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Shogun Audio - Brighton based label Shogun Audio is the brainchild of The Assassin (DJ Friction) and partner in crime, K-Tee. Representing all the different flavours of the D&B spectrum - from tough and techy to sweet and soulful, dancefloor destroyers to the deep and minimal - diversity is at the heart of the label's ethos. Since it was launched in 2004, artists such as Spectrasoul, Alix Perez, Icicle, Rockwell, Jonny L, Klute, Subwave, Break and Spor have all released on the burgeoning imprint. 2009 saw two big album releases from the Shogun camp, in the form of Friction's Assassin Vol 1, followed up by Alix Perez's debut long player in the Autumn - the critically acclaimed 1984, as well as Break's Return To The Temple EP and Spor's Aztec. In 2010, Shogun Audio unveiled part one of their Evolution EP series, plus new material from Rockwell, Total Science & S.P.Y.
Skint - Skint Records was one of the leading imprints in the short lived Big Beat sound that spawned Norman Cook's stratospheric rise as Fatboy Slim. Run by 'nicest man in the music business' Damien Harris aka Midfield General, Skint put out a slew of big beat standards from the likes of Bentley Rhythm Ace, Freq Nasty and FC Kahuna. Later forays into housier sounds secured the label a massive hit courtesy of "Lazy" David Byrne's collaboration with X-Press 2, and the imprint has also put out material form rising producers such as Foamo and Detboi. Fatboy Slim continues to release material on the imprint to this day.
Songbird Holland - Black Hole Recordings subsidiary Songbird has long been regarded as one of the premier vocal and uplifting trance imprints. Its reputation stems not only from well loved early releases by Moontribe, Mistral and Massive, but also its association with the world's premier stadium DJ, Tiesto. Songbird was responsible for the trance megastar's big selling In Search of Sunrise mix series, the unmixed versions of which should be essential purchases for fans of quality trance. In recent times Songbird's focus has shifted back towards singles, but their ethos remains: as ever, it's about good quality trance.
Southern Fried - Southern Fried was set up by Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) in 1994 to release club tracks that failed the commercial test at major labels. The label's roster has featured scene leaders such as Cook himself (often under his Mighty Dub Katz pseudonym, among others), as well as electro funk pioneer Kurtis Mantronik. The label has expanded its range of releases to include more album-based artists such as the Black Ghosts, Crookers and The BPA (AKA The Brighton Port Authority) as well as club tracks from a cross section of established producers like Armand Van Helden, Cagedbaby and Shinichi Osawa and underground talent such as Brodinski, NT89 and The 2 Bears.
Spinnin Holland - Independent dance labels don't come much bigger than Spinnin'. With over 200 releases to its name and a growing stable of sub-labels catering for deeper, harder and trancier sounds (Spinnin' Deep, Spinnin' Hard etc), it's undoubtedly one of European house music's greatest success stories. The formula has always been simple: high quality feel-good house music from a mixture of new and established artists - be it disco-house, electro house or tech-tinged main room bangers. It's an approach that's produced some huge hits, most notably from current big hitters Ian Carey, Nicky Romero and Abel Ramos.
Strictly Rhythm - Much like Motown is synonymous with soul music, when you think of house music you think of Strictly Rhythm. The long running New York imprint made its name with some quality deep house action from the likes of Todd Terry, Kenny Dope, Louie Vega and Roger Sanchez. Expansion into the European market, and the addition of acts like Armand Van Helden, Josh Wink and Reel 2 Reel brought further success. The ubiquity of Ultra Nate's "Free" demonstrates the ability of Strictly Rhythm to strut the line between commercial success and the underground perfectly. An ill fated partnership with Warner Music saw the imprint fold in 2002, but it re-emerged in 2006 with new material from Todd Terry among its first releases.
Strut - Strut Records originally ran from 1999 - 2003 with a mission statement to help document the sounds that inspired contemporary dance music. The imprint quickly gained a reputation for an exhaustive approach to presenting each release with journalists employed to provide extensive sleeve notes, original tapes used for mastering and rare photography used for artwork. K7! Records re-launched the imprint in 2009 with the same intent but developed the idea of bridging the gap between past and present further through the Inspiration Information project which brought together current artists and producers with their musical heroes.
Subliminal US - Since launching way back in 1997, Subliminal has always reflected the musical passions and DJ ethos of its founder, globe-trotting house jock Erick Morillo. In the early days, that meant showcasing a chunky, disco-flecked soulful house sound (think Harrison Crump, ATFC and Praise Cats). As time progressed and Morillo's tastes changed, the label began to release the sort of tougher cuts that fit the big rooms Morillo was now playing. In recent years, Sublimimal has reflected the wider shift towards electro house, via much-played releases by Morillo himself and such label stalwarts as Harry 'Choo Choo' Romero, Jose Nunez and Richard Grey.
Superstar Germany - Superstar Recordings is a German imprint based in the Hessen District that has forged a successful blueprint of licensing underground club hits for mainstream success - sort of like a mainland European Ministry of Sound. Founded in 1998, the imprint has garnered international chart success for tracks from a variety of genres, a policy which has seen Superstar win the German Dance Award in consecutive years. Acts disparate as Yolanda & Dcup, Panjabi MC, Timo Maas, Mylo Tocadisco and Axwell can all thank Superstar for chart topping appearances in Europe.