"home taping is killing music", ran the music industry slogan in the 1980s, when you and everyone you knew regularly swapped mix-tapes and ran from the dinner table to record music directly off the radio. Digital downloading has proved much more successful in killing music as a commodified object, but whether your stance is to 'give up on the object' entirely or to embrace obsolete formats and one-off hand drawn covers, those 80s kids and their aesthetic descendents are still quietly doing other things in their rooms with laptops and guitars, music boxes, old books, stencils, bird feathers, pressed flowers and string.
Despite the expense, the work, and the lack of recognition beyond your immediate circle of peers, non-profit labels continue to thrive as curatorial frameworks for particular, personalised visions of what music is. Take Rural Colours, for example, a label run by Jonathan Lees from Hebden Bridge, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, England. Lees' stated aim is "to create a beautiful handmade product with a personal touch as well as to promote independent musicians." He does this with generosity : with 46 releases to its name since its founding in June 2010, Rural Colours, sitting alongside its sister label Hibernate, is prolific. The two labels work in tandem, with Rural Colours being based around shorter length limited editions of 3" CDs with accompanying free mp3 downloads (making this a 'hybrid label'). The artists on the label are global in origin, with commonalities based around a use of drones, natural sounds, indie-classical, improv, film soundtrack, and folk-inspired sonic elements.
The notion of an EP based label makes perfect sense in an era when there is a lot of information available. But don't believe the received wisdom of the overwhelming info-glut - that you hardly grasp any of it for long enough to really listen - because that's really something that the individual listener has to negotiate via their own listening and collecting habits. Building such strategies of limitation into ways of presenting - and eventually listening - to music is, at the moment, often a matter of tapping into the alternate strategies and formats which have worked well in the past, as we can see in the current resurgence of tape labels. And as Lees says, "A lot of my inspiration comes from the 7" labels that were around during the '90s such as Earworm and Wurlitzer Jukebox. I collected 7" singles for many years and some of my CD releases especially the more limited ones reflect this."
From the Pastoral drift of The Listening Mirror's 'Venice Boxhead', to the vaulted drones and microtonal guitar scribbles of Gareth Davis, Jan Kleefstra and Romke Kleefstra's 'Sielesklyk', this is the first in a series of Avant Gardening shows that will focus on small labels around the world.
some quotes above taken from an interview with label founder Jonathan Lees here
1. Listening Mirror: 'The Leechpool' from ...after the briefest of pauses... (rc002)
2. Listening Mirror: 'Venice Boxhead' from ...after the briefest of pauses... (rc002)
3. Quinn Walker: 'The Weight of Care' from The Weight of Care (rc030)
4. Anna Rose Carter & Pleq: 'A Mirror Sitting' from My Piano is Broken (rc041)
5. Anna Rose Carter & Pleq: 'My Piano is Broken' from My Piano is Broken (rc041)
6. Arkhonia: 'Snow' from Another Dispatch into a World of Multiple Veils (rc033)
7. Beginnings: 'Not Yet Ready for the Day' from Waiting on the Weather (rc001)
8. Beginnings: 'Heritage of Splendor' from Waiting on the Weather (rc001)
9. Gareth Davis / Jan Kleefstra / Romke Kleefstra: 'Sieleslyk' from Sieleslyk (rc031)
10. Dentist: 'Spirals' from Accidents (rc037)
11. Talvihorros: 'Solo Guitar Improvisation II' from Solo Guitar Improvisation II (rc026)
12. Talkingmakesnosense: 'Coruscates' from Coruscates (rc042)
13. Talkingmakesnosense: 'Diffuse' from Coruscates (rc042)
14. Celer: 'Hell Detoured' from Rural Colours Subscription Pack 3 (rc008) (excerpt)
15. D_rradio: 'Summer' from Seasons (rc014)
16. D_rradio: 'Winter' from Seasons (rc014)
17. The Inventors of Aircraft: 'Matter and Vacuum' from The West Country (rc046)
18. The Inventors of Aircraft: 'Calling Out My Goodnights' from The West Country (rc046)