LABEL PROFILE: FÄLLT
Since its inception in the mid-‘90s, Fällt has repeatedly impressed with innovative and impeccably-designed products, among them Pimmon's Assembler, the twenty-four CD invalidObject Series set, and Invisible Cities project. The past few months have witnessed an upsurge in Fällt activity, with new recordings on the horizon amidst myriad other goings-on, so it seemed the perfect time to solicit an in-depth update from one of the organization's key players, Christopher Murphy.
When it was established in the mid-‘90s, Fällt originally positioned itself as “an independent publishing house specialising in experimental music, fine art, design and criticism” that publishes “well-designed, collectable works in small, but affordable editions.” Is Fällt in its present form still consistent with that vision or has it changed?
It's still very much consistent with that vision. If anything, our recent works are revisiting our earlier ideas, to question and challenge the idea that a “label” might only release CDs and audio works. For a brief period—between 2000 and 2004—we focused largely on audio releases, moving towards CDs and audio on a nearly exclusive basis. In 2007, we chose to revisit our original raison d'être and return to first principles. Our earliest releases spanned disciplines embracing audio and visual works; we are again returning to that position.
Some of our most recent works, for example Offset have moved away from audio, back to purely visual explorations. The latest two works in this series, 100 Days and Crash are exercises in information design, appropriating the tools traditionally associated with graphic design to comment on the different ways in which information is presented—using design tools within a more fine art context.
These works, collaborations between Fällt designers Fehler and software artist Fairchild Semiconductor, also explore the idea of social commentary through commercial, advertising spaces, spaces which Fällt purchases. I think this idea, of social interventions within commercial spaces—although not new—is an interesting area, and very much appropriate to contemporary culture.
Of course that original vision was conceived prior to the digital download era. Has today's technological landscape affected the way Fällt sees itself and operates?
Yes. Hard copies, physical objects, are more important than ever. I worry that a 100% digital future will be only 90% complete. Our recent digital release Home, by Aut, will be accompanied by physical artwork. Physical packaging for a virtual release.
With the shift towards digital distribution, it's disappointing that the major labels aren't exploring the potential of packaging freed from the constraints of packaging more fully. There are significant opportunities now open within the music landscape; it would be interesting to see how these opportunities—if embraced—might develop.
Early Fällt releases (such as Pimmon's Assembler and the invalidObject Series ) could be labeled “microsound”; has Fällt's musical conception broadened out from that style or remained true to it?
Recent releases, for example 3.14...'s Delta and David Donohoe's Please dissolve in this, balance an interest in “microsound” with a firm underpinning in melody. I see this as a rich area for future exploration. Some of the best music I've heard recently is by those who temper a basic human desire for melody with a surface tension: a “microsound” overlay.
The works of Tangtype (Notype, Fallt) and Fjordne, a Japanese artist who recently contacted us, is delicate and beautiful. Reminiscent of Italian duo Tu m', they create hesitant works which marry melody with a carefully controlled surface dissonance. I think Fällt's musical conception has both broadened out and remained true to its “microsound” origins.
Fällt was established by W. Conrad Röntgen and you in the mid-‘90s. Who now comprises the organisation's management team?
Fällt is primarily driven by W. Conrad Röntgen who is now, more than ever, acting as a driving force for the label. Röntgen has, since 2007, taken a much more active role within the organization. He is largely responsible for the resurgence of the label in 2008. Christian Lange, a curator and archivist, joined us in 2006 along with a web developer Nicholas Kove, and their contributions have proved invaluable. I now work largely behind the scenes acting in an advisory, yet active, capacity.
Since Fällt's inception, there have been a few periods of inactivity. What were the reasons for these hiatuses?
Fällt has never been a traditional independent label. Our activities have intentionally not focused on regular audio releases. The label has an established track record of exhibiting works (such as, for example, Invisible Cities) which, although active and international in scope, is not always reflected in our web presence.
In addition, all of the key members of the organization work for Fällt in addition to other, full-time, roles. From time to time these full-time roles enforce a period of silence as life intrudes. This is one of the reasons we broadened our core team. We hope now to maintain a steady, but high-quality release schedule.
Fällt appears to be experiencing a resurgence. What prompted the recent burst of activity and what projects and releases are you currently promoting?
As mentioned above, the recent resurgence is largely attributable to the work of W. Conrad Röntgen, Christian Lange, and Nicholas Kove. They have brought a renewed energy to the organization and that has affected our current activities.
Projects we are currently promoting include those mentioned above and a new series Format delivered via Grafik magazine and Fällt which explores alternative audio/visual distribution models: printed inserts delivered via advertising spaces coupled with audio delivered free online.
We're excited about the potential for exploring newly emerging audio distribution models in a world of digital distribution. We feel that Format questions how music is “packaged” when packaging is no longer strictly necessary in the traditional sense of the word.
Fällt's musical releases have always been distinguished by their design quality. Do you intend to continue issuing material in a physical format, despite the high production costs (e.g., the DVD super-jewelcases used to house the “Ferric” CDs)?
I can't see Fällt ever abandoning packaging; indeed, I imagine the opposite to be the case. I see Fällt embracing the potential of packaging further. As packaging becomes more and more scarce and as digital downloads become the dominant distribution model, I see a future in which carefully-designed and lovingly-produced packages become extremely desirable.
Several labels I admire have embraced this idea, such as en/of and Kning Disk, both of whom explore the idea of ultra-limited editions that are beautifully realized.
What would be some of Fällt's proudest accomplishments?
It's very difficult to pin this down, as I'm proud of all of our achievements. The invalidObject Series, 35 mm » Design in Miniature,and Invisible Cities projects have all been popular and we've been delighted with the ongoing interest they've stimulated. Equally we've worked hard on shorter, less well-known works or series, Fodder and untitled folder, for example.
All of our work challenges how audio and visual works are distributed, through a balance of purchased works and free distribution. We have been consistently delighted with the support and enthusiasm with which our work has been received. Our goal is to ask questions, questions that someone should be asking.
What are some of your own favourite labels?
12k and LINE, no question. I admire Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier's seemingly effortless aesthetic. Their packaging is beautiful and, equally importantly, it always perfectly reflects the audio. A recent example: 12k's Volume Objects release by Austistici: beautiful photography, captivating audio—a perfect marriage.
A few days ago, I pulled out the two editions I have of Richard Chartier's Series —an arresting work. I loved the fact that the design of the second edition was different than the first. This is effort applied to the way in which music is presented. It's precisely what Universal, Sony BMG, EMI, and Warner don't do. It's not a hurried reprint, it's a carefully considered reworking of an earlier theme.
I could list so many more labels—Alku, Kning Disk, en/of, non visual objects, Touch. All have one thing in common: passion, and a love for music and how it is presented. Simple.