Alongside Mike Ink, the Basic Channel collective and Pole, Thomas Brinkmann is one of the leaders in the ongoing German-born study of isolationist dub-inspired techno. Though hes been famed for productions on his own Max, Ernst and Suppose labels, Brinkmann gained a name in the experimental and techno community for his full-length remixes (or as he terms them, variations) of material by Richie Hawtin and Mike Ink. The variations were made possible by playback of the original records on a turntable of Brinkmanns own design, which included two tone arms with separate outputs for left and right channels.
Brinkmann had in fact been experimenting with carved-groove records since the 1980s. He studied art at the Düsseldorf Academy but was reportedly expelled for his philosophies. Influenced by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich, Panasonic and Dan Bell, but it was Mike Inks Studio 1 singles series that inspired him to begin recording seriously. Brinkmann modified an existing turntable by adding another tone arm (one for each channel of the output, left and right) and slowing down the material to record his own variations. When Ink heard them, he released two EPs of the material on his Profan label (later collected on one CD).
Brinkmann debuted his own productions with the founding of the Ernst label, which released several singles of sharply defined minimalist dub-techno (each using womens names for titles) in keeping with the work of Berlins Basic Channel collective and BC-associate Stefan Betke (aka Pole). Brinkmann also launched two other labels — Max (with mens names for titles) and Suppose, which featured full-length releases Totes Rennen and Weisse Nacht by the alias Ester Brinkmann. Brinkmanns next step involved reworking the dozen 12-inch singles originally released during 1996 by Plastikmans Richie Hawtin in a series called Concept. After traveling from Cologne to Hawtins base in Canada, Brinkmann thrilled Hawtin with the results and by early 1998, a CD of Brinkmanns Concept variations was released on Hawtins M_nus label. A year later, Brinkmann contributed a volume in the 20 to 2000 series and inaugurated his own Ernst series with Anna/Beate.