Detroit Berlin Axis
Detroit Berlin Axis
Detroit Berlin Axis
Detroit Berlin Axis
Detroit Berlin Axis

Detroit Berlin Axis

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mutual admiration pact

1993, the German techno label Tresor Records released the compilation album Tresor II: Berlin & Detroit – A Techno Alliance, a testament to the influence of the Detroit sound upon the German techno scene and a celebration of a "mutual admiration pact" between the two cities.

As the mid-1990s approached, Berlin was becoming a haven for Detroit producers; Jeff Mills and Blake Baxter even resided there for a time. In the same period, with the assistance of Tresor, Underground Resistance released their X-101/X-102/X-103 album series, Juan Atkins collaborated with 3MB's Thomas Fehlmann and Moritz Von Oswald and Tresor-affiliated label Basic Channel had its releases mastered by Detroit's National Sound Corporation, the main mastering house for the entire Detroit dance music scene.

In a sense, popular electronic music had come full circle, returning to Germany, home of a primary influence on the electronic dance music of the 1980s: Düsseldorf's Kraftwerk.

Developments in American-produced techno between 1990 and 1992 fueled the expansion and eventual divergence of techno in Europe, particularly in Germany. In Berlin, following the closure of a free party venue called Ufo, the club Tresor opened in 1991. The venue was for a time the standard bearer for techno and played host to many of the leading Detroit producers, some of whom relocated to Berlin. By 1993, as interest in techno in the UK club scene started to wane, Berlin was considered the unofficial techno capital of Europe.

Producers from Detroit, frustrated by the lack of opportunity in their home country, looked to Europe for their future livelihood. This first wave of Detroit expatriates was soon joined by a number of up-and-coming artists, the so-called "second wave", including Carl Craig, Octave One, Jay Denham, Kenny Larkin, and Stacey Pullen, with UR's Jeff Mills, Mike Banks, and Robert Hood pushing their own unique sound.

The inspiration of Detroit techno has influenced the entire electronic techno community. It would be fair to say that Detroit techno has caused the biggest youth movement in the last century. We still cannot understand why this cultural format did not receive the attention in Detroit it deserved. The success and public reception of the techno movement in Berlin was also a door opener for different genres from fashion to art.

From its inception, the Berlin-based Tresor label maintained an important link with Detroit and its fertile techno community. Many of the first artists to record for Tresor were from Detroit, and the Germany artists on the label's roster shared a similar style of production. It was only fitting then that Tresor compile a collection that showcased the two cities and their respective artists, the Germans producing the first half and the Detroiters the second.

Detroit is partly the reason why Tresor became so internationally renown. While most labels center on their local scene, Tresor circled the globe for its talent, mining Detroit's incredibly fertile and historical techno community for gems.

Moritz Von Oswald, better known as Maurizio, a percussionist of the last incarnations of Palais Schaumburg, went on to become one of the most influential producers of techno music, first as 3MB (with Thomas Fehlmann) and then as the co-founder of Basic Channel. While working with Fehlmann as 3MB in 1993, von Oswald found himself producing alongside Detroit pioneer Juan Atkins. Just as Detroit’s Belleville Three sat in their darkened bedrooms absorbing Kraftwerk’s mechanized rhythms, so would von Oswald and fellow Palais member Thomas Fehlmann discover the dance floor through the increasingly machine-like heart of pop music.

The original nine releases under their Basic Channel name were each primarily identified as Basic Channel productions by their catalogue numbers, as the Basic Channel logo on the label became more distorted and unreadable with each subsequent release.

Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald, under innumerable aliases (Maurizio, Phylyps, Cyrus, Quadrant, Round One to Round Five, Rhythm and Sound etc etc), were instrumental in redefining the sounds shooting back and forth between Detroit and Berlin in the early nineties. Their music — all released under the umbrella of the Basic Channel label — gave rise to the term 'dub techno' and has perpetually redefined it ever since, spawning a legion of imitators and earning the duo legend status among those in the know. 

The name of the project itself is elemental Basic Channel is a conduit for a self-generating system, and the duo behind the moniker clearly relish its genericness and anonymity.

“Basic Channel has all the urgency of Detroit techno but with the slickness and groove stripped away, leaving a relentless, ultra-dissonant texture; a clarion call to minimal producers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

In 1991, Detroit techno group Underground Resistance licensed a few of its productions to Tresor, an upstart label based in Berlin. Rather than release the tracks under its own name, Underground Resistance released them under the moniker X-101. The resulting six-track EP, which became Tresor's first-ever release, proved so successful that Underground Resistance and Tresor teamed up for two more releases: one as X-102 (Explores the Rings of Saturn, 1992) and another as X-103 (Atlantis, 1993). Though Underground Resistance was a collective at the time -- comprised of Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood -- Mills is often credited for helming the X-10... releases, with Hood as his co-producer.

The Detroit- Berlin Connection is a story about how Berlin counterculture has transformed the city over a 25-year period, since the fall of the wall and the reunification of the capital, with the help of a common language everyone could understand: Techno.