It's been a great year for new electronic music imprints - here our some of our favourites from the class of '17
Whatever corner of the dancefloor you come from, whatever BPM your heart rests at, there’s definitely been something of a DIY groundswell this year. From Anja Schneider leaving her 12-year-old techno beast Mobilee to set up new imprint SoUS, to Machinedrum’s space-age ghetto R&B hub IAMSIAM, via DJ Friction and My Nu Leng’s bass house sin-bin Maraki and Felix Da Housecat’s warehouse-inspired Founders Of Filth, new labels have characterised 2017, popping up across all quarters on an almost weekly basis. Each one proffering new ideas, new sounds and new agendas, they’re testament to electronic music and club culture’s current rude health, and a reflection of the energy and enthusiasm that’s been felt from the dancefloor up this year.
With key imprints launching across every sub-genre you can imagine, we’ve taken a deep dive into this year’s wave of new imprints and selected 17 across the board. Get to know, because they’re only gonna be making themselves even more known as the new year progresses….
Style: Drum & bass
The clue’s in the title with this one... Blueprints is a new venture from perennially on-point D&B roller hub Dispatch that’s dedicated to the elements and motifs that flourished the genre’s most formative period between 94-98.
According to label boss Ant TC1, the whole project was more or less inspired by the work and approach of one man: Damon Kirkham, AKA Instra:Mental co-founder Kid Drama, a man who’s known for craving a timeless, stripped back, raw sound in every project he’s ever done. His attention to detail is commendable: rather than using the various plug-ins and emulators available to recreate the OG sound, he’s dusted off his old E-MU synth (the machine most classic drum & bass records were made on) and brought it kicking, grunting and stepping into 2018.
Mission accomplished: Dispatch Blueprints launched earlier this month with two Kid Drama singles that celebrate the original iced-out, futuristic aesthetics and machine manipulation of drum & bass’s golden age, without so much as a whiff of nostalgia.
Founders Of Filth
Founders Of Filth is Felix Da Housecat’s fourth label. Launched this summer, it brings an intoxicating hybrid of early 90s warehouse renaissance, unreleased material, classic re-issues. and the kind of ageless. playful machine funk and emotional techno with which he’s made his name for almost 25 years.
The first volume set the scene with the Prince-style It’s Your World and the return of his original guise Aphrohead, while the second featured new act Moon Room and introduced in-house band FOFtreal Quintet with the warped, LCD-esque I Won’t Try. The most recent volume, released earlier this month, is fronted by one of Felix’s biggest club tracks in years: a paranoid, Glitz-level electroclash beast called Energy. It's a track that lives up to its title and kicks over the new year touchline, where an even filthier 2018 awaits with the new FOF Aphrohead dispatch Thee Lost DATs.
Frame Of Mind
As a way of celebrating his 25 years in the game, longstanding Dutch selector DJ Gerd launched Frame Of Mind to shine a light on some of the most over-looked/under-known records in house history. Remastered and reissued with care, the label kicked off with Ruff Disco Volume One, an album by ex-Wild Bunch member turned adoptive Brooklynite Nature Boy (who’s now known as DJ Nature). A stomping slice of late night history, the album hadn’t seen a repress since 1992, and copies were fetching the best part of a ton on Discogs prior to this reissue.
Setting the tone right from the off, Gerd has since built on the momentum with a revisit to his own first ever recording project It’s Thinking (a John Acquaviva-signed 1992 EP that still smacks of serious analogue soul), a collection of Toyin Agbetu’s best Shades Of Black tracks, and more Essential Ruffness from Nature Boy himself. With plenty more history stacked up for the future, Gerd’s developing a timeless collection right here.
Gully Records UK
Style: Bass, beats
Destination Bristol: Gully are one of the latest crews to add their own unique weaves in the city’s rich party tapestry. Their first intimate events only kicked off in 2015. but they've already developed to such a level and reputation in the city that they’re often called in by the city’s most respected rave venue, Motion, to host its various caverns.
Elevating operations to label levels this autumn, Gully’s distinctive no-rules blend of gnarly bass textures and fractured beats can now be felt far beyond southwestern dance dens. Launching in October with two originals from highly respect murk merchants Saidwho and Pelikann and a slew of remixes from its own artists and affiliates Eego, Bromley, Talkre, Distro, Gully more than live up to their name musically and are expected to shell us with more of their signature filth in early 2018.
Style: Bass, beats, R&B, experimental
IAMSIAM is the latest endeavour of serial innovator Machinedrum. Balancing a piquant brew of shiny beats, velvet vocals and darker edges of sound design with boundary-blurring textures, each release so far has been fronted by a leftfield pop-style vocal lead track and backed up with more subversive versions and remixes. In keeping with the barbed vibrancy of his current work on Ninja, Machinedrum has curated some really interesting rubs including the label highlight so far, a warped remix from Dotcrawl (AKA Noisia’s Thijs and YoVinyl) that spirals from woozy and wavy to skin-rippling bass chaos as it develops. As with everything Machinedrum does, expect the unexpected as IAMSIAM progresses.
Life Of Marvin
Style: House, techno
DJ Tennis and Marvin & Guy’s crate-digging explorations took an interesting turn this year, as they dusted off the vaults of Interactive Test, a label founded by longstanding Italo/cosmic and experimental brothers Franco and Riccardo Falsini. Between 90-93 the label curated a body of work that led to Tuscany’s passion for all things prog and techno later in the decade.
Self-styling this music as "pre-progressive," the trio are gradually revisiting the label’s formative gems and polishing them up with a little modern production and editing on their own eponymous imprint. Two volumes have landed since the label launched in July. All sparkling, spacious, cosmic and rooted in Italo, so far they’ve highlighting the contributions of Roby J, Sick Hardcore and Model Citizen. More are expected to follow.
Style: Wave, bass, beat, experimental
One of the most exciting labels to emerge from wave - a burgeoning scene that’s been bubbling away since 2015 and is currently frothing over with exciting talent and ideas - Liquid Ritual comes courtesy of two influential pillars of the melting pot movement, Kareful and LTHL.
Already established as a monthly Radar Radio excursion, the Liquid Ritual label launched in May and has already fired off 11 releases that range from Kareful and LTHL's own immersive synth weaves to powerful sessions from fellow wave pioneers Deadcrow and Laire and more beat-heavy blends from the likes of Vacant, Tyler and Angelboy. A smouldering brew of introspective, emotional and experimental sounds threaded by a consistent wave aesthetic, Liquid Ritual is a great snapshot of where this still-blossoming sound is at and who its most exciting exponents are.
Style: Bass house, bassline
After an impressive run as an anonymous artist, bass house upstart FineArt was revealed to be none other than drum & bass don DJ Friction last spring. The revelation came complete with this brand new label, Maraki.
Run in collaboration with like-minded bass herberts My Nu Leng, Maraki launched with the powerful In Too Deep EP and it’s not looked back since. With a clear penchant for busted drums and basslines that stink so much you can tangibly taste them, further releases have so far included the wonderfully fractured Squash by Dismantle, jugular-aimed breakbeat hurter Numbers from Barely Royal and the recent tops-off bassline chest-pounder Lighter Crew from FineArt himself. Murk missiles guaranteed.
Style: Drum & bass
Explosive sounds from Isle Of Wight drum & bass mischief-maker Too Greezey. Nuke seemed to blow up out of nowhere this summer, with a string of demolition sessions from the man himself and fellow new-gen bass smelters such as Gravit-E and Konz. Writhing around the toxic swamp between jump-up and jungle, Nuke’s already developing a strong signature of groaning, stretched bass textures, rattling breaks, stripped back grooves and some really cool, trippy sound design.
The label hasn't let up since its launch, with dirty bomb dispatches denting the drum & bass landscape every month like clockwork. Check out Konz’s insane Rongo if you’d like to remove the majority of your body hairs in one easy sweep!
Techno troopers Ramiro Lopez and Arjun Vagale have played the consummate techno odd couple this year, with a constant bombardment of uncompromising, dancefloor-focused work-outs. Easing us into their visceral Indo-Spanish vision of late night/early morning hedonism, the first few releases focused on Ramiro and Arjun themselves before they widened the parameters with some like-minded underground artists.
Andres Campo, Steve Mulder, Pleasurekraft and Spektre have all played roles in the label’s accelerated development over the 10 singles we’ve enjoyed since the label launched this spring. Raw, wily and direct in its momentum and message, Odd has been feeding dancefloors with some serious heavyweight techno, and judging by the forthright fire of its last release - the label's first v/a EP, ODDyssey Vol 1 – things are only going to get heavier in the new year.
Style: Experimental, techno
Research is a new art-focused platform from Split Music, an experimental music sync’ing company that infiltrates modern culture by placing innovative contemporary electronic music in trailers and ad campaigns such as Blade Runner 2049, The Walking Dead, Jason Bourne, Adidas and Toyota. Launched less than a month ago, the label brings Split’s artists - These Hidden Hands, Headless Horseman, Mondkopf, SNTS, OAKE and Grebenstein - together in one place for the first time, and is expected to develop its roster with each release, or ‘document’ as the label are describing them.
Each release will be based around a concept or theme, and their debut collection Spheres is inspired by the work of sculptor Timothy Creswell. We’re not sure exactly how his art has helped shape each track individually, but the theme has worked to bring the collection together with cohesion and consistency, as each track builds on the next, telling a bleak and disarming tale of modern techno and electronica. If Split Music’s reputation is anything to go by, Research has a very exciting future.
Unfailing dubstep representer Youngsta launched Sentry at the start of 2017 with one of the most impressive label launches the genre’s seen in years: a rare 140bpm escapade from Exit Records don dBridge. Two smouldering slices of deepness with all the weight and pungency we’ve come to expect from his drum & bass experiments, the release left us under no illusion that the label has serious plans.
Some 12 months and two more releases later, Sentry has remained at the deep dubstep vanguard, with stark spatial adventures from Nomine and Akcept. A highly anticipated single from fellow unapologetic representer Caspa is expected before the end of January.
Style: Bass, beats
A Bristol bass collective comprising Sly One, Bromley, Archive and Distro, SOBAD have been working with a hive mind from their Bristol HQ for several years now. All exceptional, forward-thinking producers in their own rights, and a force to be reckoned with together behind the decks, it was only a matter of time before they began to pool their resources into a joint label.
SOBAD Volume One landed in September with blunderbuss bangers from each act in the crew. Ranging from the technoid breaks and ghetto grit of Distro’s The House to Sly One’s favela fire Mi Cumpleanos, via Archive’s rush-caked rave-up Satisfy, the label sets put the SOBAD stall with clarity... we’re just waiting to see what they follow it up with.
Style: Drum & Bass
Following the likes of Alix Perez, SpectraSoul, Breakage and Lenzman, Bristol-based DLR is the latest in an exciting line of respected drum & bass artists to go DIY and develop their own imprint. It’s only one release deep so far, but there’s already clear momentum and a following, as he’s been teasing the tracks throughout the summer with a soft launch at Bristol D&B monthly Collective, a fun sticker campaign and free downloads.
He’s been very clear about the label’s focus and signature, too: raw, simple and stripped back. With nods towards classic legacies such as Virus and Full Cycle, Sofa is essentially the sound of DLR lifting the bonnet on drum & bass history to reveal its most rudimental mechanics and how he can make sure they’re still present in his output, and a relevant force in D&B today. For now it’s largely a vehicle for his own experiments, with at least four releases expected throughout 2018. Sofa, so good...
No one knows who’s behind this label. No one knows where they’re based. But in the last three months, Solar Phenomena have rocketed into the techno sphere with three startling EPs from some very impressive names.
Launching with a mini album from eminent techno artist Echoplex, the label instantly grabbed attention and has captivated it ever since with monthly dispatches from Antonio Ruscito and, most recently London’s Fossil Archive-founder Roberto. One of the heaviest, pure techno EPs the label has dropped so far, it came complete with a massive mind-warp of a remix from inventive Bristol bass-smith Peverelist. With no clue as to who’s coordinating their astral travels, Solar Phenomena remain an exciting enigma.
Style: Techno, house, experimental
Anja Schneider shocked the techno world this summer when she announced she would be departing from Mobilee, the stalwart techno label she co-founded in 2005, and launching brand new imprint SoUS. Her full statement at the time explained how the label would be the most personal project of her career, and she’s since said in interviews that she hasn't felt so creatively free in years.
The label’s launch release reflects this: SoME is her first artist album in nine years and reveals her sonic palette at its widest. A cheery free-for-all riddled in house, techno, experimental and even a dash of drum & bass, it’s a whole new side to Anja that we’ve never seen in her 15 year career - and it feels like we’re still only at the tip of this new iceberg.
Style: Bass, beats, grime, garage, breaks, dubstep, bass
Brighton collective Southpoint require no introduction in bass circles. Established in 2015, they’ve developed an impressive crew of talented beat/bass-smiths that range from the currently unstoppable Bushbaby to longstanding UKG craftsman Moony, via grime beat sculptor and co-founder KXVU via the likes of Pavv, Tengu, Inkline, Saidwho, Noble and more.
With their roster and demo stacks rising faster than they could handle, this summer they let off the pressure with this brand new free download label. Highlighting brand new talent, testing new ideas and give aspiring artists a platform, the label is already over 30 releases deep and captured a great snapshot of where bass music is at in 2017. From bassline bumps to brutal breakbeat slaps via emotional grime narratives, Southpoint Introducing has been a one-stop shop for all low-end heads this year.
Words: Dave Jenkins
Tags: Dispatch Blueprints, Ant TC1, Kid Drama, Founders Of Filth, Felix Da Housecat, Frame Of Mind, Gerd, Gully Records, IAMSIAM, Machinedrum, Life Of Marvin, DJ Tennis, Marvin & Guy, Liquid Ritual, Kareful, LTHL, Maraki Records, DJ Friction, My Nu Leng, Nuke Records, Too Greezey, Odd Recordings, Ramiro Lopez, Arjun Vagale, Research, Split Music, Sentry, Youngsta, SOBAD, Sofa Sound, DLR, Solar Phenomena, SoUS, Anja Schneider, Southpoint Introducing