Highlights of 2017: Labels
Lullabies for Insomniacs
Born out of a bi-monthly radio show on Melbourne community radio PBS, Lullabies For Insomniacs has progressed considerably since its inception, and arguably more so in 2017 than any other. Headed and meticulously shaped by the now Amsterdam-based Izabel, last year saw the label release new works from Million Brazilians, Tarotplane and Life Garden, as well as diving into the world of archival reissues, with a collection of industrial soundscapes by British musician GP Hall, haunting looped experiments from Yasuo Sugibayashi and stunning traditional works from Hungarian composer László Hortobágyi. In addition, the label released the first in a series of compilations titled ‘Turn On, Tune In’, a beautiful collection of works and an excellent introduction to the label’s sonic aesthetic if you’re unfamiliar, as well as an ever-active mix series featuring an indomitable line-up of guests. With only whispers thus far of 2018’s plans, it’ll be interesting to see what the forthcoming year holds and where Izabel’s exquisite taste takes us.
Yet another stunning collection of records released over the course of a year by Paul "Mudd" Murphy's, Claremont 56. In it's tenth year the labels most sizeable moment was the Ten Year Anniversary box set release which is 'a collection of tracks that sum up the label’s approach with a mixture of original, unreleased material, and fresh remixes from musicians and producers that have inspired Paul over the years. That means contributions from legends such as Larry Heard, Ron Trent, Daniele Baldelli, Bjorn Torske and, of course, Mr Czukay, as well as established friends of the imprint such as Lexx, Emperor Machine, Mushrooms Project, Jex Opolis and 40 Thieves.' Other highlights from last year include the breathtaking LP by Mudd & Pollard, N7 Odyssey, and the two-track EP's by Blair French and later in the year by Ferdi. 2017 reminded us why Claremont 56 is so highly regarded and cherished by its clan of listeners, not that we needed it - roll on the next 10!
Music For Dreams
What started in 1993 as a two-disc compilation over-time has developed into a brilliant label and 24/7 streaming radio station. Hailing from Copenhagen in Denmark, Kenneth Bager's Music For Dreams released a whole host of consistently brilliant, sun-kissed gems over the course of last year. From Islandman's hair-raising debut album, Rest In Space, to the Dreamers Dub Remix of 'Walk With The Dreamers' by Ambala, to the wondrous fifth 'Sunset Sessions' compilation from label honcho Bager, in collaboration with the Jockey Club in Ibiza - to name a few.
For anyone that hasn't yet dug deep into Music For Dreams' discography undoubtedly you will soon learn that the quality they have put out in 2017 is no new feat, but instead just another year of the label delivering wonderful new music and hence, being a reliable source for some of our favourite Balearic and chilled electronica. Expect more of the same this year with a long list of exciting releases lined up, which includes the first album by the Music For Dreams Orchestra and a performance at Love International in Croatia.
In electronic music everything moves so quickly. So it’s surprising that last year, Hemlock broke the relevance death sentence of a two year hiatus with a selection of stunning EP's.
Kicking things off in February was Bruce, with the atmospheric, moody, but utterly beautiful ‘Before You Sleep’. The year continued via the minimal brilliance of Parris’ ‘Your Kiss Is Sour’, the slamming techno of Hodge and the swinging dubstep of Airhead. Before concluding with one of our picks of last November- Ploy’s ‘Unruly’, an exploration of both relentless club tracks and lethargic ambience.
Via these releases Hemlock have achieved a Nazarethine resurrection, re-cementing their status as one of the UK’s dubstep and techno heavyweights. And with a ten year anniversary on the cards this year, we can only hope for more of the same.
John Talabot’s label, Hivern Discs, has gone from strength to strength in its ten years’ existence. The long list of artists who have released on the Barcelona label reads like a who’s who of house and techno- Inga Mauer, Moscoman, Red Axes, Dorisburg, Marvin and Guy, to name a few. Perhaps the most exciting is Talaboman, the joint project of John Talabot and Axel Boman, whose second release, The Night Land, came out earlier last year. The label is truly eclectic, and a Hivern Discs’ hosted night will be full of surprises. Ten years on from it’s inception, Hivern Discs has firmly cemented itself at the forefront of the electronic music scene, and there will undoubtedly be more loveliness from the label in years to come.
Along with his brother DJ Fett Burger, DJ Sotofett is one of the masters behind the much loved label, Sex Tags Mania (and the off-shoots of) – a label heralded for its eccentric yet sincere left-field club music. Despite his affiliation with a number of labels, Sotofett is the commander in chief behind Wania – a label often bunched into the Sex Tags grouping, (and for fair reasons considering the label’s current roster). However, the past year has seen Sotofett collaborate with one artist in particular, Laura Sparrow (LNS), who has already had EP’s out on Jayda G’s Freakout Cult and 1080p. The collaboration started back in June with their first track together, ‘Soft Peak Mix’. The track is accompanied by a smooth nimble, ‘Pohja’ by Jesse. What’s nice to see from Wania is a couple take their collaborations into a series, allowing a distinct development to grow and new exploration to unfold. Together they delve into a variety of different moods. All of the EP’s present slightly different versions of the tracks – normally an ambient cut and a more full throttle club orientated version – giving us an insight into the shared studio time together. Wania ended the year with two great EP’s in December, one being ‘Blot’, an epic 12 minute trance cut which captures an authentic essence of late ‘90s ethereal techno. The techno mix is ramped up along a crisp pulsating kick. The cosmic chords and gentile melodies are the doings of Sparrow, who’s got an incredible talent for such mood-setting, as evident on the ‘Missed Connection’ EP. In 2017 Wania showed us what a fun label is about with five indulgent and re-listenable EP’s, that each carry their own blend of left-from-centre quirkiness.
A few years down the line and it is clear Berlin based imprint, Cocktail d'Amore, have established themselves as a definite magnet for many artists around the globe. Being no stranger to acclaim, their catalogue of previous releases possesses a hefty amount of professionalism and flair and for Cocktail d’Amore, last year was no exception. Their already worthy 2017 line-up became evermore star studded with a release by Moko Shibata, aka Powder and Kris Baha’s ‘Autora'. With these two highly praised records in mind, it is obvious that the Berlin label has become a staple to look out for and without doubt one to contend with.