For our fifth Label Spotlight, we catch up with Sven Swift, co-founder of 21st century mind-melting beats label Error Broadcast. Formed in 2008, the label has since become one of the “go-to places” for fresh, exciting “beat music”, bringing together an international roster of artists stretching the boundaries of hip-hop and electronic music.
EB: We started the label just as people were advancing from the sound of traditional Dilla instrumentals and beginning to explore kinds of electronic manipulations. When Shlohmo released the original ‘Shlomoshun’ EP, everybody was totally blown away. Kids went into Ambient and Drone, wrapping textures around their beats like a tight dress. Which is sexy, haha! Since then, beat music has seen many permutations… Dubstep, Ghettotech, Juke, Boogie and always R&B. At EB we try to keep it fresh and experimental.
Error Broadcast is a fine example of just how global and accesible music production has become in the 21st century, showcasing talented young producers from the West coast of the US to Russia.
EB: Every 16 year-old can download software onto his shitty laptop and start making music. There are almost no boundaries when it comes to equipment so it’s no wonder we have artists from all around the world on EB. Hotspots at the moment are Westcoast US, the UK, and in our case, Moscow.
Indeed, their 2011 compilation Fly Russia (Free DL) uncovered Russia’s thriving beat scene and led to further collaborations between EB and artists who appeared on the album such as DZA, Pixelord and OL.
EB: The ‘Fly Russia’ compilation came out in 2010 and made many heads turn. Early in 2010, G5 Music (weblog) approached us to ask if we would potentially be interested in hosting a compilation of Russian beat makers. The tunes they offered us were all top quality, and it was not a big step toward the final ‘Fly Russia’. We are happy now to see that powerful labels have emerged such as G5 Music, Jumble, Hyperboloid Records and how2make, each supporting and strengthening the Russian beat scene.
Error Broadcast has its roots in the netlabel community and continues to champion the idea of free music, offering up a fair amount of fine music online for free download. However, the label has also evolved into a fully fledged imprint with digital, vinyl and even casette releases. Key to the physical copy is the quality of the product, artwork and graphic design:
EB: Selling music nowadays is about creating something collectable, something special. I hope people realise we do not only care about the sound but also the look of all EB releases!
EB: It demands a whole different level of professionalism to deliver good looking, good sounding vinyl records and it is a risky business. Though the market is unpredictable, I have a feeling people want to see you take a risk. And of course, the joy of touching a brand-new 12” disc, fresh from the plant, is a drug!
2012 has already got off to a busy start for the label with the release of B-Ju’s well-received Prozac People EP and the label’s momentum looks set to continue with releases from Monolithium; “super sexy synthesizer music”, OL “sweaty and sick, seriously dangerous” (see his latest mixtape) and their next release from Romanian producer Montgomery Clunk.
EB: Montgomery Clunk is a young cat who appeared on the map in 2010 with his acclaimed ‘Superbus EP’, which is still one of our bestsellers. Since then he has constantly renewed his musical identity (see the output he has been uploading onto Soundcloud recently). He returns on the 9th of April with ‘Mondegreen’, a five-track EP available digital and on 12” vinyl. His beats are just mad, basically like nothing you have heard before.
If you move quickly you can grab the “Superbus EP” for free download until the 16th of April via Error Broadcast’s bandcamp, download new track “Faerie Fire” here (via XLR8R) and watch out for the full release later this week!
Thanks to Sven Swift from Error Broadcast for taking the time to answer our questions and for searching out constantly fresh sounds!
Out Here Records was set up with a simple purpose: to introduce the world to another side of African music. Since its inception, the Munich based label has promoted and showcased urban music scenes from Dakar to Cape Town which, despite being hugely popular in their native countries, have been totally overlooked outside of Africa. We speak to founder and label head Jay Rutledge about the label’s beginnings, localised global sounds, the state of African urban music and what is to come for Out Here.
RnR: Describe the label’s beginnings and its broad vision.
JR: ‘I started out as a journalist travelling a lot and interviewing a lot of musicians. I realised that what was really happening on a local level in the countries I visited was not reflected in the so-called ‘world music’ that reaches Europe. This was especially true in regards to the globally connected genres of Hip-Hop, Reggae, Dancehall and House with local adaptations like Hiplife or Bongo Flava, that are huge in Africa but literally unknown in the rest of the world. I felt that needed to be changed.
I decided to go to Dakar and put together a compilation (‘Africa Raps‘). I bought all the cassettes from stores in the Sandaga market and called people, met the guys I knew, discussed the releases and started sorting out the stuff I liked. There was a real Hip-Hop boom in those days because young people were listening to rap and the elections were coming up. So many tapes were released commenting on what was going on in the country…really interesting, creative stuff .. exciting.’
Three years after Rutledge put out ‘Africa Raps‘, he went on to found his own imprint and Out Here was born. Seven years and over 20 releases later, the label continues to meticulously research, compile and release a huge range of music from across the African continent and beyond encompassing everything from Nigerian Hip-Hop to Tanzanian Bongo Flava, from African Reggae and Dancehall to Angolan/Brazilian fusion.
RnR: How do you research for the releases?
JR: ‘Well, we travel. We normally meet someone and start getting into a style or the music of a certain country. I.e. For our first South Africa compilation ‘Mzansi music’ we worked with Rage.co.za, a group of journalists from Johannesburg. For lagos stori plenti we travelled to Lagos with Ade Bantu from Cologne. We stumble across something / someone and start getting involved.’
When Rutledge stumbled across the overlooked Malian ngoni master Bassekou Kouyate in Bamako, it led to the release of two of the label’s most critically acclaimed albums, ‘Segu Bleu‘ and ‘I Speak Fula‘, introducing a new star of Malian music to the rest of the world.
RnR: How did the Bassekou Kouyate releases come about?
JR: ‘A coincidence. I was in Mali to do an interview with Toumani Diabate. Lucy Duran, an English producer who I had previously met in Istanbul happened to be there as well. We met at a Pizza place in Bamako where Bassekou Kouyate was playing. It was beautiful. Lucy said: ‘Jay, you should record an album with this guy. He really deserves it.’ I answered: ‘if we do it, lets do it together!’ So, five months later we were back in Bamako to record the first album. A year later the album was awarded Best album of the year 2009 by BBC3. Uuups. When I go to Bamako now and see that this record really changed the life not only of Bassekou, a musical genius, but also that of many people around him – I feel really happy.’
Many of Out Here’s more urban releases have focussed on the appropriation and unique evolution of global styles by local scenes such as African Dancehall and Reggae, and the various incarnations of Hip-Hop across Africa.
RnR: How important is the interplay between the local scene and the global influence on contemporary African urban music?
JR: ‘I think global influences often trigger a new scene. At the beginning there is a lot of copying, then the style gets more local, vernacular languages are used and the scene becomes more and more unique. But there are also styles that don’t really localize and hey, they don’t have to. It only becomes problematic for us when what is an obvious imitation to our ears is seen as real cool locally….For example, we wouldn’t release a mainstream oriented R ‘n’ B act from Sambia: it is a boring imitation. A Hip-Hop head from the Cape Flats called Emile once told us that local Hip-Hop died when at a freestyle jam, some guys started rapping in English. They were not good rappers but the other kids were so impressed by them using English (which they themselves could not speak so well) they just went silent.’
RnR: This interaction has been two-way with genres such as Angolan Kuduro and South African Kwaito influencing international producers, DJs and musicians. Do you feel this interplay will continue?
JR: ‘This is a great time for African urban music. There is a lot of attention nowadays. People are really looking for something new and the direction they are looking is Africa. There is still a lot out there that really deserves to be produced in a way that allows its potential to surface.’
(Interview continues after the jump)
Netlabels have always existed on the periphery of the music industry, traditionally by limited to electronic or experimental music. However, over the past few years a number of Latin American netlabels, or artist collectives, have emerged, offering their music for download legally, and covering a whole host of genres and fresh sounds. I have chosen a few of these new labels so go check them out!
Cabeza is an Argentine based netlabel started in 2008 by Lucas Luisao and Martin “negromoreno” Moreno to promote ‘cumbia, dancehall, reggaeton mash ups and any other rhythm that started in the slums and made its way to the dance floor’. They currently have 39 EP-length releases including Diamond Bass, Miss Bolivia, Super Guachin and Daleduro.
Reccomended Release: Cabeza #27 Gux Swadharma
Though not considered as a netlabel by its founders, Chilean label Discos Pegaos, set up by three Santiago based DJs (DeMentira, Vaskular and Motivado), offers all of its releases for free through its site. The label was only set up last year and thus far has three releases available (one from each of the founding members) but if they are anything to go by, the future looks bright. For more info worth reading the in-depth interview with the three DJs in trendy Chilean magazine Extravaganza (in Spanish).
Reccomended Release: Motivado – Bobby Fisher EP
CocoBass is a netlabel based between Venezuela and Mexico which brings together tropical beats from around the world. Releases have featured artists such as Mexico’s Maria y José, Venezuela’s Mr Ioso and a host of remixers from the tropical bass scene. *Noteworthy garish artwork*
Reccomended Release: Prepare to Meet They Broom – La Malilla Seca LP
The multi-platform Latin American music hub that is New Weird Latin America grew out of the netlabel Poni Republic and now brings together Latin American music news, a netlabel, releases by other similar labels, videos and promotes its own club nights/concerts, all based in Mexico DF. Looks set to be a great portal for the alternative music scene in Latin America.
Reccomended Release: Nu-Romantics Compilation
Lepork Records was set up to bring Latin American punk music to a wider audience, the net label has now spread its wings to become a champion of under-recognised punk bands all over the world.
Reccomended Release: 25
Sub Klub Records are another Argentine based outfit who specialise in tropical vibes from Latin America and beyond, in their words: ‘a great piñata that mixes genres like the Tropical Bass, UK Funky, Bassline, Barefoot, Ghetto Tech and all that makes you pop the ear.’ They also organise club nights in Argentina, a radio show and a series of Mixtapes.
Reccomended Release: Relo – Sapol Tropical
Project:Mooncircle, the Berlin based label with a genre mixing global outlook, has teamed uo with Stroke Artfair, offering a sampler to promote the forthcoming thrid edition of the ‘the world’s first and only Urban Art Expo.’ The expo, which takes place in Munich at the end of May, celebrates urban artforms such as street art, tattooing, advertising and graphic design. This free release, available for download from the label’s Bandcamp, is really top quality and shows what the label is all about, including tracks from the likes of Robot Koch, Killing Skills and fLako. Comes highly recommended.
Project: Mooncircle, started in 2002, has become known for its mix of futuristic electronic music encompassing hip-hop, dubstep, electronica, lo-fi, triphop and blurring the lines between them all. The visual is also central to the label’s aesthetic and it has become home to a number of graphic designers from across the world:
“We love bass and we love music from weird parts of the globe.”
For our second label showcase we have Portugal based Enchufada Records. The label was first started as a vehicle to release material by Buraka Som Sistema (the band responsible for introducing Angolan ‘kuduro‘ to a whole new audience), however, the past year has seen the label go from strength to strength. 2010 saw Enchufada transformed into a fully fledged imprint, booking agency and a taste maker for fresh sounds from every corner of the globe.
Contributing to the ever growing ‘global bass’ scene, the label also launched the Hard Ass Sessions (literal translation of ‘ku-duro’), a series of releases which showcase a host of distinct artists’ own unique take on the Angolan rhythm. The series (whose fifth volume was released last week) has featured producers such as Toy Selectah, Dubble Dutch, Wildlife! and Bok Bok, each putting a local spin on a global sound. This series has highlighted the interconnectedness afforded to new artists and scenes from different countries by easy access to internet and the availability of music production software:
“A good example of this is Tuki Love, included on Hard Ass Sessions Vol 5, where Pacheko and Pocz pick up the Tuki (or Raptor House) sounds, and make a kuduro influenced track, mixing both genres together… Angola vs Venezuela vs Portugal, and it all happened over the internet… if this is not the future, then I don’t know what is.”
Pacheko & Pocz – Tuki Love
“It’s all about searching for the rough diamond, that’s where the kick comes from. Commercial music that surrounds us in the western world is not creative enough. We need to get out of our contort zones and search for inspiring things and the internet is the perfect vehicle for this.”
However, the label is cannot be pigeon-holed as simply a kuduro label. Enchufada has also showcased some surprising and exciting acts, as epitomised by the release of native Portuguese four piece PAUS‘s debut E.P. É Uma Água.
“It’s good to set a direction for a label, but then it’s also good to shuffle things and work with artists that make music we love even if they are in a different path. Whats not to love in a band with a siamese drum kit that occupies 50% of their songs with gigantic drum/tom based loops? Expect a lot of curve balls like this in the future…”
So, what next for Enchufada?
“A lot of effort is being spent on Buraka’s upcoming album. We want it to be perfect. Everything is still in the oven… it wont be a dramatic turn over in terms of sound… the album is probably gonna come out in the fall of 2011, but there will be a song/video out before the summer.”
“Apart from that we’re trying to do another volume of the Hard Ass Series and J-Wow (me!) is putting together a compilation. We’re also very excited about the possible release of a Marfox Ep and PAUS’ debut album… hope we can make all this happen. Exciting times!!!”
Thanks to label head/long time contributor J-WOW for the interview.
Welcome to a new mini-feature for the blog where I will be doing a little introduction to some great independent record labels from across the world. To start things off we have the Brooklyn based label Electric Cowbell Records.
The label was started last year (2010) by percussionist Jim Thompson in Brooklyn, initially to record his band The CSC Funk Band. Thompson and his co-band mates decided to take the unusual route of recording and releasing the single in 7 inch 45 vinyl format, inspired by an old article called Anatomy of a Heavy Funk 45 (basically a beginners guide to recording a lo-fi, “rough and heavy” funk vinyl 45s). The label has since gone on to release eleven singles in 45 format and for Thompson there was also a long held, personal inspiration behind the move:
“I have a lifelong obsession with vinyl and the 45 format has always held fetish fascination with me. That a good 45 DJ could pack a little soul party in a little box furthered my appreciation. The passing of John Peel a few years ago and his wife disclosing the contents of his 142-singles box, where he kept his most beloved singles, also struck me in my heart.”