ACL 2018 ~ The Year’s Best Labels

1) Erased Tapes (London)
The third time’s the charm for Erased Tapes, which finally breaks through to #1 on our chart ~ in its anniversary year!  We reviewed five artist albums from the label this year, and all five made one of our year-end charts, which has to be a record of some kind (pun intended).  But Erased Tapes has been making waves since its inception.

 

One of the label’s earliest releases was a flat little CD from Codes in the Clouds, which provided the impression that the label might concentrate on post-rock.  Then Eulogy for Evolution came along and broke it wide open.  From this point on, the London label was a success, swiftly building a roster in the realm of modern composition.  When Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick joined ‘Olafur Arnalds on the roster, the triumvirate was complete.  They would later add Michael Price, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and a surprised yet grateful Lubomyr Melnyk, among others.  But just as Erased Tapes was beginning to get pigeonholed, it started to expand.  Our #1 album last year was Ben Lukas Boysen & Sebastian Plano’s massive video game score to Everything.  The label released a lyrical pop/rock album from Hjaltalin’s Högni, and earlier this year picked up Japanese vocal auteur Hatis Noit.  Electronic act Rival Consoles started to get increased press, despite the fact that the artist had been there all along. And the big, beautiful 2018 compilation 1+1=X featured every artist on the label, many working in collaboration with each other, and served as a showcase of the roster’s diversity.

 

The label isn’t one to rest on its laurels.  Melnyk’s album was just released last week, and a new EP from Nils Frahm is coming in January.  We’ve come to expect quality from Erased Tapes, whose every announcement is greeted with excitement.  The first decade has been spectacular, an encouragement for every fledgling label out there to keep plugging away.  Hard work pays off, and a happy roster yields happy releases.  We’d like to imagine that all of these artists live in one large house, but in reality it just sounds that way.  There’s always a record playing somewhere, and laughter, and dancing.  Happy anniversary once more, and congratulations on being our Label of the Year!

 

We asked the founder of Erased Tapes to recall the first conversation or thought he had about starting the label.  This is what he writes:

Robert Raths:
The first conversation I recall was one with Ryan (Rival Consoles) who reached out to me on MySpace back in late 2006, wondering if Erased Tapes was in fact a record label and if I might be interested in releasing a couple of tracks he had recorded under the project name Aparatec. As a guitarist by trade there was something very playful and genuine about his approach to electronic music that I could instantly relate to. I remember spending hours and hours on night busses with no specific destination, just drifting into the night — immersing myself in this emotive electronic sound world that opened up for me. There was something mysterious and rather magical about it that naturally made me want to share it with as many people as possible to have a chance to experience this too. I guess this was the birth. Looking back I like to think that all of this would not exist if it wasn’t for him.

 

2) Fatcat/130701
Fatcat imprint 130701 picked up a lot of steam this year while laudably releasing more artists by women than by men, including an autumn streak that culminated in a short tour titled, The Sea At The End Of Her String.  By mixing well-known artists with new finds, this Fatcat imprint has continued to go from strength to strength, and we anticipate even bigger things in 2019.  130701 has quickly become a name to trust, as well as one of the few non-telephone numbers we know by heart.  In 2018, they released six albums and one EP, and we covered nearly all of them in some way (sorry Dmitry ~ we still love you!).  Normal chances of review at ACL are one in seven, so these reverse chances are evidence of quality. We’d be hard-pressed to name another label so consistent.

 

3) Karlrecords (Berlin)
It wasn’t until the votes came in that we realized we’d reviewed over half of Karlrecords’ releases this year.  Why hadn’t we noticed this before?  The reason is simple: the roster is so diverse that we didn’t make the connection between Jasmine Guffond and Şeb-i Yelda, or Giulio Aldinucci and Audrey Chen.  The label’s biggest release this year was a 28-track celebration of Karl Marx’s 200th birthday that showcased artists across the roster, plus some guests.  Here we found AGF sharing space with Porya Hatami, a combination one wouldn’t expect to find at a dinner event.  And yet, everyone got along.  This incredibly hot label just had the best year of its existence, and 2019 is already shaping up to be spectacular, with an album from Iranian spike fiddler Saba Alizadeh continuing to demonstrate the breadth of offerings coming our way from Berlin.

Richard Allen

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