If Microcosm's stylistic range makes categorizing the New York imprint a challenge, label manager and recording artist Ezekiel Honig doesn't mind. “I really want Microcosm to erase some boundaries,” he says. “If there's a target audience, it's open-minded people who love music that has its eyes targeted forward and cares little for genre lines. If the label has a specific sound, it's largely minimal, though that isn't necessarily a prerequisite. While I don't think there's a singular label Microcosm is modeled after, if you threw together Perlon, Fat Cat, Morr, City Centre Offices, and Mille Plateaux, that's sort of what we're going for.”

Following its formation in January 2004, Microcosm made a grand splash six months later with the release of Honig's People Places & Things and Troubled Waters, DJ Clever's acclaimed drum and bass mix of Offshore Recordings material (note: Microcosm's name doesn't appear on either release because, at the time of their preparation, the label was called Single Cell Music). 2005 looks, if anything, even better with 10-inch Macrofun volumes, Miskate's lil'tugtug 12-inch, and Early Morning Migration, a full-length collaboration between Honig and Morgan Packard, included in its slate of releases. What's especially appealing about the Macrofun series is its variety; volume one, for example, pairs “Deep Sleep,” a drum and bass track by Tundra (Packard and Brett Cleaver aka DJ Clever), with Captain Campion's “In Kind,” a stunning 10-minute ambient epic by Packard and Phil Salathe, while volume two includes Socks and Sandals (New Yorkers Sean Smith and Clark ov Saturn) and Philadelphian Miskate (Kate Iwanowicz); in addition to future installments featuring Someone Else, Krill.minima, and Honig, an eventual Macrofun CD will collect the vinyl tracks supplemented by a few exclusives.

NY native Honig is as busy with his own music as he is the label itself. Though he began his career as a drum and bass DJ (even working briefly at Breakbeat Science), by late 2002 Honig's focus had shifted to minimal material created primarily from found sounds. Today, his warmly melodic and subtly dub-influenced music layers soft tonal glimmers onto off-kilter rhythms of soft rustles and clanks (Honig describes People Places & Things as “basically techno made from a standpoint of lounging around one's home rather than dancing or being at a crowded club”). Early Morning Migration pushes the style to a further extreme with the music delicately conjuring the natural stillness of a dawning lake and forest wilderness. The album concept crystallized over the course of a road trip Honig and Packard undertook from NY to Montreal to attend MUTEK 2004. Starting from songs that Packard had recorded in a cabin over a long weekend with Salathe and Scott Thompson on guitar, piano, and bass, Honig and Packard created new tracks that echo the originals. Honig explains, “Since they were originally conceived and recorded in a cabin in New Hampshire, the nature feel just seemed right and we wanted to make music that would go with the theme; we definitely had this image of a lone cabin in the woods as a guiding point. However, once we started working on the music we strayed heavily from the initial material; I think I ended up using a single sound from all those recordings but the initial concept was retained nonetheless.”

A serious intent even underlies Microcosm's distinctive cartoon-based sleeve designs. “It's a fun and interesting approach that grabs me more than a standard minimal aesthetic (which I also like though not as much),” he explains. “The Macrofun graphics especially, with all their goofiness, are meant to complement their sounds. The series is about stretching out and letting a greater range of music pop through; the images are just part of the idea of dropping the serious pretensions. Let's face it, this is often 'serious' music that has a lot of concept behind it and is meant to do more than just make someone dance, so it's a nice juxtaposition.”

September 2005