Earjerk Label Profiled

Source: Tone Madison.

One important through-line in the Earjerk catalog is improvisational recordings from a wide array of ensembles, some of which played together only once or twice, and some of which have re-convened over the years with wide and shifting memberships. The most sprawling and prolific of those is Second Family Band, whose members over time have included Ennis, Woodman, Troy Schafer (Kinit Her), Clay Ruby (Burial Hex, Wormsblood), DB Pedersen, Brian Steele (Wife, X-Ray Mirror), Dave 3000 (of WORT-FM’s Kosmik Radiation show), Ian Adcock (Conjuror), Clay Kolbinger (Maths Balance Volumes, Private Anarchy), and quite a few others. (Full disclosure: Pedersen and I are friends and have played some music together, and Adcock writes for Tone Madison.) The Grass Magic, EJK000 in the label’s catalog, captures many of those same players jamming with other noteworthy experimental musicians, including James Ferraro and Glenn Donaldson, ahead of a 2004 festival in rural southeastern Wisconsin.

Archival Label Recital Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Experimental music label Recital is home to many essential documents from the Fluxus movement— sound poetry, contemporary classical, and more—shining a theatre-grade spotlight on beautiful music that once lived in the dark. But it didn’t quite start that way.

“From 2007-2012 I had recorded and released 30 or 40 cassettes, CD-Rs, or LPs of my music. I felt embarrassed about my music,” explains label curator, musician, and composer Sean McCann. “I needed to put a harness on myself, an ornate harness. So I began designing a saddle.”

KRAAK Label Profiled

Source: The Wire.

For over twenty years, KRAAK have built relationships with artists from all over the world, giving them the space they need to develop or to try out new things. A hybrid organisation, moonlighting as promoter, label, publisher and fixer, they are bound to no city in particular, taking full advantage of Belgium’s central location in Western Europe. According to KRAAK’s Gabriela González Rondón, what unites the releases on the label, all quite disparate in style, is “an immense honesty in all of these records, something that makes them relatable and straightforward, no matter the genre”.

Black Jazz Records Profiled

Source: NPR.

The dawn of the ’70s were heady times for keyboardist Doug Carn and drummer Michael Carvin. Both men had recently relocated to Los Angeles from points south; Carn came from Florida, Carvin from Houston. Carn was getting gigs with well-known bands like Nat Adderly and Earth, Wind And Fire, while Carvin was getting work in television bands as a sideman. Most central to the pair, though, was the demo the two had recorded along with Carn’s wife, vocalist Jean Carn, that they thought marked the future of jazz. Inspired by three legendary African-Americans – Dr. Martin Luther King, John Coltrane and Muhammad Ali – Carn had written lyrics for music composed by Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Wayne Shorter, which were then sung by Jean, who imbued the songs with an energetic vibrance. “I felt we were creating a new set of standards,” Doug Carn tells NPR Music.

Marc Hollander & Vincent Kenis Envision a Musical Melting Pot 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

“Growing up in Belgium, there wasn’t just one dominant scene or style of music,” says Marc Hollander, who founded Aksak Maboul with his friend Vincent Kenis in Brussels in the spring of 1977. “There was stuff coming in from everywhere, and so I created my own musical world. I was listening to free jazz, classical, psychedelic rock, blues, and was also going a lot to a record library where I would borrow lots of records from all over the world. So I became a geek for all this.”

Hollander is recalling the musical inspirations for the duo’s debut LP. Described as “a significant record…way ahead of its time” by Gilles Peterson, Onze danses pour combattre la migraine was a visionary album that incorporated minimalism, fake jazz, avant-pop, world exotica, and proto-techno into something that is still hard to pin down more than 40 years later.

12k Records Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

In 1997, Taylor Deupree, frustrated by his own experiences with record labels as an artist, penned 12 principles that would become the pillars of 12k, a New York-based label that has lasted over 20 years. The 12 principles are straight-forward and testimonial, and you can hear each of them play out in each of 100-plus releases on 12k, from artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Simon Scott of Slowdive and Marcus Fischer.

12k releases are carefully made, often glacially paced, and full of crackling textures and minute details—Deupree also runs a mastering business, 12k Mastering—and are musically bound together by principles like “Evolve constantly, but slowly,” and “Don’t tell listeners what they want to hear, let them discover that for themselves.” The releases are quiet, sometimes in a traditionally ambient manner, sometimes neoclassical, sometimes neither.

Dark Ambient Label Cryo Chamber Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

“I have a quite visual relationship with music, and I tend to close my eyes when listening,” says Simon Heath. “When I listen to black metal, it takes me to abandoned castles and deep northern forests where I can visualize every cracked stone or broken twig. When listening to techno, I visualise the bass pulsating through interdimensional space. I don’t love music for just the sounds. Sounds are just a means to help transport me somewhere interesting beyond the mundane.”

Heath makes music under a few guises—including Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun, and Krusseldorf—and since 2012, he’s been the proprietor of the dark ambient label Cryo Chamber. But the idea that sound can create a rich, detailed space in the imagination is one that has inspired him since his earliest creative excursions.

The Intakt Label Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Over the course of the label’s 30-year history, Landolt has cultivated relationships with notable artists in America and Europe. One such artist is Cuban pianist and composer Aruán Ortiz, who puts it, “It is incredible how iconic figures of avant-garde jazz such as Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Aki Takase, Evan Parker, and others co-habit [on the label] with the names of young and adventurous musicians from Europe and the U.S. that are having an impact, such as Kris Davis, Ingrid Laubrock, Tim Berne, Sylvie Courvoisier, Jim Black, and Alexander Hawkins.”

Astral Spirits Label Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily. Great label with an incredible set of releases.

The Austin label Astral Spirits takes its name from a recording by trumpet player Joe McPhee, whose ’70s albums redefined free jazz by incorporating electronic sounds and free-roaming tempos. Those recordings set the stage for much of what the label releases: Astral Spirits specializes in improvised music of every variety and form, from wild skronk and flailing drums, to abstract electronics and the sound of strings being scraped raw. The artists that label manager Nathan Cross pursues are all intrepid explorers and restless innovators; the music they make is united in its desire to reach beyond, to imagine new futures and possibilities, to seek tenaciously and without compromise. “It’s the thrill of trying something new,” Cross says.

International Anthem Profiled

Source: Pitchfork.

Ever since Scottie McNiece and David Allen co-founded International Anthem in 2014, they’ve pushed back against easy categorization and joined a proud hometown tradition in the process. The Chicago label documents a community that is greatly informed by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the influential jazz nonprofit whose members’ relationship to genre is so uneasy, they’ve opted for terms like “jazz and its offshoots,” “jazz-identified music,” and “post-jazz” instead. “Everyone always calls us a jazz label,” McNiece says. “We’ve never exclusively been a jazz label, and we’ve always been trying to blur those lines. ‘Boundary-defying music,’ that’s maybe a better genre name for us.”