If July is the month when the vinyl releases traditionally quietly drop off as label bosses loll about under the Adriatic sun, it certainly wasn’t showing in the artwork department.
Ital drops a masterful revision of “Danza”, the title track from the first instalment of the Aster trilogy of twelve inches set to drop on Hivern over the coming months.
Taking the vast swathes of Utopian textures that dominate Aster’s original in full flight, Ital adds his a procession of distortion laden vocals and applies them to a base arrangement of thick, burrowing low end and broken, clipping house rhythms.
Hivern Discs have revealed details of yet another ambitious project to surface over the coming months – a trilogy of twelve inches from former Mathematics artists Aster.
Judging the best record labels in any given year is not an easy task. The necessary combination of established labels reaching their peak and fresh imprints flourishing in their infancy is not an easy one to reach; inevitable comprises in the age old quantity vs quality debate are liable to be discussed ad nauseum. This year’s list came together slowly but surely, and we believe it provides a neat snapshot of all that is good about electronic music right now.
The aforementioned upstarts are visible in force (Hivern, Long Island Electrical Systems) as are their more established counterparts (Clone, Planet Mu, Honest Jon’s). Their combined reach is truly global, with our selected labels based in cities as diverse as Barcelona, New York, London, Glasgow, L.A. and Bristol – their respective rosters have an even broader reach and they collectively touch on too many genres to mention.
Anyone with a finger on or someone near the pulse of electronic music right now won’t need us to tell you the importance of record labels these days. They serve as what Andrew Weatherall describes as a “cultural filter”; the best labels wade through oceans of sameness to illuminate the interesting corners of music, earning our trust and admiration in the process. There are, of course, many, many more labels worthy of end-of-year coverage, but here is the Juno Plus selection of the labels that impressed us most in 2011.
In the current climate where the disco/nu-disco realm is flush with poorly executed edits of disco tracks that have already been spliced and diced several times over, it’s all too easy to bemoan the launch of yet another label specialising in them. However, when a label as renowned as the Hivern Disc crew elects to dip their toes in the overpopulated waters you get a sense there will be an element of classiness inherent in all aspects that makes it worth investigating.
Such a statement bears fruition on this rather fetching 10 inch, the inaugural release in the Hiverned series (geddit?) which arrives housed in the kind of marble flecked silk screen cover that will send a shiver of excitement down the spines of vinyl obsessives everywhere. Just as the presentation impresses, the music itself excels in its obscurity.
Reclusive label figurehead John Talabot opens proceedings with an deliciously rough sounding edit of a seemingly forgotten NYC boogie track called “Party Girl”. With little clue as to the origins – even after some concerted Googling endeavours – it’s difficult exactly to focus on what Talabot has done to the track. Supposedly melding the vocal and instrumental versions together, the tracks odder elements probably shouldn’t work (and perhaps its why the original remained an obscurity), but somehow do. It’s hard to decipher whether the high pitched main vocal is being sung by a pre pubescent boy a la a young Michael Jackson or a helium enhanced lady, but there’s a certain quality to it that is quite amusing. Beneath, the heavy boogie bassline, simple yet effective drum sounds and slightly askew synth lines combine brilliantly.
As thrilling an edit this is, particularly the drum-heavy breakdown with the proto rap freestyle, it’s the B Side that really works it for these ears. The lesser celebrated Marc Piñol can rank the God like Ivan Smagghe amongst his fans, and it’s not hard to see why on an edit that provides a darker edge to the rough cosmic sunshine of Talabot’s opener. Again there is scant clue as to the source material for “Wheels” – we’ll leave that to the more obsessive corners of the internet – but regardless it’s quite brilliant. Emerging from a spoken word Gothic ether into a raw EBM throb worthy of Gatekeeper at their finest, the track aligns into a groove of rumbling bass, pitched down spectral vocals and heaving organ refrains, all underpinned by siren like melodics. It’s perfectly befitting of spinnage at any upcoming Halloween parties and serves notice of Piñol’s talent, which will hopefully be given further room to develop on the Hivern imprint. Overall, you get the impression this release is the work of a well respected label having some fun and getting away with it.
The John Talabot pseudonym first appeared in 2009, with a debut 12″ for Munich based label Permanent Vacation alongside remixes for Delorean, Zwicker, Glasser and, most memorably, Aufgang. A deep, slinky and richly melodic take on house immediately caught the ear, and so detailed and nuanced were Talabot’s productions that attempts to categorise his sound resulted in wildly differing interpretations. Some critics littered reviews with words like shimmering and summery; the producer himself believed his early material was actually dark and brooding. In a way, both opinions are correct, as Talabot managed to balance quirky instrumentation and beautiful thrift store samples with beefy club friendly drums – if the Avalanches made house music it would probably sound something like this.
Talabot’s rise to prominence continued last year, once again gracing Permanent Vacation with the breakthrough 12″ Matlida’s Dream, as well as a debut release for the Hivern Disc imprint he is closely associated with. As interest in his music grew, it became apparent the producer was working under an alias, determined to keep his face out of the media glare. As such his reputation has grown organically, and the visual connections to his music, left entirely up to the listener, are much nicer than any press picture – the baked brown hills of his home city, Barcelona, for example, or the artwork that adorns his records.
Both Talabot and Hivern are part of a pleasing trend of small labels and collectives operating outside recognised hubs like Berlin and London, such as Gothenburg’s Aniara, Stockholm’s Studio Barnhus and Dresden’s Uncanny Valley. These labels are bound by their strong visual direction and work unencumbered by the restraints of being attached to a particular style or scene. Talabot has also built a name as a DJ of some repute, securing festival slots in 2011 to compliment further recognition in a year that has also seen an EP release for UK imprint Young Turks (home to The xx among others) and news of a forthcoming debut album for Permanent Vacation. A few weeks back we announced that Talabot would be performing at our second birthday party at The Nest in London in September, and to mark the occasion we coaxed a rare interview out of one of electronic music’s most promising talents.