On The Corner with New York's Grittiest Techno Label
Berlin's new favorite techno label is from Brooklyn.
"If you've made it in New York City," the saying goes, "you've made it all over the world." NYC-based record label The Corner will prove the adage true this May as the subject of a showcase label night at Berlin nightclub Berghain, officially "making it" in the international techno scene after three whirlwind years that have included eleven releases, a Boiler Room appearance, and constant touring across the pond.
Combining a raw sound with a New York City streetwise sensibility, the label has gone from an idea DJ Anthony Parasole had while watching Goodfellas to one of the most respected underground techno labels. Its records, released largely vinyl-only, feature techno elites like Marcel Dettmann, Adam X, and Silent Servant. They routinely sell out, fetching steep prices on the collectors market.
Parasole, a longtime DJ, self-proclaimed record nerd, and former buyer for Brooklyn record store Halycon, designed the label to be a throwback to a bygone era in electronic music, before downloading destroyed the old order, when finding the hottest tracks meant hours of digging through the stacks.
"I wanted it to be like the record on the wall at the shop," Parasole says during a recent respite following a European jaunt to Amsterdam and Berlin. "When you saw it on the wall, you knew what that label was, you knew what those sounds were."
Parasole cites classic labels like Strictly Rhythm, Tresor and Sound Factory as inspirations. These are labels that maintain an iconic look and a strong local identity. It's a formula that has allowed The Corner to elbow its way to global attention with a tough look and sound that mirror the cold and repetitive rhythms of life in New York.
Muscular and tattooed, Parasole still has the swagger of a city tradesman raised in South Brooklyn, although time with him immediately reveals a deep passion for the minutiae of running a record label – from production and design to sales and distribution.
Enlisting the help of designer and clubbing buddy, Ryan Ilano, the pair developed the label's imagery and aesthetic around their mutual love of techno, graffiti and gangster movies. Ilano cites graffiti legends COST and REV as influences on his bold, in-your-face design. The early releases featured stark posters of gangland killings and street hustlers, images which matched the gritty rhythms found on the records.
"That was always my mentality on the label aesthetic. It's never skewed from that. It will always have this dark street feel," says Parasole. "That was stuff that was very real in New York. I just wanted to represent that in the music."
"We're never going to run out of New York crime or mafia pictures." Ilano adds with a laugh.
The sound of The Corner is sculpted with the guidance of producer Phil Moffa, who also serves as the label's in-house recording engineer. Moffa works closely with Mastering engineer and storied New York producer Dietrich Schoenemann to press some the best sounding techno records on the market. Parasole insists each record is pressed at a 140-gram thickness to showcase the pair's analog mastering artistry.
Originally only available on vinyl, The Corner has been slow to conform to the digital ways of the current electronic music industry. Parasole remains conflicted about finally embracing digital releases. While he acknowledges the importance of digital distribution, for him, being able to download an entire label's discography hurts the artistry of the DJ.
"I don't like that an aspiring artist can have access to everything. There's no search, no going to a record store and having that dialogue and discovering new labels," Parasole sighs.
The Corner has big plans for 2015 with eight records in the works. A 12" by Moffa entitled Attempt No Landing was released in February and Parasole is preparing a new release as well as a double 12" by Brooklyn duo Civil Duty. "I like breaking new artists. Guys that don't really have a name," he says.
Civil Duty, he hopes, will be a name after their next release for the label. The group, made up of Shawn O'Sullivan and Beau Wanzer, use analogue hardware to imbue a Midwestern sensibility with their synthesizers and drum machines, worrying less about the technical and more about the emotional.
"New York is hard," O' Sullivan says. "It's very different from say, Berlin, where artists are more likely to be able to spend 20-30 hours fine tuning a mix down, weeks writing Max patches, etc. In New York, producers are more likely just trying to bang out an idea as fast as possible, with the 45 spare minutes they have."
Differences aside, Berlin and its influential tastemakers have been one of the most welcoming audiences for the fledgling label. The label has come under the particular attention of German techno wunderkind Marcel Dettmann and his influential booking agency, Ostgut Ton. The connection has opened doors for The Corner in Europe and allowed Parasole to pursue his passion as a DJ and record label honcho.
Leaving his day job is a gamble that has clearly begun to pay off. Parasole tours frequently in the United States and Europe with DJ residencies at Berghain and Brooklyn's Output. He was even credited by pro audio manufacturer Rane for giving design input on their new rotary club mixer, the MP2015.
But Parasole's focus remains stateside on The Corner. "I won't move," he says. "I love New York. I love coming home."
Catch Anthony Parasole, Civil Duty and the rest of The Corner at Berghain, May 9. New Yorkers, check out Anthony's set at Output's 1st annual Residents Ball in Brooklyn on April 18. Free with RSVP here. Tickets here.
Follow Daniel Rodriguez on Twitter - @dan_rtype