Textura’s 10 Favorite Labels of 2018

Source: Textura.

From 2005 to 2015, textura published an annual article that celebrated ten labels whose output dazzled us during the year in question. A simple question was used as a criterion for making the selections: “Which labels’ material excited us most this year?” Though last year’s list appeared as part of the 2017 roundup, we’ve decided to present the feature once again as a stand-alone in order to bring greater attention to labels deserving of recognition. The areas of stylistic concentration in some cases might differ, but certain things are common to all, superior musical quality and an innovative, forward-thinking sensibility among them. For each label’s section, recent releases are displayed accompanied by links to textura’s reviews (in a small number of cases, reviews are forthcoming so links will be added once they’re published). textura sincerely thanks the generous individuals who contributed text to the article on behalf of their respective labels.

HIDDEN SHOAL • HUBRO • INNOVA • NEW AMSTERDAM • NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS • ØRA FONOGRAM • PARMA • SCHOLE • SLOWCRAFT RECORDS • SPOTTED PECCARY

Iluso Records Profiled

Source: All About Jazz.

Australian drummer Michael Caratti and Spanish-born New York-based guitarist Álvaro Domene founded the record label Iluso in 2013 to release their quartet recording Gran Masa. The pair found they shared similar interests while in school at Middlesex University in London. And why not put out their own music? That way they could control the content and retain all the rights. Additionally, with the decline of brick-and-mortar record shops and the increase in internet digital downloads, there are very few reasons to not start a label. Especially if you are engaged in the business of avant-garde jazz, creative music, free improvisation, avant-metal, and new music/contemporary classical. While their label has released their individual projects, they have also featured music by artists such as Lotte Anker, Pat Thomas, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Ståle Liavik Solberg, John Butcher, Josh Sinton, Jason Ajemian, Chad Taylor, Rachel Musson, Steve Beresford, Devin Gray, Dominic Lash, and Alex Ward.

Ten Years of NNA Tapes

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

For all the precision and artfulness reflected in each release from NNA Tapes—uniform cover designs, boundary-pushing music—the Burlington, Vermont experimental label began with a joke. According to Toby Aronson, who co-founded the label with his friend Matt Mayer, the label’s name originated with an offhand comment. “We made a joke saying we’d call [our sound] ‘Nü New Age’—you know, like nü metal?” he says. “It was tongue-in-cheek, but it had a ring to it, and it kind of stuck.” The two were inspired by the gentle synth-based music that was common in the late ‘00s, but noticed a kind of shared secret amongst its fans. “Nobody was saying it, but it sounded like New Age music,” Aronson says, laughing.

A lot has happened in a decade, and the label’s sound and design have broadened substantially since they started. Though it took them three years to issue their first vinyl release, and in the first half of 2018, they’ve pressed up five titles on wax, spanning experimental jazz, microtonal synthpop, and electroacoustic composition. Another change? None of those feature cover art with white borders or semi-circles.

Pica Disk Label Profiled

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Even while in Bodø, a small town above the Arctic Circle in Norway where he lived from 2016 until this month, Lasse Marhaug maintained an important, and present, place in the global musical underground. Now living in Oslo and active since his teenage years in the late ’80s, the 43-year-old multidisciplinary artist has a Discogs page that’s 163 entries long, marked by dozens of distinctly experimental solo releases and collaborations with a who’s who of contemporary avant-garde music: Merzbow, Joe McPhee, and Jim O’Rourke to name only three. Marhaug keeps busy as a masterer and producer, too, lending support to albums by artists such as fellow Norwegian Jenny Hval, the Korean-born, New York-based cellist Okkyung Lee, and recently, the reclusive New Zealand electronic musician Clinton Williams, aka OMIT, whose mind-boggling five-CD box set Enclosures 2011–2016 came out in February via two labels, End of the Alphabet and Pica Disk, the latter of which Marhaug founded in 2006.

The Refined Experimentalism of Posh Isolation 

Source: Bandcamp Daily. Here is another label with a large number of releases that I’ve never heard of before. Its experimentation is a little different than the directions we usually go on AMN, but quite interesting nonetheless.

For the last nine years, and over the course of more than 200 releases, Copenhagen’s Posh Isolation—headed up by Christian Stadsgaard and Loke Rahbek—has been dedicated to supporting the underground, worldwide. “[Posh Isolation] was always global, since it began as a noise label,” says Stadsgaard. “It was an international community. We looked at people who did the same things that we were doing, in different countries. There were maybe a hundred people the label was oriented toward at first.” Though Stadsgaard uses the tag “noise” to shorthand their history, Posh Isolation has never sat entirely comfortably within that genre: its history is varied, and defies easy categorization.

Black Editions Keeps P.S.F. Records’ Experimental Spirit Alive 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

The story of the Black Editions label begins with P.S.F. Records—and thus, with Tokyo native Hideo Ikeezumi. He owned the city’s revered Modern Music shop, which opened in the late 1970s. By 1984, he released the first album on his P.S.F. Records—a vinyl edition of High Rise’s legendary live album Psychedelic Speed Freaks, limited to 300 copies. In the label’s ensuing 33 years, up until Ikeezumi’s death in 2017, he released more than 240 albums—mostly CDs—from underground luminaries like White Heaven, Ghost, Ché-Shizu, Fushitsusha, Acid Mothers Temple, and Gaseneta. Through eight volumes of a comp called Tokyo Flashback, Ikeezumi also introduced scores of people to the city’s experimental scene.

Buh Records Catalogs the Expansive World of Peruvian Avant-Garde Music

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

“I do not like genres,” says Luis Alvarado, a journalist, researcher, musician, and the founder of Buh Records, a label devoted to the diverse world of Peruvian experimental music. “I like to think that I publish music that goes against the current, which is against the hegemonic, and that is very personal. The music industry now likes to standardize everything, to make everything homogenous and classify it into genres. With the label, I always want to explore alternative ways.”

The word “buh” is translated loosely as “boo,” the sound a ghost makes, because, Alvarado says, he wanted to release music to “perturb or bewilder.” When Buh Records began in 2004, it was a boutique label, releasing 50 CD-R runs of albums put out by Alvarado’s friends or acquaintances. Over time, though, Alvarado began organizing independent label fairs and concerts, and writing about the new music scene for publications in Lima. By 2010 he was putting out professional releases, and Buh had begun to gain an international reputation in avant-garde circles. Alvarado realized a personal dream in November 2017 when he managed to bring the psychedelic experimental rock band Acid Mothers Temple to Peru for a series of concerts—and released an album by them on Buh.