A Closer Listen: Best Labels of 2017

We have been readers of A Closer Listen for many years and the site has had a hand in shaping the listening taste that aids the curation of Whitelabrecs. So we were thrilled to see this small label has been named one of A Closer Listen’s favourite labels of 2017, alongside top US label Constellation and Indonesia’s Tandem Tapes.


“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.” Richard Allen, A Closer Listen


To check out A Closer Listen’s full post, click the image above or HERE

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The Prairie Lines on Irregular Crates


Bill of The Prairie Lines spent some time putting together a mix of his favourite ever tracks for Irregular Crates‘ ‘Grounding Sounds‘ series to coincide with his Whitelabrecs release ‘Eyes Down Slowdown‘.

Bill’s show includes selections from the likes of Grouper, Nils Frahm, Tim Hecker, Labradford and William Basinski to name but a few. You can check out the mix by hitting play above, or you can click HERE to visit the dedicated page on Irregular Crates.

TRACKLISTING:

William Basinski – Disintegration Loops 3 (Excerpt) [2003]
Grouper – Dragging The Streets [2011]
Delia Derbyshire & Barry Bermange – Invention for Radio No.1: The Dreams (Exerpt) [2014]
Perfume Genius – Floating Spit [2012]
Nils Frahm – Them [2015]
Beat Happening – Run Down the Stairs [1985]
The Microphones – Tonight There’ll be Clouds [1999]
Julianna Barwick – Keep up the Good Work [2011]
Tim Hecker – Black Refraction [2013]
Colleen – The Happy Sea [2005]
Baths – Rain Smell [2010]
Labradford – Streamlining [1995]
Rachel’s – Water From the Same Source [2003]
How To Dress Well – Suicide Dream [2010]
Low – Breaker [2007]

Drifting, Almost Falling Interview

Harry Towell our label curator was fired a few questions by the Drifting, Almost Falling blog this month, focusing on all things Whitelabrecs. It’s been a while since we’ve done an interview so it’s always nice to check in, talk about how things have been going lately and maybe hint at the odd plan for the future.

You can listen read the interview on the Drifting, Almost Falling site by clicking HERE and perhaps read some of the other articles and musical recommendations whilst you’re at it?

Alternatively, the full interview is included below…

DAF: You record under the Spheruleus name (as well as Magnofon) and run the Tesselate, Audio Gourmet and Warehouse Decay labels while also writing for the Irregular Crates Blog. What was the impetus in starting another label? Are you a workaholic? Are Tesselate and Warehouse Decay still active?

HTI am indeed a workaholic. I have no idea how I find the time. But then I don’t truly see music as work so it’s not hard. With all the labels and pseudonyms, I guess like many artists, I have a habit of starting something new! Some creators end things by closing doors neatly behind them when they intend to open a new one. Others, like me, tend to leave doors open and chop and change between projects. Audio Gourmet for instance could have stopped a couple of years back when I was working more on Tesselate and Warehouse Decay, but I am glad I left the door ajar , as this year I’ve been putting out free EP’s again and really enjoyed it, with some great support.

Currently Warehouse Decay is inactive and I’ve no immediate plans to get it going again. I’ve always loved House music and wanted to be a part of the scene and use my experience running Ambient labels to make a go of it. Unfortunately it proved a tough nut to crack and apart from a few friends who supported it loyally, I felt pretty alone. It’s interesting that Ambient music fans, artists, labels etc have all taken different paths to stumble on the genre, many from Post Rock, Metal or IDM, many from the New Age or ethnic Ambient genres too. It seems that Deep House is not such a conventional route and so I didn’t have as many interested contacts or a connected audience.

Tessellate is not fully closed, despite being inactive of late. I always feel it could be another window if I felt like splashing the cash on some more luxurious packaging but the trouble is the risk as to whether I’d make enough back to justify a bigger release.

I launched Whitelabrecs after an idea which was the blueprint for the packaging and I recalled how well Under The Spire did as a label when starting out, when they released things in simple rubber stamped cardboard packages. I had also recently been reunited with my record collection and was feeling very nostalgic about the days when I’d visit local record stores, purchasing white label vinyl as I got to grips with DJing. Often records would have nothing other than a sticker or rubber stamp, sometimes even just an etching on the black plastic space near the label. So I did the usual, set up a website, a Bandcamp page and started asking around to see if anyone would want to release on this new label of mine. Thankfully there was a lot of interest and here we are today!

DAF: How important is the visual identity to the label? Compared to the Tesselate releases, Whitelabrec’s releases have the hand-made aesthetic. Was it important for the label to have an aesthetic to encompass a concept?

HTFor Whitelabrecs this has become crucially important – it was the idea behind the label and I’ll keep it going for as long as I can. I think this is also why I slowed down with Tessellate, as the packaging is different for pretty much every release and the label never truly found an identity. When the idea struck for Whitelabrecs, I truly connected with it and wanted this to be the plan for all releases on the label. I knew there’d be the odd detour but for general releases, I decided that it was very important to follow the pattern this time so I could build an identity.

DAF: Is the label genre bound or do the releases float over various genres?

HT: The label isn’t genre-bound as it will be rooted in my own music taste which is incredibly varied. So far releases have been generally within the modern Ambient scene, perhaps encompassing most of the sub-genres from floatier drone stuff, to glitch electronics and onto Modern Classical, Folk and even Jazz. This has generally gone down well with listeners. I’m open to pushing the boundaries in the future and taking one or two detours so watch this space! But generally, I’m looking at releasing introspective, thought-provoking music and can’t see that changing. In other words, I’m not likely to rekindle my failed dreams from Warehouse Decay by releasing dancefloor-ready Tech House!

DAF: A glance at the catalog reveals a mixture of familiar names with those that are new (or side projects). How important is it to you to expose people to new artists? Does this become a factor when deciding what to release?

HTI have always worked with both newer names to the scene and more established artists and in the Whitelabrecs catalog there is a blend. I don’t dwell too much on whether an artist has released before, how successful their other work was or how many Instagram followers they have. We’ve only got 50 copies to make and sell, of which the artist gets 10. So I only have to worry about those 40 copies and they tend to shift regardless of how well established an artist is. Sure, it certainly helps to have some familiar names –releases by Tsone, Steve Pacheco and Guy Gelem took little in the way of a push! I’m also delighted to give some other artists their first taste of releasing a physical album however, such as Sea Trials, Ludmila and Ben McElroy. I remember how exciting this felt when I first held a copy of ‘Frozen Quarters’ which I released as Spheruleus on Under The Spire.

Looking at the future of the label there are no plans to just attract well-known artists now it’s a bit more established. We have demos queued up until WLR043 and in that queue we’ve got some well-known artists as well as new comers so the blend will continue.

DAF: You’ve recently done a cassette release and the 20 cdr box set. What other plans do you have for the future? Do you plan quite far in advance?

HTThere’ll likely be another box set for those that don’t mind waiting a year or two to play catch up. I did this so that there’s a way for people new to the label to not miss out completely and also, because I was getting asked about out of print releases. I’ve always said I wouldn’t reissue anything individually, but since box set orders are always likely to be low due to the price tag, I took the decision to do this just so there is a way for new collectors to join in the fun.
I enjoyed making the mix tape too and was surprised at the level of interest having never worked with this format before. I’ll certainly be doing more mix tape releases in the future and perhaps get into the local fields and continue the photography theme for the artwork.

There are no other clear ideas just yet as I’m currently just getting my head down and working my way through the discography queue. I think another compilation could be in order at some point but there’s no overall rush on that. There will be new ideas though – with both the box set and the tape, the ideas struck me suddenly and it doesn’t take me long to pull it all together once ideas such as these set in.

With schedule, I’ll take in demos and add them to the back of the queue once approved. I’ll leave them until I get nearer – perhaps drop in with the artist and have a chat now and again. Some artists are very keen and understandably so, so we organise things well in advance so everything’s ready. Other artists are happy to leave it until the few weeks in the run up to the release and wait for me to get back in touch.

There is a lot to do for each release but we’ve followed a similar formula since the beginning, so I’m quite used to it now, 28 releases in – so the work isn’t too daunting. I guess burning the CDs is the most time-consuming thing but that gives me a chance to work on other things, listen to music and relax bit too.

Whitelabrecs interview on Irregular Crates

Alt profile

Recently we were invited for an interview/feature on the Irregular Crates blog where we covered a few questions on all things related to this small label. You can check out the blog and the post by clicking HERE or the image above. Alternatively, you can read on…

IRREGULAR CRATES:
This year saw the launch of a new label called Whitelabrecs, a project helmed by Harry Towell who also runs occasional imprint Tessellate Recordings and the long standing netlabel Audio Gourmet. We’ve been meaning to post up the releases but due to general laziness, haven’t got round to it so here in one big post, we have a label feature.

Whitelabrecs began from Harry’s love for vinyl records and memories from his DJing days, when some new releases would be made available on white labels, bootlegs or test pressings. There was no set artwork as such, just a rubber stamped ink print on the label somewhere, sometimes missing some letters or accidentally pressed twice. Harry had begun to amass quite a few quality demos with Tessellate Recordings and due to slow sales he was struggling to justify releasing 100 copies. So he decided to take his vinyl theme and make everything hand-made in tiny runs of 50 CDrs. The CDrs themselves always look just like vinyl and are rubber stamped with the label name and the artist/album title. These are housed inside a coloured sleeve and transparent plastic outer sleeve, with a polaroid image of the cover artwork included inside the packaging.

The label has already knocked out 13 releases since January so that alone is a testament to how things are running! The label is curated with Harry’s own eclectic taste in music in mind, with no set rules other than the packaging. So far we’ve had work released from familiar names such as Tsone, Spheruleus and Guy Gelem, as well as lesser known or emerging artists with genres covering pure Ambient drone, modern classical and folk. Below we caught up with Harry as well as provide a run down of our thoughts on each record so far…”

INTERVIEW:
IC: Hi Harry, how have you felt the label has gone in its first year? Everything running to plan?
HT: I’ve been very pleased with the success of the label – I’ve had overwhelming interest from artists which has gone beyond my expectations, as I wondered whether such a low run would put people off. Each release has been received well with nearly everything having sold out which is just brilliant, as things can just keep on going as I have so much planned for the future. I’ve not (touch wood) had any hiccups so far – I think this is mainly down to the fact that I tell the artists, I can’t work to deadlines. Each release happens when it happens and so far despite being very busy outside of music, I’ve been able to keep things moving at pace.

IC: What are your plans for the coming months?
HT: I can’t be certain of the timescales, but we’ve got lots lined up – I don’t like to reveal too much as I kind of like our releases to emerge suddenly. We don’t do a lot of work building a buzz – there’s only 50 copies each time and thankfully, they sell each time. One thing I am excited to announce is that we’ll be doing our first compilation album soon – hopefully by the end of the year. Most tracks are in and I’ve drafted in a couple of friends to bolster the line-up – all will be revealed soon. The packaging may adopt a slightly different style and it may also be made more widely available (i.e, more copies!)

IC: Each album is hand-made – how long does it take to make a run of releases?
HT: This is the most time consuming aspect of running Whitelabrecs – I have to hand-burn each CDr and then rubber stamp it, allow the ink time to dry and then assemble the packaging. It takes a while but burning discs gives me chance to work on other things, listen to some music as I do it – so it is enjoyable still, if repetitive! I tend to split the burning of the discs between 2-3 evenings and do the rubber stamping after each night.

IC: What about the artwork on the label/site – what can you tell us about this?
HT: On the website there are currently three images – these have all been taken when on holiday and are of landscapes. So at the moment, we have the Atlas mountains from my trip to Marrakesh, Morocco, a photo taken in a boat off the Island of Capri, Italy and then a shot of Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples. I want to keep this theme going on the website – every time I go on holiday, I’ll come back with an image or two from my travels that can be another backdrop on the website. Each of the images randomises every time you visit so in time (if I’m lucky enough to keep travelling) you’ll have a sort of postcard collection, which would be quite cool.
As for release artwork, I work with a couple of photographers from Slovakia – Peter Nejedly and Milan Ocenas – both have been very helpful and forthcoming with working with the label, and it is their work that has helped build the image and feel to the label. Otherwise, some of the cover artwork has been provided by the artists themselves which is fine as long as it fits in with the general aesthetic of the label. We’ve got plans to work with other visual artists in the future, so watch this space…

IC: Is there anyone else that you work with behind the scenes?
HT: Not as such as it is mainly a one man band putting all of this together. My wife deserves a mention as she puts up with it all and then also, I’m very lucky to be in touch with Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams) who lives down the road to me – he has helped wherever needed with mastering, as that is something I’m unable to do.

IC: Are you finding that the catalog is becoming collectable? How do people stand the best chance to grab a copy before they sell out?
HT: Yes on the whole – there are quite a few loyal followers that more or less buy everything we put out. This means a lot to me to see that people want to get every copy – thankfully I have not had any squabbling from people who have missed out yet! What we do is have a mailing list and then when an album goes live, I send an email out to these people. So to stand the best chance of reserving a copy, you can head to our subscriber page and you’ll hear before it’s announced officially (on the website, social media etc). The other way is to follow Whitelabrecs’ Bandcamp page and Bandcamp will notify you when the release goes live.

IC: Where do you see the future of the label heading?
HT: I’m certainly open to change, but right now we’ve got a formula that is working which means I’m able to keep going. I’d love to diversify the genres of music released even further – anyone that knows me is aware of my diverse taste in music that can incorporate anything from the obvious Ambient/Drone/Electro Acoustic, onto Modern Classical and Folk but I’m also very much into Deep House, Jazz, Funk, Trip Hop and experimental electronica. So who knows, we could look more to these styles in the future too. As for other ideas, I don’t have too many at the moment as we’ve got something that works right now and the label hasn’t been going for that long. I guess it’s a case of making some friends, building an identity and letting things grow from there. The next big change will likely be the compilation album…

IC: You don’t seem to be hitting the digital market hard – why’s that?
HT: When I started, I wanted to set the price for a digital copy quite high – almost as much as the CD. I want the CDs to go first as otherwise the label would start to lose money and I’d have to stop. The other thing is that I also want this to be an area where the artist can start to promote their work themselves and hopefully make a little money too. I want to keep each release pretty small and to go under the radar from the label’s point of view. Artists are always welcome to re-release their work on a bigger label, so I don’t want to really push the digital market which could put a bigger label off doing a repress.

IC: Lastly, tell us about the most recent release by Jazzdefector?
HT: I’ve been talking to Sebastian for ages now and we were originally going to put out some of his work on Tessellate Recordings. We also had in mind an Audio Gourmet EP and we got back in touch this year and made that happen in the form of ‘Miniatures’. Sebastian tends to improvise and record his guitar compositions and so has rather a lot of material – so we agreed to assemble an album of some of these. So I worked with him to select the tracks and we feel they flow beautifully as an album. I really like his sound and I hope our listeners will too.

Sounds Of A Tired City interview

Sounds of a tired city profile image

Our label boss Harry was recently contacted by Swedish blog Sounds Of A Tired City to put together a mix under his artist name Spheruleus. Naturally he obliged and made a vinyl-only mix, blending Modern Classical and Ambient/Drone records using harmonic mixing techniques. Since Whitelabrecs is inspired by Harry’s love for vinyl, this was a fitting opportunity to chat to SOATC about Whitelabrecs, vinyl and Harry’s other commitments such as the Audio Gourmet netlabel.

You can listen to the mix by clicking HERE or the images above, which features tracks from artists such as Richard Skelton, Peter Broderick and Greg Haines.

SOATCmix

You can read the full interview that was featured below or visit Sounds Of A Tired City site by clicking HERE

SOATC: If we look at your music-related activities, we gotta say you must be a rather busy man! You’ve been prolific with Spheruleus and you’ve been running the Audio Gourmet netlabel for six years now. What can you tell us about these projects?

HT: Indeed, I have no idea how I manage sometimes as I have two jobs too! What I’ve done more recently is slow down a little, take my time with work as Spheruleus and the labels too. Followers of Audio Gourmet will notice that releases are very much few and far between these days, but we’re still going – slowly! I think a lot of artists, labels etc. get to a stage when everyday life ‘gets in the way’ or becomes more important and then they decide the logical thing to do is to just stop. I’ve just made a decision not to be rushed, pushed to deadlines or stress about any of it – as this whole thing is supposed to be enjoyable at the end of the day. So I tend to self-release a lot of my own work these days, or with labels I know well so that I can go at my own pace.

I also suffer from a condition that many artists have – I’m not sure of its name, but it’s basically when you are working on a project and decide to start a new project… so I have 4 labels and a few recording aliases as well as a blog.

I think the main thing that motivates me is making music available to the world, without worrying about what will ‘sell’. This gives me a chance to work with new or unknown artists and if I can move them one step further forward, then the labels are a success.

SOATC: You have the soul of a curator. What are you looking for when you release or write about other people’s music? There is so much to discover constantly, what is that makes something for you more special, different? How can something stand out these days?

HT: For me, when curating it’s best to keep an open mind and listen to lots of different styles of music. Whenever I receive a demo I’ll listen to it with positive thoughts – I tell myself, I want to like this record. If I just can’t, then I have to leave it there. I also try to listen to a record in different contexts: I’ll listen in the morning on the way to work in the car or I’ll listen last thing at night – it’s amazing how much the listening environment can influence on how music is received. For Whitelabrecs, we’ll specialise mainly in ‘Ambient music’ I guess, but I’m more interested in ‘sound art’ – how people express themselves with sound.

The great thing with that, is that this allows for artists who want to do something different – maybe experiment with beats, something dark, a little noise or minimalism. So it’s all about giving new ideas a chance and then packaging them into something that listeners will enjoy or ‘get’. I believe that the sound is only really 80% of the story – good mastering, track titles, artwork and a write up helps bring everything together and can enhance a listener’s experience overall. When I write a press release, I’ll ask the artist a load of questions to get them thinking about their work, their ideas and how they approached the work. Then I’ll put together all the most relevant points. I hate this part of releasing a record but it’s so important

SOATC: You’ve recently launched your new label called whitelabrecs. What do we have to know about it and what are your plans with it?

HT: Yes, yet another project! I guess Whitelabrecs is the label I’ve always wanted to run – it is influenced by my love for vinyl, there are no set rules although the packaging takes a steady format: vinyl effect CDrs inside a vinyl style sleeve, rubber-stamped text and cover artwork as a polaroid photographic print. Everything is hand-stamped, burnt by hand so again, it takes a bit of time but to keep it all manageable I’ve capped the editions at 50 copies for each release. That way, there’s a bit of a collectible impulse from our listeners which means that each release should sell out quickly, meaning I can keep on going! I’ve got loads of demos confirmed and ready to go – I think we’re up to the 15th release behind the scenes, which is fantastic. Genre-wise, I’ve not settled on any particular style and plan to just keep evolving it – who knows what sounds we’ll put out. At the moment everything is pretty much within the Ambient scene with modern classical, drone, field recordings, glitch, folk and electroacoustic music being represented. I’d love to put out some jazz, post-rock, dub techno or trip hop someday! Who knows where we’ll go.

 

SOATC: Could you tell us a bit about the selection of tracks in your mix?

HT: I have quite a large vinyl collection covering all different styles of experimental music and I basically just pulled out my ‘Ambient’ section and selected records that were based around modern classical, drone or electroacoustic elements. I mixed the records using my Technics 1210 turntables through 10 year old styli that are as good as useless – they are worn and tired, so there’s lots of extra crackle and lo-fi texture in the mix that wouldn’t be on there otherwise. I’ve recently purchased some new needles and this mix is the last thing I’ve recorded with the old needles.

When buying vinyl, I only really buy albums that I feel are going to stand the test of time – records I’ll still want to hear time and time again. This is simply down to the sheer price of vinyl these days so I have to choose wisely when buying!

For me, Peter Broderick’s ‘Float’, Richard Skelton’s ‘Marking Time’ and Christoph Berg’s ‘Paraphrases’ are absolutely phenomenal records and these are perfect examples of the ‘quality control’ methods I go through when buying vinyl.

TRACKLIST

01 Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer – Cloudline
02 Willamette – At Length And Dead Horse
03 Field Rotation – Swayed By The Wind (Awakening)
04 Goldmund – Getting Lighter
05 Wil Bolton – Blackpoint
06 Scissors and Sellotape – It’s A Long Slog
07 Jared Smyth – Burnout
08 Simon Bainton – Porlock
09 Willamette – Images D’une Longueur de Cheveux
10 Peter Broderick – Another Glacier
11 Greg Haines & Wouter Van Veldhoven – On Waiting
12 Lowered – Lattitude 33 Degrees North, Longitude 40 Degrees West
13 Richard Skelton – Heys
14 Olan Mill – Amber Balanced
15 From The Mouth Of The Sun – Color Loss
16 Christoph Berg – Quiet Times At The Library