Some years are better than others in terms of new music and exciting prospects. Fact is 2014 has been quite a hectic year in its entirety, providing fresh blood and confirming hopes for most, unraveling a constellation of new labels. From experimental to club extents, soft-tempered house material to the murkiest of techno beats and grooves, the following selection is aimed to provide you with the finest record labels of 2014.
10. Livity Sound
Of all the artists that emerged from the demise of the UK’s dubstep scene, it is perhaps Tom Ford (aka Pev) who adapted quickest and surest. His solo productions, though rare, are in a constant state of mutation, taking on unstable forms marked by frenetic rhythms and jagged melodies. Yet it is in his collaborative works, and his choice of collaborators, that Ford’s unique position in the scene really becomes clear. By arming himself with a selection of the UK’s most forward-thinking producers, Kowton and Asusu on Livity Sound, Hodge and new blood Bruce on sister-label Dnous Yvitil, along with a slew of remixers of varied schools and talents, Pev has created something singular: one of the most exciting and dependable imprints in the country, a new throne room worthy of Bristol’s storied musical heritage.
9. Stroboscopic Artefacts
2014 has been synonym with anniversary year for Stroboscopic Artefacts. Celebrating their fifth year of techno activism with a superb series made up of one EP for each year that went by and reuniting their finest representatives for a string of events and parties that took place all over Europe in the past months, the label has staked its claim over the techno scene in rather muscular manner. A perfect showcase completed by SA’s boss Lucy’s excellent second LP ‘Churches Schools and Guns’ while Eomac and Sendai added two new stones to the Monad series’ edifice. Definitely a pivotal year in the label’s young history.
8. Lobster Theremin
Lobster Theremin strode through 2014 with the confidence and a swagger of a veteran at its peak, not a fresh face joining the rafts of labels that vie for our attention. A steady stream of analogue tinted releases from the likes of Palms Trax, Route 8, Imre Kiss and Sonofadistantearth disregarded pandering to genres and hit untold strengths through individuality. Not content with a solitary label for consideration in end of year lists, two off-shoots – the static infused menace of Lobster Theremin Black and the nostalgic leaning Lobster Theremin White – would sit high in prominence themselves.
Dial is a label of consistent quality, 2014 saw the label run by Peter Kersten (Lawrence) and David Lieske (Carsten Jost), release albums from Efdemin (Best Album of 2014) and Roman Flugel. ‘Decay’ elevated Sollmann’s music to unknown and exciting heights. Flugel’s ‘Happiness Is Happening’ presented a highly accessible listening experience for what is an almost entirely instrumental electronic music album. John Roberts also teased us with his three-track ‘Ausio EP’. Efdemin’s two-part Decay remix 12″ series, featured excellent remixes from Johannes Volk, Traumprinz, Staffan Linzatti, Asusu (#5 Best Tracks of 2014) and more. With the prospect of releasing an album from White Material’s label boss DJ Richard next year, we can’t wait to hear what Dial have scheduled for 2015.
6. Berceuse Heroique
With its distinctive hardcore-inflected aesthetic made up of provocative artworks and that inimitable taste for rugged, hard-knock beats, Berceuse Heroique has risen from underdog status to become a stronghold for sturdy, impactful techno and acid cuts. With the recent releases of Bristolian bass-master Hodge’s You Better Lie Down and much talked-about Loefah’s long-lost dubstep gems Woman and Midnight, the label took another turn towards more bassy extents. Still, it is with an essentially techno-y signature sound that BH conquered its audience, unraveling an implacably well-furnished string of concrete-hard EPs by producers as various as Vereker, Koehler, Ekman, Breaker 1 2 and MGUN to name a few. A super-strong sophomore year for the London-based outlet that leaves us with exciting perspectives for the near future.
5. Mood Hut
Vancouver’s Mood Hut ought to win some sort of prize for the acclaim and interest it’s garnered off the back of so few releases. A cassette-only imprint until last year, the loose Canadian collective specialises in a form of smoky house as warm and smooth as a summer breeze. The group members work together and apart under a dizzying array of aliases, turning out EPs as Aquarian Foundation, Pender Street Steppers, or solo efforts as Jack J, Hashman Deejay, House of Doors…the list goes on. In a climate dominated by dungeon-strength industrial techno and super-sleek ‘deep house’ in the charts, the soothing music of Mood Hut struck a chord because of its groove, its taste, but more than anything, its sincerity.
4. The Trilogy Tapes
The Trilogy Tapes’ catalogue has grown quite faultless over the years. Bold and uncompromising, the label has set up as one of the most influential outlets out there without ever getting stale musically-wise neither resting on their laurels. The London-based imprint kept digging deep into electronic music’s outer limits with every release this year, be it from the rugged and greasy techno of Ekman’s Entropy and stellar house of Anthony Naples’ Zipacon to the dreamy yet grimy mix of breakbeat and soaring soundscapes of Rezzett’s Zootie. Will Bankhead’s sense for wrongfooting expectations and ability of remaining as challenging and constantly inventive as on the first day have definitely helped TTT switch categories and settle as one of the reigning figures of today’s underground house and techno scene.
Giegling is another imprint finally getting some long-deserved attention this year. The Weimar-based label has been turning out productions with an astonishing level of care for 5 years now, from the immaculate, melancholy productions to the beautiful work that goes into every record sleeve. A Giegling release is an object of beauty. We were blessed with three releases on Giegling this year, and one on sublabel Forum, and each was a thing of glory. Albums from Edward, Kettenkarussell and Vril used the loosest of dance structures to weave curious narratives of nostalgia and isolation, both urban and cosmic. To cap it off, Traumprinz’ ‘All The Things’ EP showcased the power and mood that can be generated from so few elements, from the title track’s 4am jam to the epiphanic voice on ‘I Gave My Life’. While Traumprinz’s vocal might just manage to turn a few impressionable clubbers from clubs to Jesus, no evangelism is necessary for Giegling: we’ve been converts for a long time now.
Ron Morelli’s high output approach to A&R might seem like a shotgun approach to success for some, the reality was a year when L.I.E.S. releases hit with laser scoped accuracy. There was a distinct step away from the saturated and distorted aesthetic with the crunching electro of ADMX-71 and Randomer’s Huh sitting happily alongside the heartfelt entries from CF + Daywalker, Terreke and Simoncino providing highlights. Thus the label was as desirable ever this year, as participants in “find a shop with a copy of Voiski’s Wax Fashion still in stock Thursday” will testify to. But, as ever, it was the highly consumable single slab of vinyl long players that stole the show, with releases from Jorge Velez and Gunnar Haslam lingering longest in retrospective memory.
In 2014, PAN has almost routinely released some of the finest albums and EPs that fell into our hands. I say ‘almost’ because the apparent ease with which the label has kept unfolding this superb string of very diverse pieces of work wouldn’t manage to mask even the tiniest morsel of all the hard work and artistic sincerity Bill Kouligas and his team put in these records. In the wake of major albums such as Lee Gamble’s Koch and Objekt’s Flatland – not to forget Afrikan Sciences’ excellent album Circuitous, the label also provided a good lot of thought-provoking material of their very own cooking, amongst which the remarkable Scythians of M.E.S.H., an EP that reshuffled club music’s basics in a rather spectacular way, as well as the more recent Black Sites’ Unit 2669, which for its part should destroy some of the most exigent dancefloors in a snap of fingers. A sublime year for Kouligas et al, and that from start to finish.