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

Berceuse Heroique

When the mainstream is strong, it is the duty of the underground to declare it dead; when the mainstream is weak, it is the duty of the underground to insist upon its vitality. In either case, the underground's task is implicitly utopian: it locates moments of promise contained within the present (or the past) and proceeds to imagine a better future by excluding all the rest. This is the crux of Berceuse Heroique's (charismatic/engaging/boorish/insane) label owner Gizmo's claim that "Dance music is fucking dead. Everyone is trying to get more gigs because it's the only way to make some money, but they forgot the essence of the whole thing... the party!" The party's the thing, an invite-only counterfactual ballet — and "Dance music is fucking dead" the opening declaration of Gizmo's anti-social raver's manifesto, cobbled together from hazily remembered tenets jotted down in the dingy nightspots of London, Athens, Detroit, The Hague, and called Berceuse Heroique in honor of Claude Debussy’s anti-war lullaby. The broad outline may be clear, but the real pleasure for the reader-listener is found somewhere in the blur and smudge of its badly Xeroxed detail. Moving from the post-world funk of Japan Blues to the acid-burned spectral dancehall of Beneath, from Don’t DJ’s exotic, sprawling neurotica to PMM’s clenched distorto-spank, Berceuse Heroique spent 2015 in some of the year’s strangest and most delightful places. It served as a rallying point for hardcore insiders and electronic eccentrics of the weirdest stripe.

Halcyon Veil

His failing health attracted him to southern climates, and he presently decreed that the north was no longer to exist. Having found a sort of salvation among the “Halcyonians,” he is constrained to wage spiritual warfare against all Hyperboreans,” writes Arthur Johnston on Nietzsche in Musical Criticisms (1905). It conveys a twofold antagonism — one half calming the waters, so to speak, as of the tropical kingfisher of the genus Halcyon; the other, a glacial affection, associated with perpetual abundance. In lieu, shrouded in a complete disregard for demarcation, Halcyon Veil was unveiled (pun intended) this year as the label headed by Texan native Rabit. The producer’s own releases through Ben Aqua’s #FEELINGS and Tri Angle Records have already shown a depth of quality free from constraints and notably unreliant on branding — indeed, Rabit’s music speaks for itself. Channeled through various styles — be it industrial, grime, or footwork — Rabit’s approach is more concerned with a particular meteorological character, and Halcyon Veil appears as an attempt to highlight similar conditions represented by others. With a logo designed by visual artist Kyselina and releases so far by Myth, Why Be, and Angel-Ho (in partnership with NON), Halcyon Veil have exhibited the twisted, heated glaciation that seems to typify the label’s direction.

Sacred Bones

At this point, that little upper-left aligned triangle encircled by an elegant ouroboros is like an unbroken seal of quality. Sacred Bones Records was conceived in Brooklyn in 2007 as a portal for distributing music crafted by friends, with particular attention given toward developing a unifying aesthetic of home-mustered fervor that connects its artists (including filmographers, print makers, designers, and social media wizards) by their sinews. Despite this original focus, Sacred Bones now humbly boasts a catalog that spans a vast variety of material, including skull-smashing TMT favorites Abandon and Bestial Burden by death industrial artist Pharmakon as well as Amen Dunes’ bizarre folk mirage, Through Donkey Jaw. In 2015, its roster has expanded even more, welcoming another TMT favorite, Jenny Hval, into their family and providing a sound stage for film composer John Carpenter’s Lost Themes. Meanwhile, label mainstay Destruction Unit keeps blowing out amps and eardrums with zero discretion on Negative Feedback Resistor. As Sacred Bones keeps mining, however, one thing remains: whether it be Hval’s soft dick rock, John Carpenter’s “Obsidian,” or Destruction Unit’s “Chemical Reaction,” Sacred Bones is unrivaled in its commitment to delivering something physical, closing that void between spiritual premonition and physiological contact.


Scroll through PEDICURE’s SoundCloud page right now: dynasty levels of dn uɹnʇ. Happy birthday! Not only did Pedicure begin dropping/numbering releases this year (starting with creator/founder, Myles Byrne-Dunhill release as A. G. Kush’s Nu Jack Schwag), but they also began a singles club, drawing from musicians/producers/memes/tropes/caricatures worldwide. And their agenda — no-matter HOW varied in sound — draws from exaggerating satire of over-contextualized SoundCloud think-piece pop, layered in infinite onion peels of the whole hype-hyper scene, expecting nothing in return but real music. There’s no PR, just organization (i.e., click “Show More” on the SoundCloud page). These aren’t musicians, but the holograms they were always promised in a nu-flesh. Who? Y’all got Meme Vivaldi from Spain (D3L3T3D M3M3S out end of Nov.) who did a split release with Illuminated Paths, including a giant compilation with PC Noise. Djwwww from Japan, dropping a track off a new Orange Milk tape in PEDICURE’s singles club. Plenty from the Montreal-based Yao Guai Cave. The Unicorn Florida produced WITCH HAZEL. And still to come: a ringtone album this Xmas by LORD ø, December release by DANIEL from Beijing, and opening 2016 on a non-stop cpop mix in January by LI NA.


Embossed with metallic sheens over cybernetic collages or hi-res CGI, seen through outer sleeves overlaid with abstract glyphs, the physical objects that Bill Kouligas’s PAN label disseminates from Berlin out into the world seem like relics beamed back to us from a dystopian near-future. Although much of the music that he highlights falls on the electronic/beat-oriented spectrum, any legible rhythms and concessions to club music paradigms exist in tandem with each project’s defiantly experimental motives. In 2015, Visionist reimagined the cavernous stereo spreads and clipped tones of the grime tradition as an idiom for confessional revelation. Avant kingpin Oren Ambarchi extended his already mammoth “Knots” composition into the sinuous 2xLP drone/drum odyssey of Live Knots. Helm stretched his loop-based work to new extremes of abstraction and narcotic repetition on Olympic Mess. M.E.S.H.’s towering Piteous Gate sits as the 3D-printed cherry on top of this year’s run, churning through infinite alien timbres and redefining standards of hi-fi digital production — abetted by the world-class mastering talents of Rashad Becker. While some imprints are content to quietly present their wares to the plugged-in masses, virtually every PAN release exerts a tangible force on the international underground, scraping against convention and inverting genre distinctions as a growing audience continues to evolve along with Kouligas’s tastes.

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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