If you’re reading XLR8R you probably already own ’nuff albums on XL or Domino, Def Jux and Lex artists have repeatedly rocked your headphones, and you know what’s coming out on Minus or Stones Throw before we do. So this year–our seventh time loving on labels–we focus on labels we’ve (mostly) never quizzed before. For the next six weeks, we'll catch up with brash new dancefloor igniters Fool’s Gold and Dress 2 Sweat, techno champions Mobilee and Traum, and the dubstep damage squad: Hyperdub, Tectonic, Hot Flush. We'll revel in cosmic disco from Ghent and New Jersey, and applaud local pride from Los Angeles to Dublin. And since some of the labels we love are more obscure than, say, Sub Pop or DFA, we'll feature a new artist each week from one of the selected labels. This week, we talk to the wasteland-bred wizards of beautiful noise, Indian Jewlery. Vivian Host and Ken Taylor
View more photos here.
London’s disco-not-disco diggers return with a vengeance.
Founders: Quinton Scott and Sean Langford
Location: East London, U.K., and Berlin (at !K7 Records HQ)
Best-known artists: Grandmaster Flash, August Darnell (a.k.a. Kid Creole), and various compilation series including Disco Not Disco and Nigeria 70.
Funny story: We licensed a track from a U.S. radio DJ called Shad O’Shea. He wrote regular chatty letters to us on massive A3 sheets from his border collie, complete with dog photo letterhead. He signed the contract with a paw print.
Favorite label: Probably ECM
Happy-hour spot: I [Quinton] work at home so, sadly, the local Esso service station for a coffee or outside my front door chatting to neighbors.
Label mascot: Next door’s moody cat often wanders in when there’s music on. It likes Afrobeat, not too keen on disco.
Biggest disaster: I’d say New Year’s Eve at The Rocket in North London, 2002, about 600 capacity. Ten people showed up, we closed the main room and did a DIY party in the small side bar. Witnessed vague foot shuffling at midnight during Chicago’s “Street Player” before throwing in the towel.
Upcoming:Calypsoul 70, a compilation of rare Caribbean soul and calypso fusion, a new DJ-led series digging out original electro and new wave called Disconnection, and the new Grandmaster Flash studio album.
We Are Free
A Baltimore indie shows much promise for 2009.
Founders: Jason Foster and Sir James Winnie
Location: Baltimore, MD
Best-known artists: Yeasayer, Indian Jewelry, and Ponytail. That is all of them!
Funny story: Molly from Ponytail climbed up on stage with two of the Hanson brothers at this “jam session” at last year’s SXSW. She was clanging two beer bottles together and she got so excited that she smashed them to pieces. With a look of fear, a wrangler pulled her from the stage, which is hilarious because Molly is like a cuddly koala bear. That night was really a blast and what really set the tone for We Are Free.
Favorite label: UP Records out of Seattle really inspired me to get into the very expensive hobby of record labeling.
Happy-hour spot: I highly recommend Dizzy Issie’s, the best bar in Baltimore (run by the amazing Elaine), or Rocket to Venus.
Label mascot: Modulok
Biggest disaster: We don’t have disasters, just learning experiences. That was pretty hippie, huh? The label was a struggle in the beginning because I was working 60-plus hours a week on a television show in order to fund it.
Upcoming: Vinyl releases from both Yeasayer and Ponytail plus trying to re-release the first Genesis album, From Genesis to Revelation, here in the States.
Italians Do It Better
Noise label Troubleman Unlimited bows to its founder’s Italo-disco obsession.
Founder: Mike Simonetti and Johnny Jewel
Location: Bayonne, NJ and Portland, OR
Best-known artists: Glass Candy, Chromatics, Farah
Funny story: We recently went to see Ironman together on a day off in Brighton, U.K. That’s not funny, but the fact that the movie was so underwhelming was–and we paid nine pounds to see it (plus snacks). $18 U.S.!
Favorite labels: American Tapes and Hospital Productions
Happy-hour spot: My refrigerator, currently in Jersey City. I [Mike] work during happy hour! I believe Johnny does as well.
Label mascot: Milhouse and Marlon
Biggest disaster: We think every step we take is a learning experience. We don’t consider them disasters.
Upcoming: Vinyl versions of After Dark, Nite Drive, and Beat Box, as well as new 12s from Farah, Mirage, Glass Candy, Chromatics, a new compilation, and some other secret projects.
Weird-hop, kicks, and glitches in the club.
Founders: Danyell Jariel and Daddy Kev
Location: Downtown Los Angeles, 5th and Spring, The Nickel.
Best-known artists: edIT, Daedelus, AWOL One
Funny story: Recently, edIT’s laptop was stolen in Denver (not funny). It was recovered a few days later after he paid a $1,000 ransom (not funny either). What’s funny is that the idiot who stole the laptop used Firefox for a few days and didn’t clear the browser cache, so edIT had access to the thief’s Gmail account, which in turn revealed his name, home address, and phone number.
Favorite label: Red Rocket Entertainment
Happy-hour spot: Mt. Washington Compassionate Caregivers. We’re not big drinkers, but we do inhale.
Label mascot: Izzy, our golden brown dachshund/chihuahua pup.
Biggest disaster: That we still press up CDs in 2008.
Upcoming: Reefer (the Nick Thorburn and Daddy Kev super-duo) in September, followed by full-lengths from Nocando and Existereo by the end of the year.
Dress 2 Sweat
A Scottish newcomer pairs European dancefloor upstarts with ghetto bass legends.
Founder: Jack “Jackmaster” Revill
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Best-known artists: Rustie, DJ Deeon, Kazey & Bulldog
Funny story: Me and Rustie were DJing in Zaragoza and the hotel room smelt 100% like burnt pubic hair. It was unreal. Guys can front if they like, but if a dude says he’s never tried burning his pubes… he is lying.
Favorite labels: Warner Brothers (for Prince), Underground Resistance (for Drexciya), and Unruly for the B-more stuff.
Happy-hour spot: All of the Rubadub fam go to Macsorley’s to get drunk almost every night. Glaswegians love beer. One time I dropped a double cheeseburger off of the balcony. It was like the scene from Trainspotting where Begbie throws a pint over the balcony, but much more embarrassing because I had to go pick it up.
Label mascot: STD (a.k.a. Skud the Dug)
Biggest disaster: DJ Ayres got upset because our first release looked a little like one of his releases he did with Ammo Records. That wasn’t good.
Upcoming: Debonair Samir’s Next Level Club EP plus new joints from Kazey & Bulldog and DJ Deeon.
“Houston is a concrete wasteland,” says Brandon Davidson, guitarist for Indian Jewelry. “It’s a good place to be from–as in, not living there anymore.” Davidson is standing with the rest of Indian Jewelry, Erika Thrasher and Tex Kerschen, in the stinking alley outside of San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern after a recent show. They’ve moved around in the past few years, to Los Angeles, Queens, and even the van that Erika and Tex currently call home, but all three are originally from the oil-drenched Texas metropolis.
Free Gold!, Indian Jewelry’s latest album (and its first for Baltimore label We Are Free), almost sounds like the product of a wasteland–ferocious, distorted synths and guitars growl over propulsive, tribal beats–except that it’s threaded with blissful vocals and peaceful moments. “We really are trying to create something beautiful,” says Kerschen, the mustachioed, sort-of-frontman of the group. His confidence in that statement is so unflinching that, even at the band’s noisiest moments, it’s hard not to believe him.
A lot of that beauty comes from the most soft-spoken member of the group, Erika Thrasher, whose vocals seem to float above the sometimes messy, crashing tunes. Her stage presence is equally incongruous; her long, blonde locks undulate meditatively over a table of sequencers and MIDI controllers while Tex and Brandon wield swinging guitars and pound rhythms along with her programmed beats. The tension between these two elements makes for a mesmerizing show and a killer new album.
You never know who might have played on an Indian Jewelry jam–Free Gold! credits the talents of Ronnie Rodriguez, and the band says 20 or so people have played with them at one time or another. When pressed to clear this up, Thrasher coyly says, “Whoever is with us at the time is the core of Indian Jewelry.” Wyatt Williams