Record companies are routinely depicted as the music business’s evil exploiters, with many a tale of rip-offs, mismanagement, bullying and cocaine. Thankfully there are also many people from multinational and independent labels who are driven to promote the music they love. Oddly, given the breadth of the musical world, two who particularly stand out are both Munich-based. One is ECM Records‘ Manfred Eicher and the other Stefan Winter, who this year celebrates 30 years as a producer, firstly for his JMT (Jazz Music Today) imprint, then since 1997 for Winter & Winter.
From The Boston Globe:
With the music industry in perpetual free fall and the very idea of “record labels” shifting constantly, mini-labels continue to sprout. In Boston, the jazz and improvisation scene has given birth to a hardy handful of artist-run imprints: guitarist Eric Hofbauer’s Creative Nation Music, bassist Ehud Ettun’s Internal Compass, and saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis’s Driff Records. On June 19 and 20, Driff presents its third festival at the Lily Pad, this one being the first to run two evenings (sponsored by Cambridge Arts and the Mass. Cultural Council).
Just when you think you’ve heard of all of the experimental labels out there, you realize that you’re just scratching the surface. Case in point from the San Antonio Current:
Since 2006, Bill Shute has run Kendra Steiner Editions at an astonishingly low cost, hugging the holy zero at every turn. The label’s site (kendrasteinereditions.wordpress.com) is without frill, a showcase for its albums and chapbooks available only offline. Over the past nine years, Shute has pressed and published nearly 300 editions of avant-garde music and poetry from his home base in San Antonio.
From Burning Ambulance, a profile of the New Atlantis label:
Don’t let the name fool you: Yellow Springs, Ohio’s New Atlantis Records is no space for hippy-drippy new age nonsense. Spearheaded by Ed Ricart, an electric guitarist (and percussionist, and composer) with a penchant for the avant, the label’s releases tend to inhabit the liminal space between free jazz and free rock, where it’s difficult to tell in what genre the sounds find their grounding. Perhaps that’s the point—to hell with genre! This is about musicians and their instruments and expressing the fire at their fingertips, whatever the methodology. Still, despite their constraints, genre terms are useful descriptors for the constructive elements in music, even that which defies easy filing. And in the case of these three recent releases on New Atlantis, the electric guitar is the common ingredient that provides an “in” for those versed in the freakier fringes of rock’s and jazz’s wilder reaches.
Every Contact Leaves a Trace is a new CDr label launching Monday 20th January 2014. There are four initial releases available for purchase, stream and download – a process edit of field recordings made inside 20th Century Fox’s 1965 film The Sound of Music, by Henry Collins; a reworking of concert performances by Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery; a collision of broken instruments and field recordings by Ignacio Agrimbau; and four recordings made in the field – but not of the field – by Seth Cooke.
From the Chicago Reader:
If you were to classify a label that releases improvisational jazz and experimental music in limited runs of 100 CD-Rs as one that lives on the margins of obscurity, you’d be right on. But when Brian Labycz began the Peira label in 2007, he wasn’t focused on the masses—he just wanted to release a duo album he’d recorded with bassist Jason Roebke. Labycz, 34, had wedged himself into Chicago’s improv community upon his return from a stint in Japan in 2003, where he lived for four years. When he first started performing in the late 90s he was a laptopper interested in processing field recordings. But once he became acquainted with members of the eventual jazz and improv collective Umbrella Music—by hanging out at Heaven Gallery and attending the Empty Bottle‘s now-defunct Wednesday jazz series, he tweaked his setup and created his own interface. He first built a custom midi controller but now plays a modular synth.
You can find samples of all Peira releases here.
The Chicago Reader runs down Tim Daisy’s new label:
Considering the vitality and depth of Chicago’s jazz and improvised-music scene, I wonder why the city has so few labels devoted to documenting the action. I’m not forgetting Delmark, Southport, and BluJazz, but most of them focus on relatively straight-ahead music—often artists outside that subset of the scene (and within it as well) are forced to take matters into their own hands if they want their music heard by an audience broader than the ones that turn up at gigs. Drummer Tim Daisy started a vanity imprint, Relay Recordings, to do just that, but over the past couple of years he’s turned it into more than just an outlet for music that might otherwise fall by the wayside.