Over at Deviation HQ we are gearing up for the first party of the year with some of my favourite producers of the moment. Mala, Floating Points and Ramadanman will be DJing alongside myself in room one all night on 12th February at Cable, London. I'm excited to be in a position where I can bring together all those sounds in one place. The unmistakable sound of Mala, best known for his Deep Medi 140bpm selections, the 130bpm 808 work-outs (or 'work thems') of Rama, and the Detroit-meets-Chicago house and disco 120bpm sound of Floating Points. It feels like club land is really in another golden era now where music of different tempos but the same ethos can meet on the dancefloor.
To coincide with this era, there’s a new generation of fresh independent labels emerging that have a similar outlook to dancefloor music. I thought it would be a good moment to discuss some labels to watch out for on your music shopping travels in the year ahead. Some of these imprints are multi-format, some for download and some stay vinyl-only, but all seem committed to quality over quantity, and supporting new talent and great art.
First up is Swamp 81. Headed up by Loefah, best known as one third of DMZ, this relatively new label has already put out some massive tunes including Rama's ‘Work Them’ and Addison Groove's ‘Footcrab’. The label has developed its own sound and identity with only a few releases so far, summed up by Pinch's switch out of the 140 groove into the slower tempos with a tune called ‘Croydon House’. Swamp 81 is a name with historical connotations too; a quick Google and you will find out where the inspiration is from. Loefah has releases lined up from Zed Bias, Boddika, Falty DL and the ‘Sicko Cell’ tune that at the time of writing is still (trying to stay) shrouded in mystery. I recommend catching up on the releases so far — some feel like they will be collectors’ items soon enough.
Secondly, we introduce the Doldrums record label, run by producer Joy Orbison and friends. So far, impressive releases from Braiden (‘The Alps’) and Joy himself (‘Ladywell’) come highly recommended. With the vinyl-only ethos to start, great mastering, very good pressings and superb design, bringing Will Bankhead in on the sleeve work, the whole attention to detail is reminiscent of the Mo’ Wax era in the mid to late ‘90s. I get the feeling there won't be loads of releases on this label this year, but the ones that emerge will be worth buying on sight.
Another logo you should always look out for is Eglo. The brainchild of Floating Points and Alexander Nut, who co-own the label, Eglo is the primary outlet for all of Sam ‘Floating Points’ Shepard's musical creations, but is also home to the incredible vocal talent of Fatima and the future-retro London synth maestro, Funkineven. Essential releases so far include ‘People's Potential’ and ‘Kleer’, both of which were big tunes for me on the radio and also at my club. Watch out for forthcoming releases from Mizz Beats and Arp 101, too.
Absolute essential mention for the unstoppable Night Slugs record label, run by Bok Bok and L-Vis. In 2010 they really cemented their reputation and developed a strong identity, not least by unleashing Lil Silva's ‘Pulse Vs Flex’ on the world. Having pretty much introduced me to the sounds of Girl Unit and Jam City, as well as introducing names like Velour, Night Slugs seems to be committed not just to releasing dancefloor bangers but also for discovering and supporting new producers, too. If you haven’t already been buying Night Slugs beats then I'm sure you will be stumbling across some in the very near future.
Finally, Hotflush Recordings out of Berlin. Run by Paul Rose, aka Scuba, who is originally from London, the label in the past 18 months has put out the massive ‘Hyph Mngo’ 12", a superb LP by Mount Kimbie and of course Scuba's own ‘Triangulation’ album. Hotflush is by no means as 'new' a label as the others mentioned here, running since 2003. But as an indie label, it really seems to have flourished and made the most noise in the last two years and therefore it deserves to go in here. Watch out for Hotflush releases on your travels.
With more established younger labels like Hyperdub, who keep smashing it every year, and older and larger independents like Warp, the only record company in the world to be able to say they have the likes of Flying Lotus and Brian Eno releasing music on the same label, it feels like the importance of the independent record label is back.
After a changing five-to-10 year period for the music industry as a whole, especially within record-buying DJ culture where we have all been adjusting, it feels like music and the industry is emerging from a decade of awkward adolescence into a new model where the old values of credible music, good product, quality over quantity and attention to detail still count.
It’s important we recognise the good taste and hard work that goes into creating these sort of imprints and repay it by... buying the tunes and playing them. Remember when you used to do that?
On my Radio 1 show this year I will be featuring a label profile once a month. I'll be talking to the label heads, curators and DJs, and most crucially previewing some of the forthcoming releases. Join me 2-4 am every Wednesday night/Thursday morning on BBC Radio 1 or on the iPlayer anytime at bbc.co.uk/radio1.
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