Consumers Research & Development

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The right and left coasts may regard the Midwest as a cattle parking lot, but the curatorial lasso of Chicago's Consumers Research and Development label cuts a wide swathe through this foolish chimera, rounding up an eclectic aural assemblage of the Midwest's finest audio individualists.

Formed in 2001 by Jodi Williams and Geoffrey Wilson, the label–very much a sum of its divergent parts–boasts adventurous electronic material by Alder and Elius, String Theory, Miles Tilmann and The Timeout Drawer, usually lusciously packaged on colored vinyl and limited edition CD. "Factory, Skam, Schematic, Matador, Mo' Wax–these were labels blurring the lines, combining art and music in a way that it didn't matter what [they released], you'd pick it up," says avid record collector Wilson. "Nobody had a problem with Mo' Wax putting out Money Mark, no one cared when Matador put out Large Professor."

And yet, people seem to really care when Consumers puts out a record, whether it's Signaldrift's twisted electronic dancefloor elegies, The Timeout Drawer's ethereal instrumental epics or Single Minded Pros' sturdy underground hip-hop. The imprint's blindingly effective manifesto is best summed up with the recently released Hazardous Materials compilation, which features back catalog treasures buttressed by new tracks and remixes, all packaged with that distinctive Consumers designer sheen.

"One of the first labels for me was Def Jam, and if you look at [them], basically the label is the logo," explains Wilson. "The label reflects the aesthetic." Similarly, Consumers defines its aesthetic by working local designers and artists, including Safety Orange Type, Marshall Preheim and Someoddpilot, an outfit run by The Timeout Drawer drummer Christopher Eichenseer. "All this is because of a domino action," says Wilson. "It's definitely a small town scene here with a good community. This person leads to that person..." And that person leads right to you.