2014: Favorite 15 Labels of 2014

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series

Her Records

The international success of London-based Night Slugs has opened the door for many like-minded labels and club nights. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a rise in producers that are experimenting with sounds from grime, bass, and industrial music in order to create intense tracks made primarily for the club, tracks with very little influence from house or garage. One of these is South London-based Her Records. Founded by producers Sudanim, Miss Modular, and CYPHR in 2012, Her Records has made a name for itself in the past year, releasing a number of EPs from the label’s founders and compilations featuring tracks from other grime producers like Murlo and Strict Face. And throughout, the label has never sacrificed emotionality in its productions and has never took itself too seriously as a club night. In sets, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Jersey and Baltimore club, with a little Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna thrown in for good measure. But their primary focus? Presenting hard-hitting, no-nonsense club music.

Field Hymns

Despite moving away from Portland, OR, where the mighty Field Hymns got its auspicious start back in 2009, Dylan McConnell got his poop in a group to crank out 11 stellar cassette releases this year, notching catalog number 50 this October with a somewhat uncharacteristic punk rock tape from the duo Sad Horse. Over the years, the label has made a modest name for itself while having a stubborn habit of releasing incredible music from strange strangers in the analog/electronic experimenter world, outfitting retro-futuristic synthscapers and psych-portal openers with super stylish artwork, most of which was created by McConnell himself under the name Tiny Little Hammers. While Field Hymns has also been a nice platform for McConnell’s own work as Oxykitten and Adderall Canyonly, he kept his keyboards quiet this year for his own imprint (Oxykitten had a fine release elsewhere on Singapore Sling Tapes, by the way), leaving plenty of room for the expansive silicon vistas of Black Unicorn, the murky proto-goth-wave of German Army, the glittering disco-opera of Scammers, the cosmic folk of Conrad Wedde, a massive noir-inspired triple-tape trilogy from retro-synthoid newcomer Yves Malone, and so much more. Although never one to disappoint in the past, Field Hymns astonishingly upped its game in 2014 for its most solid year of releases yet, firmly cementing its place as one of the age’s most important labels while keeping us suitably occupied over in the Cerberus section.


I was curious to see if Fabric’s relatively young imprint Houndstooth could follow up Soul Music — Paul Woolford’s excellent LP as Special Request — with a worthy successor this year. While both Throwing Snow’s (promising) Mosaic and Second Storey’s (curious) Double Divide offered detailed, if at times clinical explorations of dance mechanics, it was the debut album double-hit of Call Super’s Suzi Ecto and 18+’s Trust that demonstrated Houndstooth’s “artist-led” passion coming to the fore. Both releases gathered the electric ingenuity of their respective artists’ previous releases into a pair that marks an ascent in trajectory, projecting Houndstooth’s presence into the future. A quiet achiever in the scheme of label entrepreneurship, Houndstooth seems destined to install its slick and refined agenda as a stalwart into the looming mystery of 2015.

Ascetic House

Conflict of interest alert: Your boy lives in Tempe, Arizona, the city in which Ascetic House, a label founded by members of Destruction Unit, has operated since its inception in 2010. After quietly killing it for a couple years, they made power moves this year with their “January Program,” for which they offered over 20 cassette releases for a single day in January. Local flavors include the sinister atmosphere of Marshstepper’s Give Yourself to the Moon, the subdued deep house of both Deep Pill’s Hard Extrct and Jock Club’s Encrypted Files, the dark minimalism of Mallevs’ V.V.V.V.V, and the cinematic synth pop of Body of Light’s Limits of Reason. They also dropped forward-thinking tapes from Philadelphia’s Night Sins, London’s Helm (of PAN fame), Puce Mary, Iceage, and Social Junk. The latter’s release, Give Up, is extraordinarily aggressive, sonically transparent, and one of my favorite albums of the year. Out here in the brutal Sonoran, I’ve conducted some field research. When artists and founders Nick Nappa, J.S. Aurelius, and Alex Jarson aren’t touring the world, they’re back here throwing some pretty uncanny warehouse parties, club nights, and desert raves. Fog, strobes, black clothes, animal blood, katanas, the whole nine yards. My own little cosmopolitan extraterrestrial musical happening, making the heat a little more bearable.

Psalmus Diuersae

Change for its own sake produces a sense of need by way of ephemeral non-potency, which can be draining, and not in a good way. Luckily, Psalmus Diuersae’s constant progress during 2014 didn’t feel importunate; it felt welcome. The newly-formed label posted a plethora of material, only to toss the majority of it into the lost, internet dust pile. Few releases stuck around long enough for their weight to sink in, but the broken clothespin label did produce some extremely limited runs of select albums, selling tapes strapped to miniature hand-crafted houses, VHS, memory sticks, and clusters of other unconventional audio formats and forgotten oddities. Hardly ever did the Psalmus Diuersae Bandcamp remain unaltered for long, with the text, colors, header, cover art, album names, track titles, and overall visibility and functionality of the site fluxing constantly. Standouts stood out, but the label’s perpetual state of transition best summed up the current fractured, linked-to-hell-and-back world we live in. Amen to change, and change to Amen.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series

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