2011 has come and is almost gone. Musically, it was a personal journey into the world of bedroom producers and fly by night memes. In this current age of rapid fire trending, musical genres seem to sprout up and whither before one even gets the chance to catch on to them. It has become more than a full time job to keep up. So what does this say about the current stage of sonic conception? It is easy to assume that the music being created is as transient as the trends surrounding them. As more artists emerge on filesharing sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, the role of the independent label seems to be taking a back step to personal expression and promotion.
Are labels even necessary? Label heads like Ben Versluis and Carl Clandestine think so. In 2011, both men embarked on organizing the seemingly rag-tag group of artists hell bent on using spam tactics to profligate their own personal brand of cacophony. Although the two seem almost polar opposites when it comes to preferences, their philosophy is the same. Simply stated, their aim is to put out music that they like, an age old strategy that seems forgotten in an era that strives to choose sides. Take a look at both label’s catalogs; you will see a wide array of musical styles, cemented in a common bond of independent expression.
Founded in San Francisco, in Fall of 2010, Tundra Dubs Records has been committed to promoting what it feels is the best of the new breed of darker, beat oriented artists. As label head, Ben Versluis, has a knack for picking artists who mange to balance experimentation with a steady flow of bass and dynamics. Releasing artists such as GuMMy†Be▲R!, M△S▴C△RA , Funerals and I†† early on, he managed to not only capitalize on the trend of Witch House, but also help break it from its stigma as a useless internet sensation. One listen to any of his releases, and all questions are erased.
This isn’t just a 4Chan troll meme, there is some serious and seriously great music coming out of what many still consider an inside joke. Recent releases have been far more varied, featuring oddball outside synth purists Os Ovni, the dark experimental electronics of Textbeak and an upcoming release from cold wave artists Soft Riot. Still, he also manages to continue promoting the best of the beast, with dark and dragged releases by artists like Strange Powers and ∆AIMON. In Summer 2012 Ben plans on launching a sublabel called This is Not Your Home which focuses on the far-left side of techno and house.
Across the continent and over the Atlantic is Clan Destine Records. Pulling from roughly the same pool of artists as Tundra, Clan Destine manages to showcase an entirely different universe. Dwelling from a love of obscure and off kilter music, a blend of minimal electronics, crust punk, southern rap and black metal, Carl Clandestine runs his label as a showcase of the most outre and obtrusive artists emerging. With a range of artists that are as varied as the label heads tastes, Clan Destine is far from a scene label.
In fact, it is more of a scene in itself. There are no written manifestos, but there is an obvious and strict philosophy that runs through the labels releases. Issued on a variety of medium, but with a distinct love for cassette culture, Clan Destine has never ceased to surprise with the quality and variety of its output. This past year has seen releases from some of the greatest artists emerging at the moment, including the exquisite NEO-PI R by Ela Orleans (who now runs the label with Carl) which may be the album of the year.
Another shining example was the split lp between Portand synth punks ASSS and noisy Sheffield style electronics purveyors Meddicine. In fairness of full disclosure, I have released a few things on this label, but it is my respect for what the label represents that has led me to choose them as a vehicle to release my own decrepit work. Both Tundra and Clan Destine excel due to the integrity of what they do. Ben and Carl are not only men with good taste, but also people with a vision to see that all this is more than just a fly by night fashion that will be forgotten when next years’ line rolls in.- Nattymari