2007 10 FAVOURITE LABELS
Readers who have regularly visited textura during the past year probably won't be too surprised by the ten labels making up this year's selections. Dynamophone, Hidden Shoal, and Community Library have been featured in label profiles, and the others' releases have been granted prominent coverage in many of this year's issues. What's more interesting is that almost all of the labels are relatively new ventures, with the number of releases on some no more than a handful. But it's the high quality level of that output that has landed the labels here, not the size of its discography—the obvious exception Cold Blue, which has been gracing listeners with marvelous music for a good many years.
(Note: we've opted not to repeat labels that were included in the previous two installments in order to give the spotlight to ten different labels. Having said that, there's no question that many labels included in the previous years' articles would have been strong candidates for the 2007 grouping too. You can review the 2005 selections here and last year's choices here.)
Anticipate • Buzzin' Fly • Cold Blue • Community Library • Dynamophone • Hidden Shoal • Op.disc • Symbolic Interaction • Western Vinyl • Yore
Year founded and location: 2006, New York City.
Managed by: Ezekiel Honig.
Identity: The main idea behind the label is to unify acoustic and electronic means and modes of composition and production in the best balance that the artists can achieve. Stylistically, the label falls in between the lines of genres like ambient, techno, or house, with a consistent nod to historically relevant ideas of jazz, classical, musique concrete, rock, minimalism, pop. Slow-motion techno, found house, post-ambient, electroacoustic—these are the (un)genres that the label represents.
Distinguishing characteristics: Poster art, minimal rhythms, and prettiness co-existing.
Proudest accomplishment: Well, it's still kind of young, but approximating the initial vision of what I wanted the label to consist of musically and visually is something that makes me happy, and with
each release I know we did something right. Over time, it will become a clearer picture of itself.
Currently promoting: All the releases on the label. A major theme for me is the lack of time constraints in this music, and trying to get people to perceive it all as one large work that can be accessed at any point or moment. To answer your question in a simpler way, Klimek's Dedications album, which just came out.
Future: A lot more releases (Nicola Ratti, Ezekiel Honig, Mark Templeton, Morgan Packard, collaborations, audio visual projects) and more attempts to change the classical idea of a record label.
Favourite label(s): Leaf, Kranky, SPEKK, 12K, Perlon, many, many others.
Year founded and location: 2003; originally Westbourne Park, now Camden Lock.
Managed by: Ben Watt.
Identity: House and Techno, Pathos, and Kick Drums.
Distinguishing characteristics: Fragility and defiance, splendid artwork.
Proudest accomplishment: Remaining strong but pliant.
Currently promoting: Justin Martin's debut mix CD Chaos Restored, Mlle Caro and Franck Garcia's debut artist album Pain Disappears, Buzzin' Fly Vol 4 Remix EP featuring Christian Prommer and Spencer Parker.
Future: It will take an unexpected direction unexpectedly.
Favourite label(s): Bombay Sapphire, Percol, Lumix, Royal Gala.
Year founded and location: 1983 (defunct in 1987), Los Angeles, CA; reincarnated in 2001, Venice, CA.
Managed by: Jim Fox.
Identity: This is a very tough question. I don't have a clearly articulated template for the music on the label. I don't have an agenda or manifesto. The music's just stuff that I enjoy and that strikes me as interesting at the moment. (What I had for breakfast on a given day no doubt figures into the what-gets-released equation as much as any other possible yardstick might.)
I suppose one could say that Cold Blue releases music with roots that usually touch on the so-called "experimental" and "classical" music traditions in the sense that the music is often informed by those traditions (and the lingua franca of the '70s: minimalism) but isn't part of an obvious lineage within those traditions. Perhaps it's all of the big "post-" (today's most over-worked and perhaps meaningless prefix/hyphenate) mix: post-experimental, post-minimal, post-classical. However, when choosing
music to release, I don't weigh it against those now-established "post-" traditions either.
I hope the music on Cold Blue is somewhat genre-bending, offering an eclectic swirl of the unusual, the serene, the beautiful, the haunting, the wild, and the stark, in which emotions might lurk just below a relatively cool surface. Perhaps the composers whose music appears on the label might be viewed as bound together by something as simple as an interest in music's basic sensuality, which they approach from a multitude of perspectives.
Recently, I've come to view the label as something akin to a collage or some other sort of assemblage. In that sense, music added to the catalog both resonates with me personally and feels like the next right thing to add to the label as an ongoing construction of ever-changing shape.
Distinguishing characteristics: If there is an easily discernable bias in the label's selection of music,
that's a bias toward music from West Coast-based composers or music with some (occasionally far-fetched) connection to the Coast.
Proudest accomplishment: Odd as it sounds, I'm please with most of what has been released on Cold Blue. On a slight tangent, I'm also proud of the few Cold Blue concerts (evenings of music by composers represented on the label) that have taken place over the past couple of years. Programming these events and ensuring that they come off with a minimum of flaws is more work than it seems at first glance.
Currently promoting: Cold Blue's most recent release (Nov. 13, '07) is John Luther Adams' Red Arc / Blue Veil.
Future: Keep an eye and ear out for younger composers whose music might resonate with me. (Would love to be blown away by the music of someone I've never heard of.)
Favourite label(s): I don't know that I have any particularly "favorite" labels at the moment. I like the work being done by a broad spectrum of labels today.
Historically, as a kid I admired and collected ESP's jazz lps and a lot of Impulse's stuff. Years ago, I also admired and collected lps from Barney Childs's Advance label—which accounted for first or nearly first releases of music by Ashley, Budd, Maxfield, and a bunch of folk whose music interested me. These are, of course, labels whose days have come and gone. But looking back at them now, I sense that I walked off with at least one element that they all shared: a fairly tight, but highly idiosyncratic focus.
Year founded and location: 2005; Portland, Oregon, Autonomous Region of Cascadia.
Managed by: Paul Dickow and David Chandler.
Identity: Community Library is a collaborative curatorial project that explores looking across music genres to create new contexts and perspectives. We have a fundamental interest in musical diversity as the means to discovering new ways of identifying common aspects in music. We focus on inclusive, approachable, and hardworking experimental music artists who have a "productive problem" at the core of their work, a conflict between their allegiances to tradition and their unselfconscious, meandering innovation.
Distinguishing characteristics: Archival quality documents of artists who are ahead of their time. Fearlessly seeking out and handling extreme opposites, in terms of genre or technique, in search of new contexts and wholly new musical visions. Nurturing current local artists as well as artists from the past or from faraway places. Developing the label's unique vision through a rules-based DJing project. In-house illustration and mastering by someone who also, ironically, works in a library!
Proudest accomplishment: Maintaining good relationships with the artists. Following the DJing rules
set forth in 2003 for two years of monthly events, adding live artist performances, and documenting this work professionally through online media and a recently-completed performance art project. Hosting label performance nights to re-connect our vision with the local community. Developing a label identity in spite of having an almost absurdly diverse roster and incredibly broad scope of interests.
Currently promoting: Taking a break from promotion projects to develop new materials for production!
Future: Download format releases of our titles, including some digital exclusives; new "themed" DJ sets downloadable from our website; reissues of music by Units, and Jan Steele & Janet Sherbourne; and new music from Blood Money, Evolutionary Jass Band, Reanimator, Locate, DJ C & Zulu, and more!
Favourite label(s): Lovely Music, Trunk, Soul Jazz, E'G Editions, ECM, Warp, Les Disques du Crepescule, Factory, Kranky, Rough Trade, and all our friends' labels and other peers: ORAC, audraglint, Adjunct, Circus Company, Audio Dregs, Yarnlazer, Anticipate, the list goes on...
Year founded and location: 2005; San Francisco, US, and London, UK.
Managed by: Evan Sornstein, Ryan Coseboom, Darren Layne, Fonta Hadley, Halsted M. Bernard.
Artist Roster: A Lily, The Abbasi Brothers, The Balustrade Ensemble, Curium, Disinterested, Halou, Po, Pornopop, R/R Coseboom, Rigil, The Science Teacher, Sleep Robot.
Identity: Euphonic experimental ambient. Sometimes steampunk, sometimes electronic—always
lovely. Intriguing, beautiful music: well-produced and well-presented.
Distinguishing characteristics: The presentation of music is a crucial, subtle experience. We think the key word is "euphonic." Experimental yet pretty. Progressive yet timeless.
Proudest accomplishment: All of our releases. Our great partnership with P* Dis in Japan and with Aquarius Records in San Francisco. Creating an aesthetic brand that serves the music that we love. Creating something that is emotionally fulfilling.
Currently promoting: Disinterested and The Balustrade Ensemble, with Rigil and The Abbasi Brothers just around the corner.
Future: Lullaby League: Melusine featuring Phylida Law; The Abbasi Brothers: Something Like
Nostalgia; Rigil: Concertina Heart; Curium: Bism; Halou: Afield Recordings. And more right behind this.
Favourite label(s): Yes, 4AD has certainly been an inspiration. We also love Type, The Leaf Label, kranky, and Darla.
Album we wished we'd issued: Slowdive's Pygmalion.
Amusing anecdote: Every distributor in the UK ignores us. Not sure why.
HIDDEN SHOAL RECORDINGS
Year founded and location: 2006, Perth Western Australia.
Managed by: Cam Merton, Stuart Medley, Malcolm Riddoch and Tim Clarke.
Identity: The label and its catalogue has a real heart that allows what may seem like disparate styles and approaches to music to sit together as one. As listeners and music lovers, we have incredibly broad ears and so the catalogue represents that. We only release music we love and want to thrash within an inch of its life on the office stereo. Within that, though, our approach to the catalogue and our releases is a curatorial one and we do try to map things out across the year in a way that keeps the larger narrative interesting and surprising. We are not interested in presenting some sort of blanket homogeneity or corner a genre. It feels like a really exciting idea to attempt to create a label where there are big right angles in terms of genre, style, and approach but where fans are keenly waiting to hear the next release regardless. If I could just labour the point, we believe the breadth of material we release echoes a lot of contemporary listeners' approach to music where you can move from experimental ambient work to lo-fi indie rock within the space of five minutes.
Distinguishing characteristics: Our artists and our catalogue first and foremost (see proudest accomplishment below).
I guess the other distinguishing characteristic is the way we set the label up and our principal distribution methods. Hidden Shoal was initially set up as a strictly digital label which meant all releases we're distributed via the usual digital outlets as well as from the label site. We did this because the vision we had for the label was too broad to be able realise with a traditional setup. We also wanted to take a somewhat “international” approach and not get stuck into a localised or territorial approach to the distribution and promotion of our work. As it turns out, we couldn't have made a better start as it enabled us to get all the music we wanted out to people and to grow our artists' and the label's reputation without the traditional barriers. It's resulted in the label releasing a number of albums and EPs in the US on CD, an aspect of our distribution that we will grow even further next year alongside with the digital approach. It's kind of nice to have done things in reverse in terms of the digital physical thing.
Proudest accomplishment: One of the biggest compliments and feedback we receive as a label is in regards to our catalogue as a whole. We get people coming in late to the label (hearing about us for the first time) and winding their way backwards through the 27-plus releases and saying things like “this catalogue of releases is up there with some of my favourite labels.” Trust us that will never get old around these parts. We feel incredibly lucky to be around such amazing music, let alone release it.
Recently Released: debut Jumpel album, debut Beautiful Lunar Landscape EP, debut Cheekbone EP, debut Iretsu album—four absolutely amazing and stylistically disparate releases.
Out Now or Very Soon: Monocle debut album (this could be my favourite indie pop album of 2007), a wonderful mini-album by The Retail Sectors, and two incredible follow-up albums by Slow Dancing Society and Sankt Otten.
Future: We have a really exciting release schedule already planned for most of next year with a few holes left for some surprises. New releases by Tangled Star, Glassacre, Toby Richardson to name a few are waiting to be released. There'll be more HSR music videos including a collaborative project with an Australian video art collective. There also be more of the HSR catalogue released on CD in the US and beyond.
Favourite label(s): Dynamophone Records, 4AD, Flying Nun, Morr, Kranky, The Leaf Label, n5MD, Type Records, Darla, Bella Union, Jagjaguwar, Bluenote, Creation.
Year founded and location: 2005 Tokyo, Japan
Managed by: Fumiya Tanaka, RADIQ aka Yoshihiro HANNO and Taro Yoshida
Identity: Exploring the possibilities of music as far as we can.
Distinguishing characteristics: Releasing music composed only by Japanese artists at the moment.
Proudest accomplishment: Everything we have released so far and everything we are going to release in future.
Currently promoting: DARTRIIX (Fumiya Tanaka & RADIQ)
Future: dublee & den, AOKI takamasa, and more.
Favourite label(s): Basic Channel, Perlon, Mutek, Warp, etc.
Year founded and location: May 2007; Yamanashi, Japan.
Managed by: Kentaro Togawa (aka The Retail Sectors).
Identity: Sounds which tell various stories.
Distinguishing characteristics: I release music which has unique melodies and stories, and I will keep releasing the music as long as someone creates good music and they want to release it.
Proudest accomplishment: None yet, as I have just started to run this label. I hope to run it for more than ten years at least, and I to keep releasing good music during that time.
Currently promoting: Xeltrei and David Newlyn.
Future: Dif:use (aka Funckarma), Yaporigami, The Retail Sectors, and more.
Favourite label(s): n5MD and Constellation
Year founded and location: 1998 Austin , TX
Managed by: Brian Sampson.
Identity: I'm not sure about this one....
Distinguishing characteristics: Releasing adventurous and original music that manages to be both emotionally and intellectually engaging.
Proudest accomplishment: Staying in business for almost ten years, releasing music by some of our favorite artists from Bonnie Prince Billy to Golmund, as part of the Portrait Series, and helping to develop the careers of artists like Dirty Projectors.
Currently promoting: Goldmund's Two Point Discrimination, Shuta Hasunuma's OK Bamboo, and Slow Six's Private Times In Public Places.
Future: Balmorhea's new record Rivers Arms, Tetuzi Akiyama's contribution to the portrait series, and the new Bexar Bexar release.
Favourite label(s): Elevator Bath, Own Records, Touch, Type, Leaf, Sublime Frequencies, Kranky, Drag City.
Year founded and location: 2007 by Andy Vaz and Alessandro Vaccaro.
Managed by: Andy Vaz.
Identity: Old-school House and Techno.
Distinguishing characteristics: Digging into the deep soulful roots of both House and Techno.
Proudest accomplishment: Terrence Dixon's monumental album release Train of Thought—a record of a life-time!
Currently promoting: Rick Wade's full-length album The Good, the Bad, and the Deep! New .xtrak (Todd Sines) 12-inch.
Future: new artists Rick Wilhite (3 chairs), Mike Huckaby (TBC), and other fine surprises.
Favourite label(s): Anything that's going deep!