What defines a label in 2015?
We’ve seen the traditional label structure dissolve as the potential for making a profit (or even making your money back) has become an unlikely prospect. Major labels are in possibly their weakest position ever, hampered with a growing backlog of albums that cost more to release than they’ll be able to make back, and in their wake a new breed of indie has emerged.
This fresh breed of independent label flourishes online, offering up free music and limited-edition physical releases, whether that’s tapes, vinyl or – occasionally – CDs. In one way, these labels act more like blogs, bringing together like-minded sounds from across the globe and helping listeners connect the dots. Just take a peep at last year’s labels of the year – a healthy number of the imprints (including our favourite label of 2014, PC Music) have forgone physical releases altogether.
There’s nothing to suggest that this trend won’t continue as we move into 2015, and while traditional physical labels are still in demand in certain spheres, the amount of music obsessives using Bandcamp or Soundcloud as their first port of call should only increase. Over the page, we run down 10 labels we’ll be keeping a firm eye on in 2015, from spannered tape imprints (Hausu Mountain, Bootleg Tapes) to nouveau club outposts (Janus, Bedouin) and beyond.
More 2015 ones to watch:
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Arc Light Editions
Keen-eyed types will have noticed Arc Light Editions when they put together the essential reissue of Arthur Russell’s Another Thought back in 2013. Last year they kept things simple and delightfully low-key with two lovingly-prepared vinyl releases – Ingram Marshall’s 1984 long-out-of-print LP Fog Tropes / Gradual Requiem and Jone Takamäki Trio ‘s Universal Mind. We’ve no idea what they’ve got lined up next, but with Wire scribe Jennifer Lucy Allan and Emptyset’s James Ginzburg at the helm you can bet it’ll be unexpected and brilliant.
UK hip-hop might be a dirty word in some quarters, but Astral Black – based in Scotland but run by Londoner Jon Phonics – has quietly developed allegiances with some of the UK’s best beatmakers, including Jaisu, Alchemist collaborator Budgie and DJ Milktray. Milktray might be best known in grime quarters, but his r’n’g turn on his All Because The Lady Loves… EP isn’t his only trick; we’re excited to see where his Milkmakers project with Jon Phonics leads next.
Since emerging with Allison Chanic’s mesmerising Painlessly In Love back in April 2014, the “label in the desert” helmed by Salem Rashid has provided a stream of varied and intriguing releases, from the acid and electro outings of Ekman and Dez Williams to The Pleiadian Adventure, a limited cassette from jungle mainstay Krust. Bedouin are set to kick off the new year with a 12″ of damaged techno from Londoner J. Tijn and will follow that up with records from Imaginary Forces (with a Roly Porter version) and Healing Force project. Bedouin are also set to make their first attempts at the long player format this year, with albums planned from Ryo Murakami and Eomac.
Bootleg Tapes’ most recent release was a birthday mix for someone named Sarah. We’ll probably never know if it was really her birthday or if Sarah is even a real person. A few releases over from that is a mix credited to G Unit & 50 Cent, so we’re not even going to pretend we understand what the hell is going on. Frankly, we’ve been baffled by this collective since two entities known as Lampgod and Lord $M$ dropped their VHS-release of chopped and screwed R&B(&porn…) over a year ago, which became the label’s debut release. In spite of the foggy, surreal music they release, the curation on Bootleg Tapes is impeccable (D/P/I’s Jeanette, Vesa’s A n g e l s, Susan Balmer’s ‘WORTYA’) and truly unpredictable. Who knows what they’ll put out in 2015, but if we at least get a sequel to Real Raga Shit Vol. 1 it’s going to be a very good year.
The Bunker New York
Long-running NYC techno club night The Bunker birthed their eagerly-awaited label last year, and it proved as reliable as the nights themselves. In the first year alone they racked up 12″s from Atom Heart, Forma, Voices from the Lake and more, plus an excellent album from David Moufang (aka Move D) and Jonah Sharp’s Reaganz project. With a mission statement that promises to “bring together fringe artists who also know how to move a dancefloor,” we’re expecting great things in 2015.
Last year, Shapednoise (aka Italian producer Nino Pedone) kicked off the Cosmo Rhythmatic as an offshoot of techno label Repitch, intended to focus on the more abstract, noisier side of the spectrum. The label’s debut release, Franck Vigroux’s Centaure ensured that things were off to a good start; this was far more than rehashes of decaying Birmingham techno or noise dropouts with drum machines. Vigroux combined sounds in a head-crumbling whirlwind of crunching noise, and the results were jaw-dropping. Whatever comes next, the bar’s already been set very high indeed.
Different Circles only released one 12″ in 2014, but what a 12″ it was. Combing together (mostly) beatless tracks from some of the instrumental grime illuminati – Rabit, Murlo, Inkke, Strict Face and label bosses Mumdance and Logos – they hit on a formula they called “weightless.” With music from Strict Face, Logos and Shapednoise confirmed for 2015, anyone interested in the space where instrumental grime and experimental noise meet should pay close attention.
Though Tiger Village’s V was one of 2014’s best albums we missed, that was only the final sugary blast during a year where Chicago-based Hausu Mountain was churning out plenty of distinctive releases. Dreamcrusher armed dancefloor bangers with lethal noise, Grasshopper held a dark ambient funeral in space, and Lockbox lobbed an 8-bit explosive named Prince Soul Grenade. 2015 is looking even bigger and better, with over a dozen more releases coming our way.
Janus, a clubnight, label and collective based in Berlin, do things their own way. Their two releases to date aren’t records – they’re free mixes, once of which, Lotic’s Damsel in Distress, was so good it ended up in our best albums of 2014 – and we certainly get the impression they’ll take their time over their next move. Key to Janus in 2015, we suspect, will be the virus spreading: M.E.S.H. already turned heads with his releases on PAN last year, and has a new EP due on Black Ocean at the start of 2015. Lotic, meanwhile, is set to debut on Tri Angle, while Kablam’s melancholy chaos is surely set for a bigger audience.
Posture launched last year, staking out a corner of the Chicago underground scene that lives at the triple-point of electronic club music, hip-hop and R&B. Co-founders Supreme Cuts and KIT are no strangers to FACT readers (both landed albums in our best-of-2014 list), and the label’s first proper release (David Ashley’s sensual Perfect Dark LP) introduced us to another multi-talented Chicago voice. With new material from Khalfaniglobal, Raymond Abercrombie, Youngcuhlord and more expected this year, Posture might be 2015’s answer to Awful Records. Need more proof? Check out their takeover of FACT’s BBOX Radio show.