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One Per Customer

This was the year of the little guy, with new vinyl labels riding a magic carpet of internet hype and limited supply. Here are the five imprints everyone should be watching.

I work in the dance section of a large record store in Hollywood. It's one of the few places in Los Angeles where the twists and turns of today's underground house and techno are followed with neurotic, scholarly detail. In our admittedly-sequestered world, 2013 was defined by young and disparate voices entering the vinyl discourse. Every couple weeks, a white label 12" by a relatively unknown artist would fly out off the shelves, propelled by a magic carpet of internet hype and limited supply.


These records were otherworldly missives, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it nature of the objects matching the furtive characteristics of the sounds contained within. The accelerated speed of discovery allowed new artists instant reputations and gigs while stirring nerdy hand-wringing over inflated resale prices. Take DJ Sotofett Feat. Madteo's "There's Gotta Be A Way" and Terekke's "YYYYYYYYYY" for example. Both of these records sold out almost immediately and are currently fetching prices of up to $67 on Discogs. Still, it was a year for the little guy, with small-press and artist-run imprints taking a gamble that the listening public was willing to back.

A few short years ago, Richie Hawtin was taking potshots at DJs lugging record bags down wintry Berlin streets. But is vinyl back in a real way? For the rising DJ/producer Marea Vierge-Noire (AKA The Black Madonna), who also books talent at Chicago's venerable Smart Bar, vinyl never really went away. "We prefer to play records," she says. "The emphasis has always been on vinyl in Chicago. All of us are big collectors, all of us are big diggers, to the degree that I can speak for myself and my contemporaries. Amongst Smart Bar residents, the emphasis has shifted to vinyl."

For Vierge-Noire, vinyl patronage keeps her friends employed and the sacred space of the record store relevant. "Part of it is about defending record stores," she says. "Our friends work there." Without a doubt, vinyl-only labels are a labor of love, and Marea's values clearly reflect the PLUR principles of the 90s Midwestern rave scene where she cut her teeth. When I ask her if there is any money to be made on small-press vinyl records in 2013 she responds, "Maybe if you buy the records and sell them on Discogs. For the most part we're just breaking even over here."


Heading down I-94 East to Detroit, FXHE recording artist, DJ and proprietor of FIT Distribution (which THUMP profiled earlier this year) Aaron "Fit" Siegel puts the proliferation of new labels into perspective. "Metroplex laid the groundwork for all this," says Siegel. "We all have Juan [Atkins] to thank… It's not so much about the labels, it's still about the music. People want to buy good music, therefore good records will create a larger audience."

Aaron "Fit" Siegel of FIT Records

Siegel has worked closely with the iconoclastic Underground Resistance and watched Omar S build up FXHE while running his own FIT Sound imprint and providing a launchpad for Detroit labels through FIT Distribution. Detroit's legendary cottage industry approach has FIT playing a long game, not flash-in-the pan hype. "For producers, making records should always be about the music—not a career or touring. Records (created for those purposes) are forgotten about," Siegel continues. "I want to hear some timeless shit, and I know that every track is not going to end up a classic, but at the very least a producer needs to make their very best attempt at capturing an original idea, emotion or thought from within themselves. Otherwise, what's the point? You can't fool the true listeners and the real dancers."

The five labels profiled below possess a similar aversion to faking the funk. Time will tell whether future output lives up to the groundswell of hype. But for now, here are the labels that are drawing trainspotters and cunning scalpers alike with their collectors-worthy bait, and are carving their own lane while the rest of the dance music world is closely watching.



Like Black Dice and other long-running experimental acts, the White Material crew was formed in the creative residue of the Rhode Island School of Design. Started in late 2012 as an outlet for the hardware-driven experiments of a small group of a friends, the label earned an early cosign from Berlin's legendary Hardwax store, and embraced its "workingman's techno" aesthetic. More benchmarks of their steady rise: Poland's Unsound Festival signed the crew up for a label showcase just two releases in, Resident Advisor recently anointed the label with a Label of the Month feature, and label artist Galcher Lustwerk ended up on an NPR year-end list alongside Disclosure, Joy Orbison and Todd Terje.

Key tracks:

DJ Richard - "Leech 2"

Galcher - "Lustwerk Leisure"


Launched to accommodate the no-frills prolificacy of Delroy Edwards and his friends, the brand new imprint, launched in October 2013, quickly became a fascinating canvas for a new and gritty house aesthetic. Delroy launched the label with a 90s rap freestyle/police radio-laden podcast, went all Mike Jones-y by listing a disconnected phone number with the label's logo, and sold 1,000 copies of the bracing Untitled in a matter of days. (They're now going for about $40 second-hand.)

Key Tracks:

Delroy - "Edwards Untitled"


Greek imprint Nous Disques was conceived by George Black after he scored a program at an Athens planetarium. These unpretentious origins led to the stunning debut by fellow Grecians Miltiades, whose 12" of deep, tripping house was snatched up by a lucky few before Discogs scalpers took over. The second release, by Atlanta analog houser Moon B (under the Vaib-R alias) got it right as well, mixing nostalgic chords with addictive motorik rhythms.


Key tracks: Vaib-R - "About Freedom (Route 8 Daytime Mix)"


2013 saw restless London producer Funkinevil launch his Apron imprint in earnest. The artist formally known as Stephen Julien made his smash-and-grab mission perfectly clear, summing up Apron as a home for "raw electronic music" on the label's Facebook and reassuring listeners that their speakers weren't broken on the label for Apron 001. The label also introduced the world to corrosive young Miami producer Greg Beato, whose debut EP succeeded in shredding the 4/4 rulebook. In a nod to bespoke collectability, Julien launched the label in 2012/2013 with extremely scarce, "candy-wrapped" 12-inches containing confectionery funk edits.

Key tracks: Funkineven - "Dreams"

Greg Beato - "3"


The thread running through all these small presses' success is a "no new friends" approach to A&R. Such was the case with Blank Slate, who launched their label from the unlikely HQ of Ithaca, New York. Blank Slate's first release was a compilation introducing the world to four totally unknown artists. The label kept the blinders on to winning effect, going on to release full EPs by Arnaldo and Mirko along with atmospheric house cuts by label co-founder Rene Audiard. An equal emphasis on mind and body has made Blank Slate one of the hottest imprints for those who know.

Key tracks: North Lake - "Griswold"

Matt is more often than not sleep-deprived. Keep up on his clandestine affairs here -