ACL 2017 ~ The Year’s Best Labels

Montreal’s Constellation Records returns to the top spot for a third time, having previously been honored in 2013 and 2015.  Coming up strong are two new labels, each in their sophomore seasons: Indonesia’s Tandem Tapes and the U.K.’s Whitelabrecs.

By this point, it’s fair to say that Constellation is our favorite label.  Many of us come from a post-rock background and are still influenced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and its numerous offshoots.  Amazingly, not only has the grandaddy band returned, but the label’s expanded roster includes many acts only tangentially related to the venerable collective.

 

Those familiar with our submissions process are aware that chances of review on our site are one in seven ~ so the fact that we reviewed seven of nine Constellation releases this year demonstrates just how good they are (and one of the two we didn’t review was vocal!).  In addition, four of these made at least one of our year-end charts, although our readers will have to wait a week to discover which ones.  The remarkable consistency of the label is its key to success, but they don’t play it safe; they continue to push the envelope when it comes to new music and new artists.

Another distinctive feature of the label’s roster is its political awareness.  It’s not just protest; many of the artists are engaged in active efforts to better the earth and to educate its people to the real threats around us, from environmental degradation to political demagoguery.  Whether on stage or off, these artists are making visible contributions to worthy causes, and we’re more than happy to salute their efforts.  Happy 20th Anniversary to the label ~ wishing you many more!

 

Tandem Tapes
We reviewed eight Tandem Tapes in 2017, albeit most of them in a single article, thanks to new reviewer Todd B. Gruel.  Todd was nearly overwhelmed, because every time he was nearly finished with the article, the label released another tape!  Overall, the Indonesian label released 20 tapes this year, bringing their total to 31.  Their consistent release schedule is a boon, as is their split artist format: 30 split tapes involving 60 artists, plus one 50-track compilation, For Headspace, with proceeds going to a worthy cause.  We’re impressed that a new label has been able to keep up the pace to such a degree, and we love the attention to underground artists and sounds.  Here’s everything released during the second half of the year: listen and love!

 

Whitelabrecs
The U.K.’s Harry Towell is no stranger to the ambient realm.  As Spheruleus, he’s unleashed many gorgeous albums into the world; as the head of Audio Gourmet, he continues to release Tea Break EPs; and in early 2016, he established Whitelabrecs as yet another outlet for beautiful music.  The fun part about the label is that the physical releases all look like 45s.  Each comes with a polaroid print as well.  With sounds ranging from the sedate to the drone-induced, the artists on the roster offer a seemingly endless supply of static, loops and lovely melodies, the perfect panacea for a fast-paced world.  The label released 16 albums in 2017, bringing their total to 32.  The latest dozen are found below.

Richard Allen

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