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PAN: How Bill Kouligas and his clubland cohorts built an experimental empire

Bill Kouligas charts PAN's history in 10 key releases

  • Words: Jasmine Kent-Smith | Photography: Kasia Zacharko, Nadine Fraczkowski
  • 9 July 2019

PAN, the Berlin-based imprint founded by Bill Kouligas, fuses sound, art, performance and more. Launched over a decade ago, while Kouligas was studying graphics in London, its cross-pollinated approach echoes that of its founder, who was born and raised in Athens. The label released a stream of projects in its early years but underwent a pivotal period of growth in 2012, releasing over a dozen records, Lee Gamble’s ‘Diversions 1994–1996’ and ‘Dutch Tvashar Plumes’ among them. It has continued to evolve and experiment, embracing countless producers, mediums and genres to create some of contemporary electronic music’s most adventurous releases. Take Objekt’s ‘Cocoon Crush’, or Pan Daijing’s ‘Lack’, for example. PAN might be best known for these outings, but it’s extending its reach. ENTOPIA, a new film soundtrack series, “will survey critical works across the spectrum from musical composers on PAN and beyond, commissioned for the worlds of film, art, performance, installation works, theatre, dance and fashion,” says Kouligas.

Label Boss: Bill Kouligas

What makes a PAN record?

We’ve worked with a wide range of different artists from various generations over the years, so there’s no specific criteria besides their ideas, ethos and greater body of work. It’s more about what makes a PAN artist than a PAN record.

What’s been your proudest moment?

We think of all artists equally, with the same effort and energy put into every release, so it’s always a proud moment when you see things work, grow and hopefully connect with people. An exciting moment is during events when you get to engage with different audiences, to see reactions and how all the work is being translated into physical space. It feels meaningful.

How do you stay so consistent?

PAN functions as a sort of artists’ collective, where any artist included comes into conversation with the other people working on the label, as well as the lineage of artistic and musical influences that have created PAN. The focus is evolving every year and reflecting on the rapidly changing cultural and material conditions of today’s art practices. Intuition is still at the core of our approach.

Have you always been eager to explore design, performance and art?

Definitely – presenting contemporary multimedia projects that work across disciplinary boundaries. We have a lot of upcoming releases and events that link music with design, performance, theory, art and tech, and so on. We are seeking to amplify practices that openly react to the changing material and technological framework or paradigm of working as an artist today.

What’s the key to PAN’s longevity?

Blood, sweat and tears.

10 key releases selected by Bill Kouligas

Tujiko Noriko
‘Kuro (OST)’

“The kick-off release in our new soundtrack platform ENTOPIA. It’s the subtle ambient soundtrack to awarded independent arthouse Japanese film Kuro”

Tzusing / M.E.S.H.
‘Split’

“This interdependence-driven new split series reflects on how paired artists mutually rely on each other”

Amnesia Scanner
‘Another Life’

“AS have long been associated with the label. ‘Another Life’ was their debut album, wrapping up an ironic yet considerate criticism of contemporary experiences”

Pan Daijing
‘Lack’

“Fearless and experimental debut by Pan Daijing, where tensity, naivety and full power fall into place”

Errorsmith
‘Superlative Fatigue’

“It took me seven to eight years to get Errorsmith to finish, but it’s as rewarding as we all hoped.

Rashad Becker
‘Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol 1’

“Rashad is probably one of the main reasons this label exists”

Objekt
‘Cocoon Crush’

“A great reminder of how far a club producer can go, reimagining new forms through an almost sonically scientific lens”

Lee Gamble
‘Diversions 1994-1996’

“Foreboding and high-pressure, an almost unearthly endeavour into jungle’s most desolated layers”

Yves Tumor
‘Serpent Music’

“Possibly one of the most accessible releases in the label’s history, it’s a record filled with ambiguous sensuality and soulful dread, suspended in a dream-like state”

Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey
‘Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera’

“This project is a great example of how two artists can respond to each other’s practices and ideas and create a dialogue and expand ideas further”

Tujiko Noriko’s ‘Kuro (OST)’ LP is out now via PAN

Jasmine Kent-Smith is Mixmag's Staff Writer, follow her on Twitter

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