As digitalization continues to rearrange the genome of music culture, we salute the independent labels that pricked up our ears and got our feet moving in the past 12 months. The big indies such as Warp, XL and 4AD also had great years, but here we wanted to give props to the smaller imprints – the list below encapsulates an international effort at creating original, striking music.
The caffeinated blend of textured hyperactivity from Numbers has proven itself an effective remedy to static culture. In 2013, they released efforts from both SOPHIE and Rustie, two of this year’s most vivacious-sounding artists, while organizing the Pleasure Principle festival – and their furiously popular clubnight is exactly the kind of pro-activeness which pushes a music scene towards indefinite progression.
Don’t think for a second that R&S’s place in this list is merely us respecting our elders. The 1984-formed Belgium imprint has made a point of maintaining a creatively rich output throughout the year with releases that are both retrospective and innovative – from the peacock like vibrancy of Lone’s "Airglow Fires" to one of the finest follow ups of the year from Tessela with "Nancy’s Pantry". The final stamp of brilliance came from new signing DBridge, when the Skeptical collab "Move Way" rattled the windows of contemporary electronic music with it’s aggressive, splintering sound.
NYC's "no bullshit techno" imprint White Material is still very much in its infancy, with it’s catalog yet to reach double figures and having only just passed its first birthday. Having already released arguably the finest deep house record of the year with Galcher Lustwerk’s "Tape 22", DJ Richard and Young Male (co-founders and contributors to the label) are yet to put a foot wrong.
Few others have pushed as many buttons and turned as many interesting sounding knobs as RVNG INTL this year. From the avant garde delight of Steller OM Source’s Joy One Mile to the opiate terror which spews out from the metallic pores of Gardland’s Syndrome Syndrome. Dreamscapes, soundscapes and landscapes can all be found here, interpreted by beat scientists on the fringe of compelling experimentalism.
Having been spawned from the ether of London’s iconic Fabric nightclub late last year, Houndstooth hasn’t once used its origins as an excuse to recline creatively. With Electronic Exploration’s Rob Booth at the helm, releases from Akkord, Call Super and Paul Woolford’s latest outing as Special Request (noted in our Overlooked albums of 2013 poll) have all been met with critical acclaim and packed-out dance floors. Out of the dozen or so records introduced to us so far most have been brilliant, laying the foundation to something very special here.
Brooklyn based imprint L.I.E.S is not afraid of machine-gunning releases seemingly when it pleases. It’s as though this label is a front, a counterfeit operation for founder Ron Morelli to legitimize his habit of digging his fingernails into the grittiest and most interesting crevices of electronic music.
Resonating out from the diverse habitat of NYC comes Jamie Imanian-Friedman’s and Future Brown member J-Cush’s very own Lit City Trax. Thanks to a couple of superb EPs from grime experimenter Visionist, releases from DJ Rashad, Traxman and DJ Spinn (through a multi-volume TEKLIFE series) and a flurry of contemporary club nights, Lit City have steamed through this year with unrelenting force of expression.
Perhaps this was the year that Tri Angle received the recognition it thoroughly deserves – even The New Yorker profiled its twisted, dark beats, in the year that Forest Swords, The Haxan Cloak and Fis each released full lengths of the highest order. This year, thanks to Tri Angle, we’ve felt compellingly rich examples of alternative music squish between our fingers.
The dark side of the moon, as it were, to the general population of electronic music. Permanently shaded discomfort and misery, Blackest Ever Black has been one of the most intriguing London imprints of this past year with brillant releases from MOIN and Tropic of Cancer.
Between Gold Panda, Tycho, Com Truise and Shigeto, Ghostly International has a pretty extensive handle on forward thinking music. The label has always made it known in its motto that its motives are driven by “humanistic aims”, and its three neatly designed sub-divisons (Moodgadget, Avant-Pop and SMM) represent a general consideration and intelligence towards the music it promotes.
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