By the time you’ve realised that dowsing yourself in recorded sound is an involuntary action, something your subconscious defines itself by, then you’ll also be somewhat geeky about record labels. Especially those of the boutique variety. Sometimes little more than bedroom or back office endeavours, where the emphasis is upon specific genres or a particular aesthetic, and where the expression “in it for the money” is superfluous. It goes without saying that every release comes attached with “must buy” urgings, the type of recommendation sorts like us are powerless to avoid when trips to the record store are the raison d’être behind waking up.
And it’s not as if this strata of musical aggregation is all plugged in to the same rigid prognosis of what sounds inciting or wow (and yes, many of the folks behind these enterprises are about as far from the description of entrepreneur you could travel; I know a guy who’s be running his own label from a spare room for pushing twenty years, releasing one-off singles and albums from local acts and guitar bands from Scandinavia lacking international distribution. He once told me how much money he loses in a year – I gulped, he shrugged nonchalantly; it really isn’t about the money). Fence in Scotland (folk-tinged melodic adoration) to Finder Keepers (forgotten esoterica from far away and long-ago) to Full-Time Hobby (eclectic modern indie) – and that’s just a list of British labels from the top of my head all beginning, Sesame Street style, with the same letter – they all work in conjunction with seams of artistry (or are run by recording artists themselves) to ensure that every release is special, loaded with detail and a personal touch. I’m imagining that it’s not the right time of year for new year’s resolutions, but should your appreciation of the calendar be as warped as mine, you should decide to head to your local independent record at least once a fortnight – and buy something untouched by major label avarice.
DFA (Death From Above, and Euro imprint Death From Abroad) are way beyond bedroom record label status. They’re more of a brand, occupying the area of left field electronica beloved by hipster magazines and the too-cool-for-school crowd (plus: when it comes to profile, a distribution deal with EMI certainly helps, not to mention James Murphy’s name on the letterhead).
Yet for over ten years, their release schedule has been full with the type of record alluded to above. Fresh and innovative, exotic, knowing and strangely sophisticated. Not exactly your local record label, but as mentioned earlier: “must buy” echoes across the landscape in waves of rich allure.
The Juan MacLean / The Simple Life
Holy Ghost! / Wait And See
Pixeltan / Get Up – Say What