Some time back we offered up a list of new and off the beaten track bands we thought deserved (and soon would be getting) a higher profile. Consider this run-down of labels we feel should have a higher profile in our thing something of a follow-up, both an attempt to send folks on some archival scurrying through back catalogs, as well as barometer of the range of both styles of music and methods of distribution and niche appeal labels are gravitating towards amidst the much ballyhooed “Death of the Record Industry”. While the industry may not be pulling in the cash it once was, it’s certainly not suffering from a deficit of ideas or awesome LPs.
A caveat: this isn’t just a simple list of “labels we like” (though we do like all the ones below), so don’t get ornery if yr favourite isn’t listed. We don’t really feel as though Metropolis or Out Of Line need any help from lil’ old us, and there are plenty of somewhat smaller labels who’ve been carving out a niche for themselves over the years (Artoffact, Tympanik, Progress, WTII) we dig. Instead, we wanted to give some love both to up and comers as well as labels who might be better known in other circles, but haven’t gotten as much attention as they should from the broader community in Our Thing, despite releasing music of serious relevance to it. Enough preamble, on with the list.
Originally formed to release b-sides and non-album tracks by Toronto IDM boss Michael Morton (aka Displacer), Crime League has been around since 2006 but has only recently begun releasing music by other artists. Much like Morton’s work, the label’s output has thus far been focused on the ambient and textural, with recordings by LPF12, Gnome and Spybey and Jakob Thiesen, and two compilations (A Thing About Machines and Vantage Point) that paint a broad picture of future possibilities. With twelve releases in this year alone with still more on the horizon, folks into the smoothed out abstract will be wanting to keep an ear cast towards Ontario for thoughtful music of the abstract variety.
This Illinois label grew somewhat organically out of the founders’ time at Tympanik, and has adopted a slightly different take on the technoid and IDM styles associated with that great label. Signifier’s establishing themselves as label known for releasing lush, atmospheric IDM that verges on post-rock from time to time from newer acts like LAN Formatique and To Travel Without Any Certain Destination, but harsher stuff, like Cruise [Ctrl] and recent records by long-time cult acts like HIV+ and Ex_Tension have also found their way onto the roster.
Dark Entries’ honcho Josh Cheon cut his teeth at no less a varied group of labels than Metropolis, 4AD and DFA, and that depth of music history can be seen in Dark Entries’ catalog. Primarily trading in reissues ranging from archival works by classic bands like Leather Strip, Borghesia, Danse Society, and Parade Ground, they’ve also released solid works by younger bands working in classic modes, like Linea Aspera. A labour of love from a true crate-digger, Dark Entries have also been rescuing near-forgotten acts from almost total obscurity with repressings from Informatics and Q4U.
Ex-of Rome, now of Berlin, Alessandro Adriani’s Mannequin Records specializes in both new and old sounds in the darkwave and European electro flavours. With continental minimalism in the form of Mushy and Soviet Soviet and stateside electro from the likes of Octavius, The Present Moment and S U R V I V E and even some oddball reissues like a pure synth instrumental record from Sam Rosenthal, the Mannequin name has become associated with the choiceness of their selections and the keenness of Adriani’s musical instincts. Just peep the exceptional comp of italian synth wave Danza Meccanica 2 to give yourself an idea of the deep science that goes into what Mannequin does.
Basic Unit Productions
Yes, the boys from Haujobb are using their new outfit to release singles and other odds and sods from their own projects, but they’ve also swiftly shown a canny knack for selecting new bands riding the techno-industrial boundary. Records from Blac Kolor and Blush Response have been hotly tipped by us here at ID:UD, and we’re all kinds of excited about the Div|der EP which drops tomorrow.
Much like Dark Entries, Seattle’s Medical Records focuses exclusively on reissues, although where DE focuses gothic sounds of the past, Medical is all about uncovering interesting tangents of synthpop, EBM, minimal and cold wave. Their dedication to synth-based music of yesteryear shows in the quality of their packages and the enthusiasm with which their releases (which count amongst their number acts as varied and obscure as Body 11, Play, and Laugh Clown Laugh) are put together, with great care taken to represent these largely forgotten bands the appropriate respect. Keep an eye out for the forthcoming Electroconvulsive Therapy compilation that brings together a few singles from acts like Shazam and Aaah…! that might otherwise have dissapeared into the ether for all time.
There’s all kinds of new goth rock and post-punk goodness to be found on Germany’s afmusic; truth be told, it’s more than we can keep up with. That said, most of what we have been catching from them has been great. They’ve been hipping us to young whipper-snappers like Terminal Gods and Principe Valiente, as well as doing right by stalwart goth merchants like Grooving In Green and Golden Apes.
Complete Control Productions
Longtime readers of I Die: You Die won’t be unfamiliar with CCP; one of our favourites globally, this Swedish label has consistently impressed us with their refined taste in EBM, electro and industrial. With names you may recognize like Thomas Heckmann and The Pain Machinery, genre oddballs Arzt + Pfusch and newcomers like post-punky belgian duo Organic, there’s no shortage of variety in their releases. Peep the amazing Inside the Volcano comp for a taster of their past, present and future.
Portland’s Sweating Tapes have been dropping all kinds of crucial dark synth releases for a hot minute. From early //TENSE// EPs to Deathday to Bruxa to Nightmare Fortress to Vancouver’s own Animal Bodies, they’ve developed arguably the best curated catalog in the entirety of this new wave of dark music which has fiends like us so jazzed. Now, with their techno/industrial imprint Negative Flesh newly unveiled, they seem to be setting their sights on even more fertile ground.
Heads who know, know Chondritic Sound. For more than 10 years, the Los Angeles based label has been doing DIY releases of noise, synth and industrial acts that heavily favour grit and experimentalism. Their hectic release schedule for the past year has seen excellent weirdness in the form of tapes and vinyl for Pure Ground, Body of Light,, Bad News, and Sissy Spacek amongst others, with still more planned for the future. Those seeking some truly underground material from a variety of dark acts could do far worse than perusing their catalogue on Bandcamp.
aufnahme + wiedergabe
Keeping us appraised of strange new darkness from across the Atlantic, this German label has been delivering a wonderful stream of coldwave records by Lebanon Hanover, La Fete Triste, and Velvet Condom. They’ve also been responsible for some more abrasive fare, like violent young turks Die Selektion, and have been the main outlet for In Death It Ends, the claustrophobic, witchy nightmare Porl King (Rosetta Stone/miserylab) has been working at.
Founded in 2005 by Lucidstatic’s James Church, CRL Studios style themselves as a support group for artists and other labels, with the requisite variety that implies. Their large catalog of digital releases delves into EBM and electro-industrial styles with Cryogenic Echelon and Psykkle, more experimental fare from Access to Arasaka and Tineidae, and even some downtempo moods from Gheists and Impurfekt. Check out a few of their label comps (especially the three part The Third Wavelength series) for a nice taster of what CRL brings to the table.