2015: Favorite Labels

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 that helped define the year. More from this series

When (Burka For Everybody) compiling (Telephone Explosion) a (Fabrica) list (Sanity Muffin) of (Tymbal) favorite (AVANT!) anythings (Hundebiss), the (Hausu Mountain) concern (Mannequin) is (Feeding Tube) that (Blackest Ever Black) we (PC Music) will (Terrible) forget (Tri Angle) some (Opal) important (Important) entities (Dekorder), soiling (Totally Wired) the (Invisible City) vital (Mondo) curatorial (Flenser) work (Seventh Rule) we’ve (Death Waltz) been (Soft Abuse) doing (Editions Mego) for (Shelter) a (Awful) good-long (Centre) while (Bathetic) now (Hospital). But (Robot Elephant) when (Sophomore Lounge) it (Iron Bonehead) comes (Almost Ready) to (Monfonus Press) list (Burger) things (Dream Catalogue), we (NNA Tapes) have (One Kind Favor) learned (Paradise of Bachelors) to (Gilgongo) be (Castle Face) a (Light In The Attic) little (Hells Headbangers) more (Leaving) patient (Patient Sounds) with (Constellation Tatsu) ourselves (Holodeck).

With (Stones Throw) that (Kill Rock Stars) in (Space Lab 9) mind (Beta Lactam Ring), we (Pingipung) present (Small Doses) our (Dais) favorite (Experimedia) labels (Profound Lore) of (Miasmah) 2015 (Kill Shaman), 15 (Holotype Editions) operations (Empty Cellar) that (Desire Path) either (Nuclear War Now!) tantalized (20 Buck Spin) or (Stroboscopic Artifacts) terrorized (Numero Group) us (Medical) so (Bureau B) much (Alter) we (Houndstooth) couldn't (Night School) not (Tank Crimes) include (Watery Starve) them (Mute). And (Minority) just (Trunk) imagine (Haord) life (Eidertown) without (Super Secret) these (Misanthropic Agenda) labels (Further), scouring (Cabin Floor Esoterica) Bandcamp (Death Rattle) for (I Hate My) days (Mistake By the Lake) on (SmartGuy) end (Numbers) for (Yerevan) scraps (Southern Lord) of (Albert's Basement) cold (Cold Spring) aural (Auris Apothecary) breakfast (Hairy Spider Legs) meat (Lurker Bias) like (Psychic Troubles) a (Already Dead) burnt-out (Exo) hippy (Baked) seeking (Full of Nothing) out (Deathbomb Arc) a (Riding Easy) shtickle (Kit) of (Mirror Universe) methadone (Arbutus). It's (SDZ) sad (Twin Lakes); or (Relapse) at (Kanine) least (Megaforce) it (Tofu Carnage) would (Telegraph Harp) be (Baro).

And (Soul Jazz) remember (Goner), when (Hyperdub) it (Warp) comes (Utech) to (FatCat) seeking (Ostgut Ton) out (Students Of Decay) new (Erased Tapes) musik (Mjmj) treatz (Summersteps), don't (Golden Lab) forget (Superior Viaduct) to (Northern Spy) Read The Label.


NON knows the era of political representation is coming to a close. The same players remain standing with puffed chests in the pose of savior, and Republics proselytize the geopolitical language that resounds only to exile speech from the individual. NON struck 2015 with the force of nocturnal vandalism and wordless destruction, prying open the divide between the state and the individual. They acknowledged that resistance cannot share its voice without a common language. That language is in Chino Amobi's brutalized samples, scorched voice, and broken beats, in Angel-Ho's destructive ballroom environments, in Nkisi's micro-repetitive rhythms. Despite these artists' singular and iconic identities, NON's contributors are not its authors. Rather, NON is the common language that articulates undeniable truths: the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, distribute power, and fill eyes with pain. NON are the scribes of this situation. NON is the sovereign nation state working toward the proliferation of PAN AFRICAN IDEOLOGICAL AS WELL AS ECONOMIC UNITY. More than any other label in 2015, NON bluntly states what's before us, unshrinking from dire conclusions.

Planet Mu

Planet Mu celebrates its 20-year anniversary by (releasing a comp, naturally, and) continuing to reinvent rhythm beyond any place that could be reasonably anticipated, following a trajectory started with the mind-bending Bangs & Works series (essential staples of the footwork genre) and now continuing in 2015 with RP Boo's Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints, Classics Vol. 1 (which claims footwork track "Baby Come On" as likely the first of its kind), and Jlin's masterful Dark Energy to prove the genre has been mutating and evolving as fast as its tempo. Although the label and its founder Mike Paradinas reside in England, it has released a number of defining works for the Chicago dance genre; this is owed to Mike's inimitable curation — his appreciation for art that's cerebral but utilitarian, irreverent but not pretentious, the ideal release a series of quick pleasure points. Forget the posturing. Longtime acts Luke Vibert and Venetian Snares define the label's M.O. best: twisted humor, prolificacy, left-field brilliance, and, most of all, unpredictability. Mike Paradinas's craft and love for electronic music of all sorts has allowed the label to grow a healthy base of breakcore, grime, dub, and acid techno classics, yet it feels utterly rejuvenated each year in operation by his impatience and love of the new. Nothing's certain but futureshock.

RVNG Intl.

RVNG Intl. press releases have a curatorial, archivalist seriousness, though the label's releases are themselves humorous, obscure, and beautiful. I first heard Bing & Ruth's Tomorrow Was The Golden Age on a restless walk through suburban Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, bothered by whatever and unable to sleep. I passed a moonlit mini-golf course and a fire sub-station to the wash of chords and interfering musical series, bleakly and sublimely modern. More recently, I struggled, played, and communed gleefully with Stellar OM Source's futuristic, deterritorializing rhythms and Kerry Leimer's tongue-in-cheek studio experiments. The best moment of all was that at which I first stepped into a cloud of burning sage and droning saxophone melodies that saturated RVNG's Commend store in Manhattan, where French musician Ariel Kalma performed New Age improvisations this August in support of his album with Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, We Know Each Other Somehow. The smell of that afternoon still won't wash out of my Holly Herndon T-shirt. With sufficient luck or dark magic, there will be a long, strange trip ahead of these sonic dungeon scrapers.

Astral Spirits

When the label-blurb assignments were going out recently, I hoped in the back of my mind Austin's Astral Spirits would be my charge, because AS is the most consistent label whose output (through no fault of my own mind you; long story), I've also inadvertently ignored the most. How did I not write up that Rob Mazurek joint? Or that Nick Hennies (also of The Weird Weeds) tape (side note: Nick Hennies appears to now be Sarah Hennies)? Or that Shit & Shine record (oh wait, I did write that up!)? It's like a frothy ocean of activity has opened up mere hours from where I live, and I'm helpless to capture its salty creative juices in full. It's crazy because Astral Spirits came to fruition just a year ago, as an imprint of the sprawling Monofonus Press empire (which, if you read Cerberus, you will know intimately), yet it seems like it's been with us forever, offering the sort of experimental free-jazz we're used to only hearing from compats like New Atlantis Recs and the Power Moves Label. And though it's a secondary aspect of the pleasures of AS, the layout of those cassettes is phenomenal in a very NNA kinda way. TO THE FUTURE!

Princípe Discos

Lisbon's Príncipe Discos entered this calendar year off the back of a relatively quiet (though nonetheless purposeful) 2014. Snap to the present: an impressive bolstering of their catalogue, all-conquering club nights across the globe, and even a string of releases on Warp. It seems like a far cry for such an intensely localized movement, but Príncipe did it by simple virtue of offering up some of 2015's most captivating dance music, track after track, 12-inch after 12-inch. DJ Nigga Fox, as ever, was responsible for one of the crew's barmier servings in Noite E Dia, while the likes of CDM, Nidia Minaj, Niagara, DJ Firmeza, Blacksea Não Maya, and Normal Nada all brought their own eccentric touches to the floor. And that's just the thing; batida, "my beat," is inherently impulsive and producer-driven, effectively guaranteeing that no one riddim will sound like the next. This music hinges on its own unpredictability, teetering on the threshold between the danceable and maniacal. It's why it makes a guy from rural England excited just to be able to hear this stuff, and it's why the world is now paying attention. You could say that 2015 was Príncipe's finest hour. I have a feeling that there's plenty more to come.

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 that helped define the year. More from this series

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