32 Best Dub Techno Albums Ever Made

Donato Dozzy – Plays Bee Mask
2013

If it’s not clear by now, I’ll say it plainly: remixes, versions, and dubs are the heart of this genre. It’s not just wholly original works; the magic often lies in the effects these songs have been put through, the way they’ve been warped, like the way a person reacts to different psychedelic drugs. Its essence lies in the very act of transformation. That’s what dub did to reggae and what dub techno did to its progenitor.  And that’s precisely what Italian techno master Donato Dozzy did to experimental composer Bee Mask’s startling Vaporware/Scanops album.

While the original Bee Mask record comprised a pair of twenty minute shape-shifting cyberpunk updates on modern composition, with radical dynamic shifts, noisy bursts, and hauntingly gorgeous synth arpeggios – think Steve Reich or Terry Riley merged with an extraterrestrial hive-mind from the future – Dozzy has broken everything down and rebuilt it in his own image. The structure here recalls his own work with Neel on the epic Voices From The Lake album, all naturalistic buildup and sublime payoff. There are none of the jarring reversals or trapdoor surprises from the original; instead those shocking elements are placed in a more recognizable techno foundation and allowed to flourish in their new environment. By the third track you may be wondering why this is on a dub techno list at all, but by the time Plays Bee Mask reaches its peak and the bass kicks in, the truth will feel undeniable. This may stray from the dub techno blueprint in many important ways, and it brings an air of classical music prestige to the genre, but it’s an essential listen for anyone into hypnotic sounds like those found throughout this list.


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Shinichi Atobe – Butterfly Effect
2014

Shinichi Atobe released one of the final records on the Chain Reaction label, a 12″ called Ship-Scope, before disappearing into the aether for over a decade. Urban legends apparently posited that it was another secret guise of label head Moritz Von Oswald, but history eventually told the real story thanks to superfans and fellow musical pioneers Demdike Stare. As longtime fans of that 12″ the duo decided to track down its creator in Japan, eventually finding Atobe with an album’s worth of completely unheard material. Thanks to their work, this set of experimental, abstract, and often thrilling techno became one of the hottest releases of 2014, years after most of it was actually recorded.

Some of the music here hums with the amorphous energy of artists like Actress or Lee Gamble, guys who began crafting beguiling, deeply experimental music long after Butterfly Effect was made. It skirts around the edges of techno, using some of its classic toolset for truly unorthodox purposes. Other parts rip like jagged, tearing-at-the-seams deep house, too slow for the dance floor but too noisy and weird for the chillout room. It’s all tied together with droning sequences where any semblance of rhythm floats just out of reach, a mere hint or suggestion rather than part of the music. The whole thing climaxes, however, with a title track that sits somewhere between the delicate end of dub techno and its smoky, dark, dreamy, bass-heavy heart. It may be too experimental for genre diehards, but to me it’s a grand example of how far a well-defined sound can be stretched and even broken while retaining its original spirit.


• • •

Acronym – June
2015

Acronym is one of the biggest mysteries on this list, at least as far as I know. In a genre known for anonymity, constantly changing stage names, and hazy background details, his work for the groundbreaking Northern Electronics label stands out purely on its own merits. And what staggering merits they are. This is patient, approachable, widescreen dub techno designed for whole-album listening and nothing else. June is a sit-down-with-headphones listen, a drive-until-it’s-over listen. It’s a hit-repeat-as-soon-as-it’s-done listen, too. Every time the final track, “Letting Go of it All” ends, I’m left curious about just how we got there. That’s because the album begins with a solid ten minutes of ambient swelling before so much as a synth arpeggio enters the mix. This slow build grants the album a massive sense of payoff when the beats finally hit, though.

After a wide-eyed introduction that ushers the listener into a lush, welcoming sound world, things start clicking into place. Early highlight “No Exit” feels more like a descendant of Tangerine Dream than Basic Channel. But then sub bass bumps from down the hall, getting closer and heavier as an equatorial warmth flushes through it all, indicating a massive wave approaching. Finally it happens: that trademark dub throb pushes right through the mix, taking over and carrying the rest of the album off on its colossal momentum. Like many albums on this list, the songs are mixed like a DJ set, as one unbroken flow of sound. This helps foster its incredible sense of cohesion and sustain propulsion right up through the final seconds, the feeling of clouds parting and light pouring all around. This may in fact be the brightest, most hopeful sounding album on the list. In place of ominous dread, there’s a sense of cybernetic optimism here, a vision of a better tomorrow through hard work and perseverance. Or maybe I’m just putting too much of myself into this. Perhaps one of the lesser known releases here, June deserves as much attention as any of the best dub techno albums ever made.


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Dino Sabatini – Omonimo
2016

Omonimo brings a rare ambition to the dub techno genre: a grand sense of narrative. This is an album’s album, crafted with distinct movements and a wordless story arc ferrying the listener through a range of emotions and environments. Beyond crafting a suite of tracks that are each individually stunning genre workouts, Sabatini has produced a low-key lyrical epic that plays best when heard in order, in full.

The first three movements form a logical progression that blooms organically, like a tightly wound jazz band riffing in slow motion. Then it feels like Sabatini is taking a deep breath, inhaling the little universe of sound he’s just unraveled, but it’s just an ellipsis. The final stretch opens to shimmering synth curtains billowing over a beatless plane of existence; it’s the sound of ascension, speckled with flutes and distant chants, urging the listener upward. As these fresh elements dance through a brighter atmosphere, colossal beats re-enter the frame, muted by distance to a gentle roar. If the album feels like marching through a torchlit jungle at night, the final passage is reaching a temple, entering a zen garden, and seeing the stars, knowing intrinsically that it’s home.

Omonimo appears very high on the best of 2016 list.


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Huerco S. – For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)
2016

This is dub techno as it sounds after being atomized and carefully, slowly, delicately brought back to life one electron, one proton, one neutron at a time. It is the ambient miasma, the primordial soup of techno bubbling up with echoes of its former beat structures and cascading rhythm. The bass is there, rumbling through the crackle and hiss of old vinyl. The neon synths struggle to coalesce, forming melodic shapes through the hardship of time. Rhythm tumbles in fits and starts before hitting stride mid-track for most of the album, a grand fadeout in reverse. In a way, it’s all about time; these songs take their time to come into focus, for the listener to realize what it is they’re hearing. Often by the time a proper loop has begun, it will spin for minutes with only the subtlest of changes taking place – only to abruptly end without warning. I believe this jarring tactic was used to draw attention to the very effect that looping, hypnotic music has on us. We’re rarely aware of how subsumed we become inside music like this until it’s over; by shifting faster than the music can catch up, Huerco S. highlights the sedative, somnambulent quality of his sound without actually, you know, putting us to sleep. Besides, this music is far too active and disorienting to serve as a goodnight listen.

This album is intoxicating, hallucinatory, forever falling back through memory and time, recognizable shapes rise and fall and blend into a continuous stream of feeling. Like almost everything on this list, it sounds like virtually nothing else around. Although I’d place it spiritually closer to artists like Leyland Kirby and William Basinski, it is undeniably rooted in the tools and philosophy of dub techno.


• • •

Prince of Denmark – 8
2016

How do I even begin to describe this sprawling, three hour album by Prince of Denmark, aka Traumprinz, aka DJ Metatron? It uses nearly every word in the language of dub techno across its eight sides of vinyl, from twinkling ambient pulse music to nearly twenty minute dubbed out behemoths. It crosses and re-crosses every intersection and permutation of the genre’s core elements at high speed, its twenty three tracks adding up to a truly unique big picture unlike anything else on this list. 8 lays out a grand arc encompassing darkness and light, mountains of bass and airy textures, crisp drums and decaying synths, roaring with unwavering intensity all the way through. No one who hears the whole thing can deny its power.

Even cooler, almost no one has ever heard the “full” thing. That’s because the album was originally released on eight discs of vinyl only, with a trick: shortly after release listeners started realizing that it was full of variations on a number of songs, with no indication as to which version they were hearing. Some tracks were expanded or minimized, some remixed, and some sounded completely different than their counterparts on other owners’ vinyl. It meant that there is no definitive version of the album. Even the eventual official digital release came with its own variations, lining up with none of the vinyl sets. Part of me is bothered by never experiencing it all. But a bigger part of me is in awe of the way this created a temporary dissonance in listener experience – were fans actually hearing it differently? Was it a mistake? How many versions are really out there? By now the internet has cataloged it all, but I prefer to stick with the original copy I’ve got. I can’t find the same version of “Planet Uterus” on youtube, so here’s another.


• • •

SW. – The Album
2017

This album joins the small pantheon of techno albums I would consider to be sentient beings. Seriously, hear me out. These albums begin and end on a continuous wavelength, heaving and bending and erupting and dropping, but never ceasing. They enjoy an endless, freefalling mood that is modulated at will but never brought to a halt. It’s a ride, a singular perspective, rushing onward. Its brethren include a variety of sounds like Omonimo by Dino Sabatini, Deepchord Presents Echospace’s epochal Liumin, and even Global Communication’s 76:14, one of the 32 best ambient albums ever made. Like these prior masterpieces, The Album is an absolutely timeless, seamless, continuous flow of music that never once interrupt the listener’s trance – despite the fact that it actually shifts things up between tracks, with sudden jumps that draw the listener’s attention to track changes. It’s rare enough for a DJ-mixed-style album to feel so cohesive; SW. has conjured the effect with a set of blinding, brilliant discrete pieces, each evoking the classic touchstones of the genre’s birth while updating them for truly here-and-now feelings.

The Album made the top ten of the 50 Best Albums of 2017.


• • •

DJ Python – Dulce Compañia
2017

DJ Python calls his music “deep reggaeton” and I can’t imagine a better descriptor. Dulce Compañia brings the humid, human, deeply alive sounds of reggaeton into the hypnotic, meditative, nocturnal synth space of dub techno. It’s a blast of warmth from end to end, with syncopated rhythms and sneaky percussion sounds framing a nearly droning sense of color and texture. The speed of the beats often contrast with slowly drifting psychedelia, the music simultaneously propulsive and comatose; it’s an arresting effect on the brain, caught in a disorienting but deeply pleasurable limbo. In a way, it brings my fascination with dub techno full circle, back to the shoegaze and ambient sounds that led me to discover it in the first place.

The album may be only a few months old, but it’s handily earned its place among the greats of this genre for its beguiling take on the sound, a unique flavor that’s helping create more branches on the great techno family tree.

At this point, I know it should have made the best of the year list, but Dulce Compañia did appear on the 50 More Must-Hear Albums of 2017 list.


• • •

So that’s the list. I hope you found it fun and informative. Please leave a comment with any thoughts, questions, and most of all suggestions – I’d love to know if I missed something imporant!

1-8  |  9-16  |  17-24  |  25-32

24 thoughts on “32 Best Dub Techno Albums Ever Made

  1. Thank you for this, sir. I’m going to get lost in some of these I’ve never heard of before. Just now experiencing the Micronism album, and it’s seriously RICH. Do you keep an active profile on any of the streaming platforms?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 32 Best Ambient Albums Ever Made | Optimistic Underground

  3. Great stuff Dave, this will have me immersed for some time; as even though I’ve heard of a good few of these, I have yet gotten around to checking them out. Of course, there’s stuff here that is totally new to me, so extra thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to be honest I’m surprised that echospace presents the coldest season isn’t on your list as that is in my opinion a better album than liumin. Also echospace live in Detroit which is truly fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That Live in Detroit album is phenomenal! And I absolutely love The Coldest Season, but I had to make a choice between the two and I just love Liumin a little more. Very tough trying to cut this list down to manageable size – I honestly could have added 3 or 4 more Modell albums alone! Thanks for the feedback.

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  5. Great List!!
    My fav that are not in the list are Fluxion:Vibrant Forms 2 , not 1. In movies it,s said that second parts are no good, but with vibrant forms 2 it doesn,t happen .Just amazing.
    And From Deepchord, I recommend “everything” he made.I discover very late Deepchord works, and i prefer his solo works to the Echospace combo.He takes more risk when working alone.”20 Electrostatic Soundfieds” and “Hash-Bar loops” are probably my favs.

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    • I love these suggestions! I almost chose Vibrant Forms 2 – either one is perfect I think. As for Deepchord, I totally agree. He’s amazing! I might actually make a Rod Modell list to cover everything he’s made. I LOVE 20 Electrostatic Soundfields. Sommer might be my favorite overall, but his new one Auratones is up there too.

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  6. As a list targeted at uninitiated listeners it’s very good and you obviously emphasize variety, which I appreciate, especially for a genre that can get very samey once you’ve heard enough. Even if some of the picks such as the DJ Python seem a little far-fetched (nothing against their quality, on the contrary, more their inclusion on a dub techno list). I admire your eloquent writing that conveys listening as a sensorial experience rather than a mere description of technical elements. To me echospace are the true heirs of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction, the ones who were able to incorporate their integral influence and take the sound to unimaginable new heights. You were content with including Liumin which is probably the epitome but Intrusion’s The Seduction Of Silence, Variant’s The Setting Sun, cv313’s Live and Dimensional Space are omissions that stand out. But the list is yours! (maybe a top50 in the future lol)

    Also some lesser known albums worth digging. Let me know your thoughts if you listened to them already.
    Kit Clayton ‎– Nek Sanalet
    Bluetrain ‎– Version Blue
    Exos ‎– My Home Is Sonic
    Sensual Physics ‎– Offene Schleifen
    Octex ‎– Idei Lahesna
    Sustainer ‎– Cuántico
    154 ‎– Strike
    Evan Marc + Steve Hillage ‎– Dreamtime Submersible
    Quantec ‎– Unusual Signals
    Arc Of Doves ‎– Mille Plateaux
    Inward Content ‎– Inward Content
    J.S.Zeiter ‎– JSCD-01
    Grad_U ‎– Surface Variations
    Unknown Artist ‎– Knowone Black Box One
    Purl ‎– Stillpoint
    Wanderwelle ‎– Lost In A Sea Of Trees

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    • Thank you for the great feedback! I agree 100% that Deepchord and all the related projects are the true heirs of dub techno. I wanted to limit how many projects I included from a single artist and there were already 3 with Rod Modell, so unfortunately I had to leave a lot of great stuff off the list. I think we must have very similar tastes, because Seduction of Silence and especially cv313’s Dimensional Space are absolute favorites of mine too. I considered making the list longer, but now I’m thinking I might just do a Rod Modell overview post, detailing all of his connected works. For now though, I think I’ll add mention beneath Liumin of a handful of other must-hear releases of his; I’ve been thinking about doing this since I published, to be honest. It was tough leaving anything out!

      As for your suggestions – I haven’t heard several of these, so I’m excited to check them out! I’m always on the lookout for new stuff. Thanks again!

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  7. Thanks for this amazingly detailed journey into dub techno! I’ve only recently discovered the genre and have been chipping away at this list. You’ve created quite the guide; a perfect introduction for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This just made my day! Exactly why I write about music like this. Thank you for letting me know. I hope you keep discovering greatness – and let me know if you want any further suggestions! I’m in the process of rolling out an updated list with more “you should also check out…” type mentions beneath some of the big important albums. So much more to explore, always.

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  8. Hello!
    What a great list! Thank you for the thorough work ! :)
    I guess we have similar tastes for dub techno too, the rare albums i didn’t know are instant favorites…
    And you made me nostalgic for some i didn’t hear for quite too long.

    I would love to read more genre list like that from you in the future, if you have the time :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the kind words! So glad to know you’ve discovered some new favorites – that’s why I write. I’m definitely planning on making some more big genre lists like this, probably a couple more this year in fact. I’m working on a house right now but as soon as I’m done I’ll be back to writing!

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      • Enjoyable writing David. I’m revisiting all my old 12″ dub techno records. Lots of artists you mentioned are in the crates. I’m in my fifties now and most house and electronic genres bore me these days (maybe a hint of nostalgia at best, I was pretty deep into the scene more years ago than I care to remember). Not so with dub techno, I played all day during the hot summer, it’s still fresh and remains interesting. DubT stands the test of time beautifully afaic.
        On your list I missed Coldest Season and Hashbar remnants and also the releases on Styrax Leaves, they have some brilliant stuff. No longer available on vinyl, most is on YT.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I completely agree, absolutely timeless! Also, I definitely feel you on the Coldest Season and Hashbar Remnants. Rod Modell deserves a dozen mentions when it comes to dub techno – and I’m actually thinking about doing a feature on him and his many aliases and releases. I actually thought to expand this list a bit by mentioning other, similar releases to the ones mentioned, but when it came to Modell I realized I could make a whole list!

          Also, I’m not sure I’m familiar with Styrax Leaves (or aware of it, if I am) so I’ll definitely search for anything I can find. You clearly know your stuff so I’m curious! Thanks for sharing, and thank you for the kind words!

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  9. Excellent list David, so many memories of early dub techno sound! I know its a recent release from 2018 but you must absolutely listen to Dub Surgeon – The Lost Future LP. I think it would make your list and it pretty much encompasses everything that is so great about contemporary dub techno. Its an obscure release from Jay Haze (engineered by Villalobos?) and issued on a UAE-based label called Ark to Ashes. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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