Labels of 2016
Hivern Discs went from strength to strength in 2016 establishing themselves not only as a solid music label but as a true platform for art. From Arnau Pi’s floaty, uniquely wonderful artwork to the Hivern Showcase parties that have taken place worldwide, the label, headed by Spanish prodigy John Talabot, is surely one of the coolest around. Consistently releasing outstanding pieces of music this year’s highlight must come from Sweden’s Dorisburg with his debut solo LP Irrbloss, a journey into soundscape from the perspective of one of the nation’s rising stars. Parple’s two track EP is able to move gracefully between house and techno, whilst being a stand out track in its own right. Another excellent release from the label comes from Benedikt Frey, a hard hitting dark disco number reminiscent of Lindstrom and the Nordic sound that is dominating the clubs these days.
The imprint has steadily grown over the last five years and does not seem to be stopping. No, it might not be screaming at you about its rise in popularity, but subtly their musical talent gently filters into your music landscape and that’s what is so lovable and admirable about it – their carefree nature. Whether by intention or not these guys are in it for the long game and are playing it fabulously, making a serious mark in dance - year in, year out.
Guy Brewer’s (aka Shifted) Avian imprint is heralded for its experimental techno, abstract electronics, noise and industrial music. Last year saw a string of class releases fully endorsing what the label is about: innovative abstract compositions made from grainy aesthetics, aiming to push all sonic boundaries. Avian welcomed their third studio album from allusive Swedish duo, SHXCXCHCXSH, which sees the two delve deep into the atmospheric side of their music. There’s been two incredible releases from Pris – some of the most intense and darkest of his output. The production in ‘Love, Labour, Loss’ speaks of an artist at one with their machines. Vereker of L.I.E.S. debuted under his Grace alias with a display of wonderfully crafted, heady power electronics. Shifted himself had excursions into deep abstract drone and powerful rhythm on his ‘Six Steps To Resurgence’ EP. Though the stand out EP of 2016 comes from one of Jamie Roberts’ (aka Blawan) new alias, Kilner. He already delved into the slower, more experimental leanings last year on The Trilogy Tapes under his new, Bored Young Adults alias, and on the ‘Walk Type’ EP Roberts continues this slower pace with his sinister drum-heavy, machine-based music, yet with more atmospheric trips. Again, it’s production and experimentation on EPs like this that mark Avian out as one of the most progressive labels out there in terms of sonic exhibition.
Surfacing from Hamburg with possible connections to the Smallville crew, the sweetly named Fuck Reality is the label of the year for me. With output low these guys are focused on quality, doing things for the right reasons and growing at an organic rate. This is a brilliant example of an independent label doing it right. With their sound captivating everything that is exciting and new this is a label to watch out for this year.
The lovechild of Moscoman flourished in its second-year on Earth. Championing the sounds of Israel’s Ibiza through some very well esteemed colleagues - Tel-Aviv x Berlin is clearly proving a winning combination. Although now residing in last year’s post-truth hypernormalised Adam Curtis sandwich of a world, the label laughs in the face of this, chucking politics in the bin and having bit of fun. Arguably impossible given its Middle Eastern origin, but principles at the very core of Disco Halal.
It’s remarkable that in just over two years the label has become so distinctly associated with such a notoriously personal sound. Acrid sand dune disco bangers and post-modern club classics that all instantly slam a huge grin on your face. The epic releases just kept coming, and coming, and coming in 2016. Particular highlights took the form of Naduve’s ‘Race For A Handshake EP’, Autarkic’s mini-LP Can You Pass the Knife and the richly acclaimed TCP re-issue.
When recently queried by our man over at Radar Radio (interview), the label’s head-honcho deemed there to be nothing prolific about the multiplicity of quality releases emanating from his office last year. Well we all love a bit of modesty. There’s clearly something in the water over in the Promised Land.
Multi Culti, probably shortened version of multi-cultural - unless anyone else has a better guess – had a huge year in my opinion. First coming into the limelight in 2015 with Red Axes mindboggler ‘Waiting for a Surprise’, they have followed up with an impressive stream of mixes, EPs and LPs. Attracting artists like Moscoman, Roman Flugel, Peter Power, Mushroom Project, Auntie Flo and Jaguar Ma it is an eclectic sound. Last year they started the Moon Faze Sun Gaze series releasing three of these albums. They are all really good series, well worth the expense. The idea behind them is to showcase slightly darker and lighter tracks in the same album. It lives up to their name as multi-cultural. The Canadian label supports psychedelic, world music influenced artists – they like to call it ‘music it for music’s sake' – a break away from when a particular sampled beat is coming from. Thomas Von Party – the label owner – wanted the label to be an outlet from different types of ideas, they like to do this by sampling from many other cultural scenes. Whilst I thought this would relate to countries in the middle of nowhere their music is actually aimed at multi-cultural centres like London or Montreal (where they are based) where more people can relate to the spectrum of sounds. They are my label of 2016 because of the steady stream of interesting and high calibre releases they off-loaded in the year. But I also buy into their brand of music – sticking it to the music man – they like a mash-up of different sounds.
London saw the rise of a number of smaller labels in 2016, but it is Nic Tasker’s Whities which tops them all. Finding talent is one of music’s greater challenges, but then going on to establish a solid position in the musical landscape is no mean feat. Last year felt like their year, fully establishing themselves and cementing their place amongst the top and most attractive labels out there for artists pushing the boundaries of unorthodox techno. Avalon Emerson’s ‘The Frontier’ released back in March is one of 2016’s most memorable hits identifying with so many different crowds. Emerson’s own career has rocketed off the back of that. It feels like the start of a fruitful relationship between the two entities.
Reckonwrong’s ‘Passion Of Pez’ released in November is a bundle of joy! Stealing a turn from Quirke and Minor Science’s leftfield dance floor shifters released during the summer months, Reckonwrong’s release takes an unpredictable detour into a whole new sound. I can only ask you to listen to it! It has a capriciousness that engages with its audience and wins over the cynics. With lots more coming this year for the label it is a very exciting time. Each release will be coupled with enormous anticipation following the success of last year. Their professional outlook and family feeling of community provides the backdrop for many years of success for which we wish them all the best. Keep it coming!
Words by Ben S, Fred, Ed R, Marcus & Jack