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Tri Angle Records / Robin Carolan / Exclusive Mix

We speak to the head honcho of the prolific label about the future of his signings including Balam Acab and How to Dress Well, alongside a new mix from Haxan Cloak

PhotographyHuw NesbittTextKin Woo

If you were to take all the releases that label, Tri Angle have put out to date and play them end to end you’d probably end up dazed and disorientated, like coming off a bad acid trip. But you’d also be witness to some of the most forward-thinking and boundary-pushing music made in recent years. Founded in 2010 by 25-year old Robin Carolan of the influential freak-music blog 20jazzfunkgreats, the label boasts some of the most leftfield artists working today from the R&B lullabies of How To Dress Well to Balam Acab’s debut album of otherworldly instrumental beauty and Clams Casino’s gorgeously melted hip hop instrumentals.

I think I had a relatively clear vision for the label pretty early on and that definitely helped me wrap my head around everything.

This year will be a litmus test for the nascent label who are putting on their first live showcase in February, fittingly kicking off at the infamous Berghain nightclub in Berlin (it lands in London at a secret warehouse gig on the weekend) featuring Holy Other, Balam Acab, Haxan Cloak and oOoOO. To celebrate, we spoke to  Carolan and asked his newest signing, The Haxan Cloak, to make us an exclusive mix.

Dazed Digital: How did you find the transition (from running a blog) to running a label? A huge learning curve?
Robin Carolan: It’s been a massive learning curve. Before founding the label, I’d never had any experience of working at one, so I was really stepping blindly into the dark when things first started up. I thought I would have a chance to learn at a slower pace, but when I announced the label the buzz seemed to kick in almost immediately and it didn't take very long for things to accelerate around me, so I essentially had to keep up with the pace and figure things out very quickly. A lot of the time it's just about having common sense and knowing what is and isn't right for me and my artists. I think I had a relatively clear vision for the label pretty early on and that definitely helped me wrap my head around everything.

DD: Although the acts might be disparate, there is a very coherent vision behind the label that extends right to the visuals and artwork. Was this inspired by labels you loved in the past?
Robin Carolan: Definitely. I was always a fan of labels that seemed to exist within their own world. The ones that appeared to know what they were about, like 4AD in the 80s, Warp, Ghost Box, Rephlex, etc. I think very carefully about everything I release, almost as if I’m trying to create a narrative for the label with each release.

In regards to the artwork, growing up I was fascinated by album covers that sort of weirded me out because I didn't know what they meant or what the artist was trying to convey; the kind of artwork that really made you think about what you were looking at. I’ve tried to create that with the Tri Angle releases, in the sense that most of the covers have been quite abstract. I like the idea that a lot of the artwork looks like it could be about nothing and everything if that makes any sense. 

DD: Was it frustrating being lumped with the “drag/ witch house” movement? How would you describe the Tri Angle aesthetic – is it still evolving?
Robin Carolan: If I’m being honest I didn't love being lumped in with that movement simply because I never understood it, but I also know that these things happen. Artists and labels often don't ask to be labeled as one thing in particular, but it's unpreventable to a degree because we don't have so much control over how we're written about. I definitely mellowed about it at some point though. I guess we all decided not to engage with it, and I think it's slowly gone away. It still comes up but with far less frequency.

The aesthetic of the label is always evolving in my mind, but I sometimes find it hard to explain to people how I think it's evolving because it's something that's quite personal to me and I don't ultimately feel the need to explain every creative decision I make. I just want to keep exposing people to sounds they may not have already heard. That’s my main agenda. This year I’ll be releasing something that's not actually slow!

DD: Ayshay uses quasi-mystical chants in her work whereas Clams Casino make hip-hop based instrumentals. What ties the artists that you pick for the label?
Robin Carolan: Again it's something I tend to shy away from explaining. In my head it all makes perfect sense, but I have a hard time putting into words how I feel about certain things. I also want to feel like people can make their own sense of it.

DD: From the spare, graphic logo to the dark and complex electronic music you put out, there might be a preconceived notion of yourself as a tortured individual. What might people be surprised to learn about you?
Robin Carolan: I won’t deny that the label definitely reflects a side of my character. I can be very intense and lost in my own world and I’d admit to being a bit of a deep thinker, but I wouldn't say I was a cypher of doom or anything like that. I’m generally a bit socially awkward and shy with people I’m meeting for the first time, unless I’m working, in which case I usually take control of situations and assert myself, but when I’m with my friends I tend to drink and have fun like everyone else. At weekends I seem to spend most of my time dancing to songs by the Saturdays, usually in a terrible, cheesy gay club just because they always play the best 'going out' music. In those moments I don't feel like a particularly tortured individual. Or maybe I’m just in denial!

DD: The Haxan Cloak is one of your new signings – what was exciting about the music he’s making?
Robin Carolan: I was impressed by how consuming his music was. It’s not the kind of music you can put on in the background and ignore. It’s desolate, yet incredibly beautiful, and no matter where I am or what time I’m listening to it, as soon as I press play it transports me to far more mystical place. I just sensed he was a special artist and as amazing as his music is now I think he's only just begun to explore the extent of his talents. People should definitely expect something different from him this year as he'll taking his sound to a whole other level. 

DD: What are you excited about for 2012 and what are your future plans for the label?
Robin Carolan: New material by oOoOO and Holy Other will be emerging soonish so I’m excited to share that with people. In terms of future plans I just want the label to go from strength to strength. 

1 - Actress - Futureproofing
2 - Aethenor - I
3 - Bjork - Storm (Haxan Cloak edit)
4 - Burial - Street Halo
5 - Death Grips - Beware
6 - Mika Vainio - Silences traverses des mondes et des anges
7 - Temple - grime outtake
8 - Zomby - Things Fall apart
9 - Rayographs - My Critical Mind (Haxan Cloak Remix)
10 - Debian Blak - TISW (Haxan Cloak Remix)
11 - Sunn O))) - Aghartha