Imprints: Central Processing Unit

Founder Chris Smith's label carries on Sheffield's proud electro heritage.

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Dec 14 2015, 3:36pm

Imprints brings you regular profiles of the most exciting record labels the world over, with input from the movers and shakers who contribute to their local electronic music communities.

Even as producers like Jamie xx and Disclosure ride high on that retro rave wave, there's something altogether radical about Central Processing Unit's throwback electro agenda. An 808 bump both unites and drives the Sheffield, UK label's releases, running the gamut from Drexciyan explorations and bleep revivals to deep electro breaks and TB-303 acid baths. With a steady release schedule, CPU's careful curation showcases emerging global talents like Automatic Tasty and Microlith alongside known quantities DMX Krew and Mrs Jynx.

Label founder Chris Smith spoke to THUMP this month to give us the rundown on Central Processing Unit.

Name: Central Processing Unit (CPU Records)
Vibe: Electro & Techno
Founded: 2012
Location: Sheffield, UK
Upcoming releases: Morphology EP, Mikron EP & LP, Cygnus EP
Artists-to-watch: Cygnus

THUMP: How did your label come about? What was the inspiration?

Chris Smith: I spent my youth hanging out at the Warp Records shop in Sheffield during the 90s, and have DJ'd around Sheffield for many years. I built a network of fans and regular listeners of an internet radio station I used to run called Sheffield Bleep. During that time I saw there was a lot of talent that wasn't getting the attention it deserved. I wanted to start a label for years but didn't have the platform to convince artists to let me put out their music.

A chance meeting with Humanstudio in 2012 led to a conversation about starting a label and they agreed to design the and logo for the label. We were throwing ideas around for a while before the name came about, then the concept of binary catalogue numbers quickly followed. I loved it. I was after something collectable, like the early purple Warp sleeves. On CPU, the artist gets a binary catalogue number to distinguish their release, much to the confusion of my distributor, as it's difficult to tell the releases apart.

How would you describe your label's sound?
Predominantly electro, braindance and IDM. Someone said to me, "Is there an 808 on every CPU release?" It wouldn't surprise me if there was.

Read More On THUMP: Imprints: Last Night On Earth

Obviously, Sheffield has a pretty incredible history in electronic music, what with Warp and the original bleep scene. Where do you see CPU in that tradition?
I'm really proud to be from Sheffield and love its musical heritage. Warp and the local clubbing scene had a profound influence on me during my formative years. CPU will hopefully carry on the tradition of forward thinking music, albeit more focused as it's a small operation.

Some of your early releases came from known quantities in electronic music, specifically DMX Krew and Mrs. Jynx. How did you connect with these artists and secure them for releases?
Facebook has made it easy to find and engage with artists. After the first few releases, I had a really solid pitch to the more well-known artists. Some really dug what I was doing with the look and feel so they were happy to sign.

Your release schedule has been really impressive. I count something like nine releases just this year. How do you keep up this kind of output?
It's not easy, especially with vinyl turnaround time scales bordering on ridiculous. There's been a lot of organic growth with CPU artists recommending other artists. I've also been lucky a lot of artists who I personally like have asked to release on CPU making the release queue quite healthy.

Notably, you're putting out stuff from a lot of lesser known new producers. How are you discovering these artists?
Mainly through SoundCloud and existing CPU artist's recommendations. For example, Dave Monolith pointed me in the direction of Microlith, a new artist from Malta who I would probably have never found myself.

So, what's the next release coming out? What can we expect it to sound like?
Morphology are returning for their second release on CPU and it will be the first release of 2016. Four tracks of their signature dystopian electro funk.

Beyond that, what are your plans for the label's future?
The 8-bit binary catalogue numbers allow for 256 possible releases, which at the current rate is about another 20 years! I hope we get there and I hope people keep enjoying the output.

Central Processing Unit is on Facebook // Twitter // SoundCloud

Gary is on Twitter.

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