Labels We Love: Leaving Records

Matthewdavid picks 10 releases that help define Leaving Records.
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Operating under a poetical “no genre” philosophy, Leaving Records has played a continuous and vital role as a vanguard tastemaker imprint, while simultaneously acting as an outlet for some of Los Angeles’ most inventive musical minds. From authoritative neck-bending beatscene classics to neoteric and astral new age compositions, the label has achieved a complex and alluring mastery over its DIY aesthetic and sound, allowing it to further amplify its reach with each passing year.

Established and operated by the radiant and genial meditation maverick, Matthew McQueen (a.k.a Matthewdavid), Leaving Records started off as an experimental cassette-based art project between himself and the talented visual artist/ longtime friend, Jesse Moretti, in 2008. Seduced by the early beatscene in LA and the promise of sunny skies and desert landscapes, Matthew moved from Florida to Southern California where he picked up internships at Plug Research and the reputable underground radio station, Dublab. It was there that he befriended some of LA’s most notorious DJs and producers. “My bosses asked if they could share my music with people at Dublab; I was making a weird amalgam of stuff at the time,” explained McQueen during a sit down at the Stones Throw office in Highland Park. “Lots of demos, weird collage tape experiments, freak-folk and hip-hop... I didn’t have any reservations about my music, so they started sharing with artists like Jimmy Tambarello (a.k.a Dntel) and Flying Lotus. They were totally interested and wanted to be friends.”

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Matthew's comprehensive and modern bohemian sound quickly became a trusted source of inspiration for many of the artists that he had formed close relationships with. Over time, Matthewdavid’s sonic escapades served as a notable point of reference for artists such as Ras G, Teebs, Shlohmo, Nosaj Thing, Mono/Poly, Knxwledge, and countless others. Flying Lotus even sampled an early track of McQueen's, titled "Tallahassee Tapes," for the cut “Golden Diva” from his seminal sophomore album Los Angeles. “I was always the weirdo showing them freaky stuff and trying to inspire them to take a more experimental direction with their music,” McQueen explains, “To this day it is a really great position to be in.”

With a constant stream of gifted and undiscovered artists coming through Dublab each passing day, McQueen was given the opportunity to develop what was once an art project into a full-fledged cassette-focused label that would soon establish itself as Los Angeles’ most treasured experimental music brand. “Becoming friends with all those artists through Dublab and discovering music that didn’t really have an outlet... we would simply confront them with an honest approach while allowing them to kind of experiment with us as a label in this art release oriented way.” Working with cassettes was affordable and would lend itself comfortably to McQueen and Moretti’s preferred visual aesthetic, which was in part born out of an appreciation for the experimental noise and punk underground scene back in Tallahassee (where they both went to college).

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The packaging, assembly, and artwork of Leaving Records’ tapes are a vital part of the its alluring nature. While almost all music is available digitally (a huge portion of which can be downloaded for free via Leavingrecords.com), the label has consistently depleted its physical stock due to a high demand for these enticingly tangible and personal pieces of art. In 2013, the label signed a promotional and distribution agreement with the weighty and illustrious Stones Throw Records. Both labels now operate under the same roof and the union has proven to be an exquisitely symbiotic relationship. “It’s a blessing to have Stones Throw as a distribution partner…like a big blessing. The guys in the dungeon help me ship stuff out and Stones Throw helps me make vinyl now which is huge.”

When it comes to Matthewdavid’s current sound, the artist has found solace and resolve in his ineffably serene Matthewdavid’s Mindflight project. Having just released his Trust The Guide and Glide album in late March, under his ethereally-focused Mindflight moniker, he has taken his remedial and tonal music to new heights. The accessible nature of his modern new age sound has captured the imagination of wide-eyed Leaving fans from around the globe. “This is an outlet for open minds,” explains McQueen when discussing his label’s approach to unity and gap-bridging. “I feel like a kid or a person or a music fan who is unrehearsed with experimental, ambient, new age but really is into the more beat scene stuff on Leaving, can discover and can be open to the other genres and styles within the repertoire. If you are a Leaving Records follower, you are kind of signed up for whatever.” 

Leaving Records’ musical output continues to refuse classification, and with well over 100 releases under its belt, the imprint’s extensive discography is as strong as it has ever been. We asked Matthew to pick out 10 releases from Leaving Records that played a crucial role in the development of his music label.

Check out 10 essential releases from Leaving Recordsas chosen by Matthewdavid—by navigating to the following pages.

Artwork above by Jake Jenkins

#10: Matthewdavid - Disk Collection Vol. 1

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This was supposed to be on Brainfeeder but Steve (Flying Lotus) passed on it. He wanted something with more of a beat focus, and that’s when I turned in my album Outlined for Brainfeeder. Disk Collection Vol. 1 is fluid, experimental, tape collage from reel-to-reel on 4-track. I would then take that stuff, sample it digitally, and making these folky ambient pieces. There are some beats in here too, but this was something that I just burned on CDs at home. I painted on this thing and sold it all through Paypal as the first release on Leaving Records. This was the label's soft launch, something very personal that I wanted to just get out there so I could clear my palate.

Download this collection of tracks here.

#9: Durlin Lurt - Him Jemson

Durlin Lurt is very influential to Leaving's hyper-compressed dirty beats sound and aesthetic. A lot of my production, as well as others on Leaving, kind of followed in suite of this sound. He is very much a pioneer and he's a very mysterious, ultra-talented beat maker and drummer. Durlin Lurt is an alias of his, and Him Jemson is a crazy hip-hop record from A to Z of all Jim Henson source material put into songs.

It's like Madlib run through a trash compactor on a bad acid trip, basically. It features Dibiase and a lot of my contemporaries and friends. 26 songs of weird, conceptual, insanely genius hip-hop that defines the ethos of our beats on Leaving. Free download and it still is!

Download Durlin Lurt's Him Jemson album here.

#8: Julia Holter - Tragedy

This is by far one of our most important releases. It's sort of our most serious record because of the global impact that this had. People started turning towards Leaving after this one because Julia Holter has this modern, minimalist, classical composition background, and she was speaking to a lot of different people through different audiences. This is just an incredibly beautiful modern classical album, and its conceptualized from a Greek tragedy.

I think it is Julia’s best album and she is quite famous now. We kept it as a limited edition of only about 600 copies. When the digital came out we started to see the response and it was wildly overwhelming. It's probably our biggest record and the one that started moving things in the right direction.

Check out Julia Holter's Tragedy here.

#7: KNX - Butterskotch

A 10 minute tape with five minute sides. Glenn (Knxwledge) and I had been going back and forth over the internet when he moved to LA from Philly. I brought him into Dublab for a couple of DJ sets and I was around for some early gigs. I’m kind of in this position where I can humbly propose something to an artist I may not think about working with, so I just asked Glenn if he wanted to make a quick little tape. I thought that it would look proper and sound ill, obviously.

I asked him, “Have you done a tape before?” He said, “Nah man, I’ve never done a tape before.” Crazy! Because tapes are like a huge part of Glenn’s upbringing and he samples from tapes all the time. He has his tape collection passed down from his family that he now has. He was stoked on doing a tape—he was like, “How come no one has ever asked me to do a tape before?” We are doing a 7” of this material on Stones Throw that should be coming out in two or three months. This is off digital too but we are also going to do a full digital service as well.

Check out more sounds from Knxwledge here.

#6: Various Artists - Stones Throw & Leaving Records Present: Dual Form

This is a slept-on compilation that initiated the relationship with Stones Throw and Leaving Records. I wanted to make it extremely compelling and adventurous and eclectic and... I did it. For that reason I think it was slept on. Also, it's hard to start off your label or a relationship with a compilation. I learned that in hindsight. Folks like to attach to one artist or human element, or like to establish a relationship of the artist. This is some of my favorite music on Leaving and it's all on one set. Some weird side-project alter ego stuff from artists that are super secret and amazing. I encourage people to visit this one because it is largely overlooked, and the vinyl's artwork is fantastic.

Purchase the vinyl here.

Tracklist:

01. Untitled
02. The Cycilist - Visions
03. Davis - Into The Night
04. Dak - Lions Dream
05. Oscar McClure - Labelle Gross
06. Julia Holter - You & Me Both (Arthur Russell live tribute)
07. Odd Nosdam - Sisters
08. Sun Araw - Right Off
09. Dem Hunger - Glue Suit
10. Run Dmt - Bardo States Dream Walker Version
11. Purple Hay - Trance Farmers
12. Yuk - Atimo
13. SoundWizard BZB & MC Set - Beacon
14. Knxwledge - Sadnis
15. Ssaliva - Conga Dawn
16. Dream Love - Cooked Love, Lady Bomb
17. Dntel - Windy Windy
18. Lapti - Peace
19. Semya - Hawk Wind

#5: Matthewdavid - Mindflight

I made this one for the Future Roots mix series on Dublab after I realized it was mostly original material, since I had just obsessed over it for a month or two. This was right when I found out my wife Diva was pregnant, and I thought, “I gotta do this now because I’m not gonna have time anymore!” I was going insane, so nervous. So, it was for Dublab's mix and thought I should just put it out as a tape, because it is mostly my stuff. 

I did this really cool sort of emboss foil printing thing on cardboard sleeve, and Cameron Stallones (a.k.a Sun Araw) created the typography for it. I did an edition of about 200 of those. I did an edition of about 200 of those and they went pretty quick. Dublab still has some CDs and it was on digital for a while, but I took it down because during that time I realized that I wanted to pursue this direction and define it more. That is where Matthewdavid’s Mindflight came from. This release is maybe a more experimental portrayal of what is now a more defined direction of this music. 

Download an excerpt from Mindflight (LR025)here.

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#4: Ahnnu - World Music

I’m just such a fan of Leland Jackson (a.k.a Ahnuu) and what he was doing. He was following Leaving Records from afar out of Virginia until he moved to LA. He’s kind of a soft-spoken, reserved dude, and I would just kind of see him around. He was always hanging around in the background being chill and being a weirdo. I finally said we have to do something, and he told me, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that.” It was perfect. Last year we did a double-vinyl of his World Music LP—classic sample based Leaving collage music. The release totally stands on its own. His sound is so original and it's turning heads and gaining a following.

Now we are doing his Cakedog stuff which is just straight authentic raw footwork. There is Ahnnu that seeps into the Cakedog which makes it unique, but it's just very subtle nuances of Ahnnu there, so if you are big fan you can hear it. It's kind of this jazzy nuance in the Cakedog, but basically Cakedog is Leland studying and obsessing over the foundation of footwork.

Purchase Ahnnu's World Music by going here.

Having dropped only days ago, you can now download the new Cakedog album Champions by going here.

#3: Mndsgn - Surface Outtakes

This record was originally supposed to be Yawn Zen which was his record for Stones Throw. We decided to do the outtakes on Leaving, because I felt more passionate about the outtakes—they were just more interesting, in my opinion. I’ve been working with Ringo for a few years now and the surface outtakes material really spoke to me. There is one cut on there that I always come back to. It’s a sort of exotica tropical lounge track with an organ and a wood-block drum machine sound. It has a sort of Martin Denny like sound it's from the '50s - '60s that I love. Lots of lo-fi funk and boogie jazz.

Mndsgns' new record is all about the slow, syrupy funk. This was an important one for Leaving and it keeps moving. It’s a total success. This was the start of Ringo's relationship with Stones Throw as well, which has become a beautiful thing and is propelling his profile.

Purchase Surface Outtakes by going here.

#2: Diva - Vibration Fruits

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This is my wife’s tape. When we first met it was around my birthday and she gave me four sets she had made of guided meditation music, with the narrations on the A-Side and the instrumentals on the B-Side. This was one of the four tapes. It's mutated, guided meditation that is very experimental and adventurous. It follows a guided meditation formula in the beginning to get you settled, but once you go on the journey... you go someplace very abstract. That’s what is so alluring about Diva’s guided meditations, because you can really go someplace that breaches the cliché of the genre. She's an incredible electronic musician. The packaging is so cool—it has hand placed rhinestones on it. Once people see this one, they agree that they have never seen anything like it before, and then once they put it on, they agree that they certainly have never heard anything like it either.

Purchase Diva's Vibration Fruits by going here.

#1: Deantoni Parks - Technoself

This is probably the most exciting artist I have ever worked with. Seeing Deantoni Parks' display of energetic and raw talent blows my mind. I get so amped working with him, watching him perform, mixing and mastering his music…. I obsess over it. This guy is a gift to humanity. There are amazing drummers that I have seen, and I get to work with many of them, but he is something else. He’s a machine. The Technoself philosophy is also super relevant with what we are dealing with in our society at large regarding our humanistic relationship with technology. What he is able to do with technology and his physical body together… game over.

Learn more about this artist by checking out our feature Deantoni Parks: "For Me, Rhythm Is The Study Of Time"

Watch a short documentary on Deantoni Parks by going here.

Purchase Technoself by going here.