Over 7 years and almost 75 releases, Northern Electronics have become a cornerstone record label for techno and experimental music. Operated together by Varg2™ and Anthony Linell, the two artists consistently deliver unwavering music and artwork, resulting in top-tier releases throughout their discography.
Now in its fourth iteration, ‘Scandinavian Swords‘ is the only consistently recurring compilation in the Northern Electronics pantheon. Featuring music from close circles — each edition is as sharp as the last. Yet, never has the series been as ambitious as the latest version, subtitled ‘Atlas of Visions‘.
Presented as both a triple-LP and triple-cassette, with the more club-centric music on vinyl and the more abstract frequencies on cassette, the two-part compilation sprawls across direct and insistent techno to grit-flecked noise and frigid experimental strains.
Familiar names mingle with new faces and fresh pairings throughout. Fatal, last seen contributing to the Sky City release, marks their first solo outing on the label. Internazionale, a Posh Isolation semi-regular, also contribute, along with names from the label’s heritage such as Korridor and Evigt Mörker. Both Varg2™ and Linell’s presence is felt throughout, too, from original solo appearances to collaborations with VTSS and Puce Mary, and together as Ulwhednar.
Featuring 41 tracks, at first glance it might seem that Northern Electronics are overstepping their reach. However, after patient listening, a visitor to ‘Atlas of Visions‘ will know that this is more than just a boat big enough for all their friends, but in fact represents the label’s largest expansion of sounds yet — a network expanding, not one flaunting it’s size.
To coincide with this interview, we are sharing the exclusive premiere of The Dancer ‘Liquiddish‘ – a smoke-choked and inebriated stagger through disused club corridors. Listen below.
Interview by Freddie Hudson
"We’ve managed to build a good platform, but it hasn’t been very inclusive. Now we’ve started to feel more like there’s a big trust in our listeners, who allow us to challenge them and spark their curiosity."
‘Scandinavian Swords IIII’ features 41 tracks from new and familiar producers on your label roster; this is a huge compendium of work. Tell us about the new additions to the Northern Electronics family, such as Ex Ghost or Dream Eater, and how their tracks came to be selected for this release?
A lot of these new names are people in the fringes of the label or acquaintances we’ve made during the past years. We wanted to make this collection as a celebration, to present new sounds and add to the Northern Electronics palette, broadening the vision. Curating as we’ve done in the past but with looser reins.
We’ve managed to build a good platform, but it hasn’t been very inclusive. Now we’ve started to feel more like there’s a big trust in our listeners, who allow us to challenge them and spark their curiosity. We can use that to highlight artists we believe in and want to showcase.
The first Scandinavian Swords compilation, released in 2015, featured six tracks; the second compilation 14 tracks; the third features six; the fourth, 40 – what’s the reasoning, if any, behind the sporadic volume of tracks?
As with everything Northern Electronics there is no long term plan or vision, but acts of impulse. The Scandinavian Swords series have always been created out of the contemporary. The first Scandinavian Swords compilation was the product of us wanting to contribute with something special for a collaborative showcase we did together with Posh Isolation in Copenhagen for Valentine’s Day in 2015.
We drove down from Stockholm to Copenhagen in this shitty rental van, filled with gear packed in bubble wrap and 50 home dubbed tapes made with our mono duplicator. The cassette presented two collaborations, SARS and Abdulla Rashim on one side and Varg and Vit fana on the other.
One day’s work from two different studios between four artists. The party was a celebration of love. There were trays of condoms, cigarettes, candy and heart-shaped ecstasy pills for the guests. We wanted to try and win over the Copenhagen DIY scene by doing a special tape release for the show.
The second Scandinavian Swords compilation was a milestone for the 30th release in the catalogue, so it had to be a 3xLP. We felt like we had reached a level where we could do that, and to make a point by contrasting the previous compilation which was just a self-made super limited tape.
The essence of the series has always been to present the label in its current position, the format is not the most important but every release is a celebratory release. To remind ourselves that we’re actually developing.
This compilation is a lot more of a group statement than a select few tracks from a handful of producers. What stages of selection and refinement did you take with this collection?
Instead of us trying to look for the “right” tracks, we’ve had a trust in the people we work to have a total freedom of contributing with whatever they felt was appropriate somehow.
Like how you normally curate an album, this was the same but the opposite, instead trying to find what didn’t necessarily fit. It’s a solitaire in the catalogue, but at the same time a perfect match. There’s no obvious red thread throughout but more of a feeling, than a concept.
There seems to be a rough split between the styles of music on Part One and Part Two, but there’s also some bleed-over; tracks like ‘G Stik RED…’, for example, seem quite defiant in their placement among the somewhat calmer tracks. Why did you decide to do this?
Because we haven’t yet reached our capacity to do a 7x vinyl box set. Maybe Scandinavian Swords V will be printed on whatever biodegradable USB stick that’s in fashion at that point.
Who is responsible for the artwork for the compilation? Do the physical editions have any aesthetic touch with meaning? How important is the physical presentation of a release to you?
We’ve always both been involved in the artworks, and we both have a lot of ideas for graphics but none of us are schooled designers. And that’s why there’s an important shadow figure here; our graphic designer Jonas Bard (Böfüms).
Bard has been responsible for most of the artwork throughout the years, with us interfering with his work on the way. The collaboration has led Jonas (Rönnberg) to learn to take his ADHD medication, Anthony’s learnt Adobe Illustrator and Jonas Bard had to learn to cope with both of us.
As artists, not as label heads, there’s something very fulfilling with releasing a physical record. A catharsis, or a proof that you’ve reached your goal, if you had one. It’s affirmative. The presentation of the physical product is very important, releasing a physical product without a purpose behind the presentation is pointless.
A physical product is something you spend time with, you form a relationship with it, it has the ability to stop time. Everything digital is volatile. On a global music/business level and in a computer world, physical releases of course feel less and less important. A digital product doesn’t give this release. It’s equivalent to uploading a picture on Instagram.
Despite the enormous growth of electronic music, we’re still working in a somewhat underground culture. And being a completely independent record label, we are still stuck with boxes of records. Releasing physical items is not a lucrative business but an egoistic act and an important exchange with the fans.
Northern Electronics has been releasing music since 2013. What has running the label taught you both about releasing music? What challenges have you faced and overcome, and what have you learnt during the process?
We’ve become more open to releasing a broader range of music. We have new artists who are growing into their own idea of the Northern Electronics sound, which at the same time helps us expand our ideas of what Northern Electronics is.
We’ve grown a confidence in what we can do thanks to a very loyal fan base, a lot of people who’ve supported us since the beginning. This is something that makes you lose that uncertainty that something has to sound or look a certain way. And even though the surface might shift in shapes, the core has always stayed the same.
How do you share the responsibilities of running the label? Do you have particular roles that you prefer, or assign each other?
Jonas is the visionary, Anthony is the realist, and the rest is in the Coca-Cola recipe.
Production names and aliases have held a particular temporary meaning in your ‘public life’, with past monikers Abdulla Rashim and Varg both becoming obsolete. What significance – or lack of it – does a name hold for you both?
You could say that we’ve reached a point where we’re more honest, with recording music and as artists. In the beginning we both had a lot of different side projects, because the roster was so small there was an idea in growing this illusion where there were more artists than there actually was surrounding us, doing one-off stuff or limited releases using a phoney name.
Now Jonas is doing everything from trap beats to punk music, but still under the Varg2™ alias. It’s understandable if people want to work on a certain concept, but it’s an act of cowardice having to make up an artist name for every single genre you’re releasing.
You don’t have to be so damn real, if you made a balearic house record you should be able to stand for it. Some people get provoked by this eclecticism, like “I don’t like Varg’s new record because there’s a poppy track on it” — yeah but you don’t even like pop music? It’s like eating the same spaghetti Bolognese every day, why would you do that?
People can be afraid somehow, they’ve convinced themselves that they don’t like some types of music only because it’s labelled a certain way. And they are stuck with trying to look for details and believing they have found what differs one from the other.
When Anthony started releasing music under his given name, there were a lot of people trying to distinguish the difference from the music he released as Abdulla Rashim, but there are none. The only difference is that it has matured, but it’s the same person.
What have you been keeping busy with over the last few weeks? Have you found any good reading material, or musical inspiration? What tabs have you left open from the last few weeks?
Jonas has bought a Prada bolo tie because he wants to look like he owns a ranch, and a holographic Von Dutch cap. He’s started a Tik Tok account with VTSS, and is trying to figure out what kind of beats trap artists are interested in buying. He’s also tried to call Tiësto on FaceTime a few times.
Anthony’s been stuck in hardware stores and buying landscape modelling books online. There is still beauty to find in this world.
What’s next for Northern Electronics?
Keep on Rocking in the Free World, More of the Same etc.
‘Scandinavian Swords IIII: Atlas of Visions’ is scheduled fro release 29 May. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
Photography By Elias Bergkvist
Atlas of Visions Pt. I
A1 / 1. Noah Gibson – Returning
A2 / 2. The Pelican Company – Temple Bells
A3 / 3. Varg2™ & VTSS – VARGTSS1 (Do the Roar)
B1 / 4. Anthony Linell – Hallucinations
B2 / 5. Exploited Body – She Blames the River
B3 / 6. The Empire Line – Træt av lagen, træt av Systembolaget
C1 / 7. Puce Mary ft. Varg2™ – Violent and Delusional
C2 / 8. Fatal – Indolent
C3 / 9. Tusagi – Swetti
D1 / 10. E-Saggila – Blue Amps
D2 / 11. JS Aurelius – Crime Is the Highest Form of Sensuality
D3 / 12. Mischa Pavlovski – Fra midt til slutning II
E1 / 13. Free The ID – Red Fall Foliage
E2 / 14. Evigt Mörker – Stege
E3 / 15. Ulwhednar – Emergency Break
F1 / 16. BHMF – Mörkertal
F2 / 17. CA2+ – Taki Patch-Out
F3 / 18. Age Coin – No Corner, No Devil
Atlas of Visions Pt. II
A1 / 1. Anita Falk – Spinal Cord
A2 / 2. Ex Ghost – Linjerna säger ingenting (utan det vakuum som omger dem)
A3 / 3. Ano Ton – Disintegrating
A4 / 5. Varg2™ – On Your Heart I Make a Hole In the Wall
B1 / 6. Matti Bye – Solen
B2 / 7. The Dancer – Liquidish
B3 / 8. BHMF & Varg2™ – G Stik ”RED” (Take Your Whatever)
B4 / 9. Thoom – This Cowardice of Mine
C1 / 10. Rune Bagge – I’m Sitting on the Stars in the Sky Every Night
C2 / 11. Chatline – Dreamer Heaven
C3 / 12. Jin Mustafa – Hint
C4 / 13. Evigt Mörker – Ditt försvinnande
D1 / 14. Internazionale – The Untamed Green
D2 / 15. Dream Eater – Flowers of Neptune
D3 / 16. Korridor – Reeds
E1 / 17. Soho Rezanejad – This Sea is Not a Memorial
E2 / 18. Anthony Linell – Sarek
E3 / 19. Misantropen – Moll 12 (när jag dör)
F1 / 20. Maria W Horn – Maskinhallen Nocturne
F2 / 21. Vallmo – Elephant
F3 / 22. Ano Ton – Peripheral Distrubances
F4 / 23. Ecco2k – Hi Fever