We meet the team behind high-concept Berlin label Amselcom
From the sleek, minimal lines of the Bauhaus design school in the early 30s to the antics of industrial performance art collective The Mutoid Waste Company in the late 80s, Berlin has long been a city closely associated with 'the arts' - depending who you ask, the city is today home to between 400 and 700 art galleries.
So with Berlin now the de facto electronic music capital of the world, it was only a matter of time before a label emerged that placed as much emphasis on the visual arts as on the music itself. Enter Amselcom, a Berlin-based "creative platform for organic deep house and downtempo electronica" whose releases come wrapped in unique, bespoke sleeves, a far cry from the plain black sleeves or uniform 'house bags' favoured by many underground labels.
Set up in 2012 because they found themselves at the heart of "an ever-growing pool of great musicians and visual artists... so we just had to!", the label is now some 21 releases deep and currently employs four people full-time, "but there's a lot of other people running around helping with little things". Early releases came on vinyl but the label is now digital-only, and you can hear their music on all major streaming platforms as well as finding it on all the leading download stores.
Bernstein's Babel and Amentia's L'Aventure Des Plantes have been Amselcom's biggest releases to date, with the most recent coming from Victor Norman (the Hymn EP, December) and Brussels Pony Club (the Nightland EP, February). And with another EP from Hanne Adam (Trust Love) coming on 14 April, now seemed like a good time to have a chat with Andreas Bührer and Tanja Ruh from the label to find out more...
Are you 'just' a record label, or are there other arms to the business, such as events/club promotion or a DJ agency?
"We are a record label with a strong emphasis on art. Our catalogue is an ever-growing exhibition of modern art."
The slogan on your Soundcloud page proclaims, "We are unpredictable". Care to expand on that?
"We love to surprise ourselves as much as our fans. We don't focus on a specific genre, we rather pick music that moves our hearts. So if you are a collector who expects a common theme, you might be shocked at a certain point!"
Your label artwork is different every time, whereas a lot of labels stick to a formula for their sleeves. Was that a deliberate decision? And who decides what goes on each sleeve - the label or the artist?
"Very good question! We dedicated this space to the visual artists that we love. You may also have noticed that we leave the artwork untouched - there is never any text on our covers.
"As for who chooses the sleeves, the label is responsible for the artwork, but we work together with the artist to get the best possible match to the music and make sure that both love the artwork."
Your releases so far have come from quite a lot of different artists, whereas many labels start out with a small core group of producers. Again, was that a conscious choice?
"We have our core artists that we will always feature. But finding new and previously unreleased artists is one of the most exciting things for us. Working with such talented artists is a highlight every day."
Are there any sub-labels we should know about?
"Yes, Drossel, which is a community and record label as well. Drossel is focused on tracks below 108BPM with an organic vibe. You can check the music out on the Drossel Soundcloud page."
You haven't yet put out a label compilation - any plans?
"Yes, we are working on a 'best of Amselcom' release right now! Sarah Kreis is compiling and mixing it, and it will sum up our label history and showcase Sarah's beautiful mixing skills."
Finally, what else have you got coming up in 2017?
"We just developed Circles & Stones, which is an Amselcom-affiliated booking agency led by Sarah Kreis and Caleesi. The two of them will be taking care of all the label's bookings and events. And speaking of events we have the Amselcom Label Night Volume 4 at Beate Uwe in Berlin on 18 March, and later in April we will have a showcase in the new place, Anomalie123."
Words: Russell Deeks
The Trust Love EP by Hanne Adam is out on Amselcom on 14 April