Some labels make waves before their first releases, while others put out heavily-rinsed records for years without getting much press at all. New artists are constantly carving out their own physical and digital spaces and creating new ways of producing and sharing work, often without getting the coverage or material support they deserve. Regardless of how many records they've released or when they were founded, it's important to highlight labels that are setting a new standard and fucking up the scene in their own ways.
The role of music publications here, then, should be to consistently cover the work of people who are marginalized by the culture of contemporary dance music, in a manner that avoids tokenization and allocates resources effectively. Of course, this list (any list) is by no means comprehensive, and no single article can solve a large-scale problem. But in the meantime, we can use the platforms we have to shout out the people we appreciate and admire.
Lara Rix-Martin (previously of Heterotic and presently of Meemo Comma) started Objects Limited in 2016 with the release of multidisciplinary Eva Bowan’s ‘Ringwoodite’, a record of mystical ambient pop. Since then, Rix-Martin has demonstrated herself to be a remarkable A&R, choosing artists based on principle, rather than adhering to strict genre guidelines. This refreshing approach automatically lends itself to a label fostered around ideas of connection and interpersonal relationships, rather than particular branding. Other standout releases from the Brighton imprint include Ziúr’s excellent second EP ‘Deeform’, Jana Rush’s compelling footwork album ‘Pariah’, and an upcoming EP from modern club experimentalist RUI HO.
New York Trax first captured my attention in November, with an EP of wild, pummeling techno from producer Liquid Asset. But it’s been around for a minute – promoter and curator Nicole Brenecki launched the label two years ago with a record from local techno pioneer Richard Hinge, and has since gone on to feature emerging talent as well as pay homage to various scene legends. With releases from The Horrorist and Physical Therapy coming up too, it’s clear that New York Trax is passionate about showcasing the city’s unique techno legacy.
Started just over a year ago, Peach Discs (led by expert groove selector Shanti Celeste) has already made a name for itself in tapping talent that’s about to break. Though the Bristol label only has four releases under its belt, each one absolutely goes off – there’s a very comprehensive vision that’s being fleshed out through these records. A favorite of Lena Willikens and Call Super, Leeds producer Chekov dropped a dynamic debut 12” via Peach Discs last summer to critical acclaim. Toronto up-and-comer Ciel’s first release, made up of bright electro and house motifs, came out in the fall, simultaneously highlighting the city’s vibrant scene and establishing a transatlantic connection.
This Lisbon-based label definitely is one to watch. Started just last September by Inês Coutinho, who co-founded Radio Quântica and produces as Violet, Naive aims to be a platform for the city’s ever-evolving sound, with an open, optimistic outlook. The imprint’s first release, Violet’s ‘Togetherness’ EP, is a good indicator of what’s to come – she beautifully combines Chicago house, Portuguese techno, and UK rave motifs for a record that’ll keep dancers on the floor past dawn. Her upcoming collaboration with fellow Lisbon producer BLEID continues the upbeat, jungle-influenced mood. And this is only the label’s beginning – we can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.
Jayda G and DJ Fett Burger initially started Freakout Cult as a party, following a chance meeting in Berlin in 2014, and by spring 2015 they had launched a label under the same name. The well-respected, vinyl-only label has been a fantastic incubator for Jayda’s work in particular – the second release was her debut solo EP, ‘Jaydaisms’, that put the spotlight on her brand of dreamy house, and collaborations with Laylay and Alexa Dash demonstrate the versatility of her production abilities. With releases from fellow Vancouverite LNS and the Berlin-based SJ Tequilla among others, Freakout Cult never disappoints.
Brooklyn and Miami DJ and scene stalwart Gooddroid started Loveless Records in 2010, which releases records that run the entire length of the bass music spectrum. In the summer of 2016, however, she decided to launch a sub-label, Materia, dedicated to the more experimental corners of local club music. And there’s no shortage of talent to be found in New York, as evidenced by ‘Roaches’, the second EP of complex, futuristic hip hop by producer Celestial Trax and rapper Rozay Labeija. And even when the mood changes, the underlying creative energy stays the same – the label’s most recent release, Bronx artist Bassbear’s ‘Under Pressure’, is one exhilarating high-BPM club cut after another.
Since first breaking onto the scene into 2011, Madam X has shown herself to be a powerhouse on the decks as well as a leader in Manchester and London’s underground club scenes. Previously of Murkage and Big People Music, she started her own label, Kaizen, in summer 2014 with the release of a comp that featured Dark0 and the Swing Ting fam right at the time those scenes really started gaining widespread traction. With an ear for cutting-edge, distinctly UK sounds, Kaizen puts out some of the best current bass, techno and dubstep from the likes of Walton, Biome, and Silas & Snare.
Shanghai’s Genome collective is headed up by Tavi Lee (who runs the Genome 6.66 Mbp label, and makes most of the artwork for releases and events) and Kilo Vee (who runs the Genome Party). Established in mid 2016, the label aims to spread the local scene to the rest of the world, and vice versa, via music, clothing, videos, parties, and online spaces. This emphasis on aesthetics runs throughout Genome 6.66 Mbp’s releases both visually and sonically, in their disparate club compositions and distinctive album art. They’ve put out the work of international producers such as Organ Tapes, RUI HO, and 7038634357, as well as a recent compilation featuring local artists Hyph11e, Dirty K, RVE, Khemist and Charity.
Jessica Smurphy has been a vital force in Mexico City’s music scene for over a decade, but it was really through her Smurphy / Upgrayedd Smurphy aliases that she began to explore production. A part of the NAAFI collective, she started her own “creative archive” R-CH-V in order to release music completely on her own terms; the label acts exclusively as a home for records by Smurphy and musician Alex Gray (d/p/i, deep magic). Highlights include the first Upgrayedd Smurphy album, ‘HYPNOSYS’, a group of glitchy compositions that dropped last April, as well as the atmospheric, breakbeat-studded ‘Sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you’ from last September.
Founded in 2013 and born out of the Good Kids collective, New York City’s Doom Dab is a truly glorious example of what can happen when you and all your friends embody the DIY spirit and help each other thrive. Cofounded by Hannah Daly (aka HD) and Alberto Arensberg (aka AHARAW), the multi-genre label has released records by XHOSA, Jay Boogie, Thurmon Greene, K Rizz, and Stryker Matthews, among others, stressing a local ethos while still giving space to artists outside of the city. Recent standouts include NAR’s discordant, percussive ‘Jujeh’ EP, and rapper Dick Van Dick’s striking debut LP, ‘Chosen Trade’.
Nina Posner is Mixmag's bass editor and a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter