Labels We Love: Modern Love
Every day this month we're rolling out a new feature on XLR8R's Labels We Love of 2009. Whether it's the eye-catching aesthetics of Type or the model-for-the-future approach of Interdependent Media, these cut-making selections of the best in underground electronic, indie, hip-hop, and experimental imprints punch way above their weight. Feast your eyes on the features and then download many of the labels' related podcasts here.
The crown jewel of Boomkat’s in-house label stable gets us to the church on time.
There’s an evolutionary psycho-geographic groove thing going on in Manchester, where the act of turning inspiration into sonic art has a habit of rippling around the world again and again. Maybe it’s because the bedrock of manufacturing and labor is firmly planted in this historically grimy place, which became the first industrialized city in Europe in the 1850s. Maybe it’s because of its cool northern British soul vibe. Whatever it is, there is some kind of wonderful shape-shifting atmospheric density going on, enabling a varied group of artists and kingmakers like The Buzzcocks, Joy Division/New Order, Mark E. Smith and Morrissey, Ian Brown and A Guy Called Gerald, Noel and Liam Gallagher, Tony Wilson and Paul Morley (spotlighting only a fraction of the pop-cultural trailblazers from the region; curiosity seekers are advised to dig for more) to communicate their distinctive musical passions to the rest of the planet.
Even without knowing all that, the Modern Love label would no doubt still have impact, especially among fans of deliciously deep dub-techno. But to see it as a module inside a greater regional creative machine based in Manchester makes the project all the more compelling. Artists like Andy Stott, MLZ, Pendle Coven, and Claro Intelecto—all scorching hot on the down low since the latter’s (real name: Mark Stewart) Warehouse Sessions 12s began dropping in 2006—form a tight family that has its roots in the record shop Pelicanneck. That business opened in 1998 in Afflecks Palace, described by founder Shlom Sviri as “a sort of indoor arts, crafts, and clothes market that was pretty central to the whole ‘Madchester’ thing a few years earlier, but which had turned quite unfashionably hippie by the time we ended up there.”
The same year, Sviri also co-founded City Centre Offices with chum Thaddi Herrmann, though Sviri is no longer associated with the Berlin-based label. Pelicanneck eventually morphed into Boomkat, an online record store that is as much curatorial as it is commercial. You want to know who is producing of-the-moment, forward-looking dubs in Bristol or Leeds, Bucharest or St. Petersburg? The editors of the web-based newsletter will steer you there with unflinching authority. The shop and its sister website, 14tracks.com, and labels—Modern Love, Daphne, and the mysterious U.K. rave/jungle imprint Hate—are all gorgeously packaged in a user-friendly, dance-ready aesthetic.
Modern Love’s roster includes German acid-house vet Move D and Echospace (Michigan’s Rod Modell and Chicago’s Steve Hitchell), whose 2007 release, The Coldest Season, is perhaps the best full-length exemplar of the elegant, celestial, punchy-in-the-midrange and low-and-dirty in the sub-bass Modern Love sound we, umm, love. Monika Herodotou at Kabegami and Radu Prepeleac at Punct are responsible for the label’s simple and clean eye-grabbing graphics in warm shades of yellow, green, and blue on grainy grayscale backgrounds, while Hate’s anonymously submitted productions (an archive to be released on CD is in the works) are branded in hardcore high-contrast black and white. The word “stunning” comes to mind to summarize it all.
“Modern Love grew out of basically having these producers hang out at our shop and getting to hear a lot of material I really liked,” Sviri says. “With very few exceptions the label has always really focused on music made by friends… It’s funny how often people refer to Manchester’s legacy as a great music city in respect to the influence it exerts on new music, but really, for us, the key thing about the location is that most of us live within 30 minutes of each other. So there’s a constant thread of communication and exchange of ideas.”
Claro Intelecto’s Chadderton EP is out soon on Modern Love.