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, it's humid house and lascivious polyrhythms from Wagon Repair party animal, The Mole. Vivian Host and Ken Taylor
View more photos here.
Toronto indie kings balance their rockier side with tough electro.
Founders: Chris Taylor and Donald Tarlton
Location: Offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Los Angeles
Best-known artists: Metric, MSTRKRFT, Crystal Castles
Funny story: Our real first signing was O’luge. It’s taken him five years to finish the record but, like fine wine, classic reggae music takes time.
Favorite label: Vice Records
Happy-hour spot: Brazen Head [Toronto]. It’s within crawling distance from the office with huge outdoor patios. Just stay away from the railing and don’t feed the artists!
Label mascot: Kayla, Ben, and Jesse–the interns with superhero powers.
Biggest disaster: From Fiction did an epic record with Steve Albini and we booked the band their first big tour (six weeks). The band broke up as soon as the tour came together due to the drummer’s exit. He said he never expected things to happen for the band and expected to play basement parties for the rest of his life. Death From Above 1979 scored the NIN/Queens of the Stone Age tour and broke up immediately thereafter.
Upcoming: LPs from Terry Lynn, Let’s Go to War, O’luge, and Mother Mother.
The well never runs dry for Berkeley’s high-class rock, pop, and world reissue imprint.
Founder: Filippo Salvadori
Location: Berkeley, CA
Best-known artists: Judee Sill, Cluster, Lee Hazlewood
Funny story: A few years back we were working on a release and sent a proof of the artwork to the artist. We kept the notes from a previous record as a temporary placeholder. The artist wrote back exclaiming that the booklet looked great and the notes were amazing! So we asked him, “Did you play on a bunch of Blue Note releases?” (No.) “Did you produce Herbie Hancock records?” (No.) “Then what the fuck are you talking about? You should have known these notes were not about you!”
Favorite label: Revenant
Happy-hour spot: Mario’s La Fiesta, Berkeley
Label mascot: The Batman piñata.
Biggest disaster: Our website. It is a disaster and it’s not even funny anymore.
Upcoming: Reissues from La Düsseldorf, Anne Briggs, Lee Hazlewood, Gilberto Gil, Scott Walker, Barbara Lynn, and Herbie Hancock.
Berlin techno stalwarts celebrate 10 years of serious beat-making.
Founders: Jacqueline and Riley Reinhold
Location: Cologne, Germany
Best-known artists: Dominik Eulberg, Moonbeam, Super Flu
Funny story: I [Riley] met Dominik in the Kompakt record shop years ago, which I was running at the time. He was blond and because we had a lot of techno tourists I spoke English to him, and he answered only with “Yes” or “No” in English. One week later I had 12 tracks of his on CD and was told he was a German student from Bonn!
Favorite label: Trapez
Happy-hour spot: We are not happy people. We work ’til dawn and go home.
Label mascot: An owl!
Biggest disaster: We had a Traum label night at Berlin’s Berghain/Panoramabar and after my DJ set, I fell down on the stage, ripping down the curtain behind me. I tried to hide what I had done when the technician came… with my leg bleeding like hell.
Upcoming: New Super Flu EP this month, plus a new Dominik Eulberg 12” in September.
Cosmic, Italo, outer space–underground disco lives on!
Founders: Dirk De Ruyck and Stefaan Vandenberghe
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Best-known artists: Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas, Aeroplane, Daniele Baldelli
Funny story: Daniele Baldelli is scared to fly. You need to book a night train to get him over to DJ. He’s 54.
Favorite labels: DFA, Permanent Vacation.
Happy-hour spot: Don’t have one.
Label mascot: It’s Dirk!
Biggest disaster: Lotterboys! They split when the album came out!
Upcoming: Albums from Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas, Low Motion Disco, and Aeroplane.
Founders: Darius Van Arman (Jagjaguwar); Jonathan Cargill, Ben Swanson, Chris Swanson (Secretly Canadian); everybody above plus Phil Waldorf (Dead Oceans).
Location: Bloomington, Indiana (except Phil, who lives in Austin, Texas).
Best-known artists: Antony and the Johnsons, Jens Lekman, Bon Iver
Funny story: An artist, who shall remain nameless, wanted us to buy them an old city bus and cut off the front face of it so they could tote it around the country as the backdrop for their live show.
Favorite labels: Mush, Häpna, El Saturn Records, Hip-O Select
Happy-hour spot: Uncle E’s in Bloomington is a great bar/lounge that is gay-friendly, thus the vibe is great and laid-back. The bar recently relocated but it used to be in a double-wide trailer.
Label mascots: Clarence (cat), Bubba (cat), Kela (cat), The Beast (cat), Dan Burton (cat), and other random neighborhood cats.
Biggest disaster: We had a band send their masters via USPS. When the package arrived at the mastering studio, there were no tapes inside, just a weirdly repackaged envelope and a form letter from USPS saying that “We’re sorry but the parcel was damaged in transit.”
Upcoming: New albums from Lord Dog Bird, Oneida, Okkervil River, David Vandervelde, and The Donkeys.
The Mole’s basslines go where your lover won’t. The Montreal producer born Colin De La Plante can transform an innocuous vocal stutter into an erotic mantra. After The Mole’s legendary 2004 set at MUTEK, people appeared gloriously spent, as if in a post-orgy glow. This was disco more lubricious than Giorgio Moroder’s wildest fantasies, but forged from an experimental-tribal-house perspective that lent it an edgier, more humid aura, its metronomic psychedelia springing from swaggering 4/4s that you hoped would lope indefinitely.
Many producers use similar techniques, but their music isn’t nearly as mesmerizing and sensual. “I know that part of what makes a lot of my tunes interesting for me is the polyrhythms in the loops,” says De La Plante. “They keep changing, and that gives it a psychedelic feeling. The main groove is still four-on-the-floor, but the hooks are moving around on top of that four.
“I suppose the vinyl noise off the samples has something to do with it,” he adds, “especially when there are several room tones from recordings swinging around each other, popping in and out with the samples.”
The Mole’s debut album, As High as the Sky, further hones his lascivious avant-garde disco, as he imbues the 11 tracks with copious amounts of soul, sexily torqued rhythms, and the most hypnotic vocal loops in dance music today. The LP, especially “Knock Twice,” should work wonders in clubs and boudoirs.
De La Plante notes that the best thing about his Vancouver-based Wagon Repair labelmates is that they’re “fellow hosers from the West Coast. The Wagon Repair team… take care of me and let me do my thing,” he says. “They aren’t worried about fashion or sales. [The label’s] for friends, by friends... for the love of music.” Dave Segal