Labelled with Love:
IN THIS PHOTO: FKA Twigs of Young Turks
A Selection of Some of the Most Influential Labels in Music
THIS is a rare excursion into the territory of record labels…
and a chance to recognise some of the most inspiration, important and upcoming names we should look out for. Some are well-known whereas others are smaller and working in the underground. The record label often gets overlooked in favour of the artist: one cannot underestimate the importance and significance of the label behind the talent. They, not only provide that guidance and energy - but offer knowledge and an immense amount of time.
Because of this; a rundown of the well-known and lesser-heard labels that warrant more time, acclaim and listening…
IN THIS PHOTO: Poppy
Made Decent, formed in 2006, are, according to Pigeons and Planes...
"...If you aren't yet familiar with the record label Mad Decent, chances are that you've at least heard of its founder Thomas Wesley Pentz aka Diplo. Established in 2006, the imprint originally worked to promote Brazillian Baile Funk and Angolan Kudro. The label's mantra revolves around bringing new genres and cultures to the forefront of an ever diversifying music community".
IN THIS PHOTO: Smerz
Again, when looking at the 1989-formed XL Recordings; Pigeons and Planes encapsulate the merit and essence of the mega label:
“Despite releasing an average of merely six albums per year, XL Recordings has become a widely recognized and respected force in the indiedendent label space. XL has even superceded the concept of indie in some ways as they work with some of today's largest acts. Founded by Richard Russel, Tim Palmer, and Nick Halkes, the Beggars Banquet offshoot was originally launched to release rave and dance music. In the early '90s the label focused mostly on dance-oriented releases ranging from Belgian Techno and Breakbeat to Hardcore and Drum & Bass. Their willingness to work with more eccentric, experimental artists is evidenced by their longstanding relationship with The Prodigy”.
Fat Possum Records
IN THIS PHOTO: Kadhja Bonet
It is the same site that has led me to this incredible label – that formed back in 1992:
“Founded back in the early '90s by Matthew Johnson and Peter Redvers-Lee simply as a way to preserve some of the blues players in their corner of North Mississippi, Fat Possum has consistently released music with meaningful cultural implications. Early on the label stayed fairly true to their blues roots and relied heavily on New York Times critic Robert Palmer when it came to picking acts to sign. But with the changing industry and expanding tastes, Fat Possum have branched out from their early roots and now have a large roster that includes bands like Wavves, Tennis, Youth Lagoon, and Spiritualized”.
Paper Garden Records
IN THIS PHOTO: Color Collage
The relatively new label (formed in 2005) are looking after some tremendous acts right now. It is the penultimate name from the Pigeons and Planes guidance and, looking at their website, a label that has a huge ear for quality:
“Bryan Vaughan founded Paper Garden Records in 2005 as part of an entrepreneurial program at Belmont University in Nashville, but it wasn't until he moved to New York City and became business partners with Heidi Greenwood that the label really flowered into full fruition. Still functioning on a very DIY scale, the pair work out of their apartment, and yet manage to represent some of the best independent and underground music being created. Whether it be releasing records through their small, independent label, or helping represent bands through the Lovely Hearts Club PR blast branch of the LLC”.
This label is responsible for some of the biggest Pop artists/songs in recent years and, as you can see from their site, are constantly supporting ripe and promising talent:
“In terms of indie pop pedigree, Neon Gold is unbeatable. Their roster is a place to go if you want to see where indie's biggest superstars got their start, and a great bet if you're planning on catching an act early on in what will become a huge career. The boutique label was first founded by Derek Davies and Lizzy Paplinger to release Passion Pit's "Sleepyhead" single. Five years later, the band is headlining Madison Square Garden. A savant-level ability to predict what music is destined to break big on the mainstream is no fluke for these guys; Ellie Goulding, Gotye, Marina & The Diamonds and Penguin Prison are all NG alums, too”.
IN THIS PHOTO: The cover for Whities 011 by Lanark Artefax
The next four names I have sourced from FACT, who, all the time, have their finger on the pulse and know their stuff! The first label is one I am really curious about:
“London’s barely hatched Whities label colored even further outside the lines in its third year in action, bringing us, on one hand, one of the year’s biggest dancefloor 12″s in Avalon Emerson’s evocative, thundering ‘The Frontier’, and, on the other, one of the strangest pop mutations we’ve ever encountered in Reckonwrong’s Devo-meets-Morrissey bedroom-disco curio ‘The Passions of Pez’. Add to that another mind-melting spookfest from bass engineer Minor Science and Lanark Artefax’s breakbeat daydream on ‘Touch Absence’ and you’ve got the makings of a classic year for Nic Tasker’s operation”.
“It’s easier than ever to start a label thanks to the power of the internet, but taking the old-fashioned approach and building something local is all too rare these days. It’s one of the reasons why Batu’s Timedance label stood out in 2016; instead of trawling SoundCloud for unsigned club producers and seeing what sticks, he’s built a community around the music of his Bristol contemporaries and formed something that feels very much like a family of like-minded artists”.
“Orange Milk’s experimental music carnival was in full swing this year, dropping releases that were as garishly entertaining as they were artistically challenging. The label hit us with indescribable weirdness like DJWWWW’s Arigato, Foodman’s Ez Minzoku and Death’s Dynamic Shroud’s Classroom Sexxxtape, all utter headscratchers that might turn you off if they weren’t so damn fun to listen to.
OM delivered on all fronts: Diamond Soul’s chaotic footwork, Euglossine’s psychedelic easy-listening and gorgeous plunderphonics from M Sage. Even their reissues were excellent, including Machine Girl’s endorphin overload Gemini and Goop, a reminder that Orange Milk co-founder Seth Graham is the label’s secret weapon”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Murder He Wrote
“Manchester has not-so-quietly made a play for the UK’s greatest party city in the last couple of years, and Swing Ting have been right at the heart of the action. Samrai and Platt’s party-turned-label shifted into fifth gear in 2016, releasing a string of solid gold 12″s and EPs pushing their melting pot of faves – R&B, grime, jungle – into a mutant bashment direction, with spectacular results.
Fox’s Musik EP saw the Manchester-via-Kingston MC body a killer set of productions from Famous Eno, Florentino, Murlo, Brackles and the label bosses, while Florentino’s own ‘Bloodline’/’Sientelo’ perfected his recipe for quirky reggaeton confections. Samrai and Platt crowned the slinky ‘Tease Me’ with a sexed-up vocal from Kingston MC Kemikal, while Jamaican duo Equiknoxx graced the label with pa-rappa-pa-rapping ‘Bubble’, one of the greatest dancehall moments in a year stuffed full of them. Add to that Alexx A-Game’s G-funk-dembow hybrid and Famous Eno’s mile-high posse cut ‘Gangsters’, and there’s simply no competition. The Swing Ting sound was all we wanted to hear this year”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Globelamp
The label formed in 2000 and has, since its inception, brought us the likes of Bloc Party and The Cribs. Mothers and Girlpool are currently on their books and it is clear Wichita is one of the most important and ever-evolving labels in the world.
IN THIS PHOTO: Purity Ring
Camera Obscura and Pixies have previously been on the 4AD label. Now, they support Bon Iver, Daughter and Lo-Fang – so many more incredible artists that take the breath away. It is one of the most varied labels and, because of that, one many look to when seeking out the best new talent...
IN THIS PHOTO: Wolf Alice (2015)/PHOTO CREDIT: Jo Hale/Redferns via Getty Images
They are one of the newer labels – formed in 2009 – and have seen Wolf Alice, The 1975 and Marika Hackman come through their doors. Despite the fact they are young and growing: they have a flair for those original and bold artists that differ from that is out there in the mainstream. Expect their stable to keep growing in years to come...
PMR signed the likes of Jessie Ware when they launched in 2011. Ware and Disclosure were on their books and soon rose to become two of the biggest stars in the U.K. Two Inch Punch and Javeon soon came to PMR and added to their healthy stock - which includes everyone from GIRLI and Dornik.
IN THIS PHOTO: Chairlift
As part of an imprint for XL Recordings in 2006; Young Turks can boast names like FKA Twigs, Sampha and Waaves to their increasing and genre-busting crew. They are, like all great labels, diversifying and building their clientele. At the moment, they can proudly showcase some of the most impressive and forward-thinking acts in the world.
IN THIS PHOTO: Cate Le Bon
Cate Le Bon, Gruff Rhys and Perfume Genius show what an eclectic, fascinating and quality-striving ethos the label has. It is a fantastic outfit that continues to seek-out the very finest from music – so far, they have done a pretty good job of bringing us the very best and brightest!
IN THIS PHOTO: Flo Morrissey/PHOTO CREDIT: Roo Lewis
The U.S. label has helped launch the careers of Chvrches, Daughter and Mumford and Sons. Childish Gambino, Flo Morrissey and James Hersey make it one of the most eclectic and solid labels in music – one that continues to back and nurture incredible musicians.
IN THIS PHOTO: BNQT
Started by former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde; they brought us Fleet Foxes but, alongside them, The Trouble with Temptation and Manchester’s MONEY are on their line-up. A stellar and huge label that continues to exert influence and incredible artistry – so many years after their inception and starting-blocks!
IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Calvi
You don’t need me to tell you they have Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand as examples of the type of music they promise. More recently; they have Alex G (Sandy) and Georgia and Matthew E. White reoresenting them - ensuring the future for Domino Records is very bright and rosy.