that have, in time, extended from their beginnings on Berlin dancefloors through to budding satellite scenes around Europe. They reached a mass audience when minimal techno became commercially popular, as a reaction to the jarring sounds of mid-00s electro, informing the lo-fi aesthetics of artists like Burial.

At the heart of this explosion is Moritz von Oswald. As one half of a multi-monikered duo alongside Mark Ernestus, the two musicians-cum-DJs invented dub techno with their releases as Rhythm & Sound. Some also credit the birth of minimal techno to their releases under the name Basic Channel.

Going through their aliases on their respective Discogs pages, and rooting out the various points at which the two added new ideas to dance music culture, is a daunting task. I can spend all day fabulating about various threads between early Basic Channel releases and later, larger, more popular artists. Even just their Round series of dub techno releases is at the centre of a couple of webs, from ‘Round Three’ (1996) creating a soundscape that seems to inform Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ album (1998), to ‘Round One’ and ‘Round Two’ laying the groundwork for the deep house scene.

Endless disciples

The list of their later disciples is pretty much endless. Many of them might not even know that they’ve inherited a sonic world based on the groundwork of these two Germans, as is the case with anyone who’s borrowed from James Blake or Burial. Just looking at the current Icelandic music scene: traces of their influence can be seen in bands like Samaris and Vök.

In a recent interview with Icelandic music magazine Albumm, Thorhallur Skulason—the founder of Iceland’s most important electronic label, Thule Records—stated that Basic Channel is the main influence for Thule’s whole roster. Artists like Exos, Ozy, Yagya, Sanasol, Thor and more carried the sound onward, in Iceland and abroad. Gusgus producer and mastermind Biggi Veira states in the same interview that discovering Moritz Von Oswald’s music around 1995 was a watershed for the band’s sound.

One of Mr. von Oswald’s most vocal disciples, Exos, has long rued that this seminal artist has never performed in Reykjavík, where his influence has been so profound. But now this is finally set to be corrected, with a concert in NASA on September 24. As fate would have it, the concert will be significant in more ways than one, as this is the last concert in this much-loved music hall, which is scheduled for demolition soon after.

The incarnation he will present in NASA is a live solo performance, mostly based on his work with the Moritz von Oswald Trio. With this outfit he explores the boundaries of techno, dub, reggae, jazz and classical music. In his latest work under this moniker he was joined by Afrobeat legend Tony Allen for the album ‘Sounding Lines’, released in 2015. Exos (returning from the South American leg of his world tour), Thor, Octal and special guests of Thule Records make up the lineup for the rest of the evening.

The September 24 show is held at NASA and begins at 22:00. Tickets are available at and start at 1,990 ISK.

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