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The 10 Best Record Labels of 2011

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  • Make no mistake: the record label is more important than ever before. This is our pick of 2011's finest.
  • published
    22 Nov 2011
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    Best of 2011
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P Money & Blacks – ‘Boo You’

In a year where many of the UK’s best dance labels (Night Slugs, Hessle Audio) slowed down to focus more on touring than releases – not a criticism, we should add – and few others stood out, Butterz continued to push that most unfashionable of agendas, grime, and in the process not only put out better music than any other grime label, but pretty much any other house or dubstep label too.

Essential releases:
SX – ‘Woo Riddim’ / DJ Q remix
P Money & Blacks – ‘Boo You’
Royal-T – ‘Orangeade’

09: 4AD

INC. – ‘Millionairess’

Let’s face it, the folks at 4AD could probably spend the next decade plodding along and still get by on the strength of their past, but 2010 saw them seriously overhaul their roster, and 2011 saw the fruits of those labours materialise. Moving out of their comfort zone to sign up the infamously difficult Zomby for his best record yet, Dedication, was the real masterstroke, but they also deserve credit for taking a punt on Bristol dubstepper Joker, whose debut album The Vision didn’t live up to expectations. Gang Gang Dance continued to prove that they’re Brooklyn’s finest with the kaleidoscopic Eye Contact, while it’s hard to argue with Tune-Yards, Inc., Ariel Pink, Deerhunter / Atlas Sound, Bon Iver and St. Vincent as the best roster in contemporary indie.

Essential releases:
Zomby – Dedication
Gang Gang Dance – Glass Jar
Inc. – 3 EP


MiNKS – ‘Cemetery Rain’

Original janglist massive. Mike ‘Blank Dogs’ Sniper continues to provide a home for numerous US bands indebted to UK indie sounds of yore – this year saw him release particularly impressive, if baldly derivative albums, by MiNKS, Soft Metals and The Soft Moon. But then that’s exactly what we like about Captured: the frank dialogue that it sets up between past and present, the honesty with which it acknowledges and celebrates its primary influences, happily reissuing the kind of forgotten 80s and early 90s material that its contemporary roster so liberally borrows from. This year Sniper raided the vaults to bring us, among other things, revivals of Jeff & Jane Hudson’s Chris & Cosey-esque Flesh, guileless second-wave shoegaze from Deardarkhead and Should, and a compilation of songs by the hitherto terminally unfashionable Servants.

Essential releases:
The Soft Moon: Total Decay
Jeff & Jane Hudson – Flesh


Dexter – ‘Great Northern Diver’

Since re-launching a couple of years back, Clone has retaken its place at the top-table of international dance labels, with a more prolific, multi-pronged and vital release schedule than ever. This year Clone Basement Series impressed with tough, swung techno from Gerd, Untold and especially Dexter, Clone Crown Ltd issued a double-punch of Detroit ghetto-funk 12″s from Erik Travis, and Royal Oak continued to give off house heat, while the Clone West Coast Series kept it local with two superlative offerings from Versalife, and the Clone Store Only series kept it so local that its offerings didn’t make it out of Rotterdam. Last but not least, Clone Classic Cuts began its invaluable anthologising of Drexciya’s early work in the shape of Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller I.

Essential releases:
Drexciya – Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller I
Versalife – Night Time Activities Pt.1
Dexter – ‘Great Northern Diver’


Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo & Lopatin – ‘Twilight Pacific’

RVNG INTL. put out music that nobody else would think of releasing, and they package it to the highest standards. The jewel in their crown is obviously the collaborative FRKWYS series, which to date has paired – amongst others – Eno collaborator Laraaji with Blues Control, Juan Atkins with Psychic Ills, and synth legend David Borden with a mini-orchestra featuring Oneohtrix Point Never, Samuel Godin, Laurel Halo and James Ferraro, but there’s also been a superb series of singles from New York duo Blondes, and the double-disc reissue/reinterpretation of Harald Grosskopf’s Synthesist.

Essential releases:
Harald Grosskopf – Synthesist / Resynthesist
Blondes – ‘Lover’ / ‘Hater’
Julianna Barwick & Ikue Mori – FRKWYS Vol. 6


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