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

Orange Milk

If you read TMT, then you should already be familiar with Orange Milk Records. (If you don’t read TMT? Well, then fuck you.) For those unfamiliar with the Ohio-based label, here’s some information: co-owner Keith Rankin used to write for TMT; its other co-owner, Seth Graham, once barfed on a car; and the two are obsessed with the act of shitting. With that out of the way, let’s get down to the music these boys put out. Whether dealing with outsider pop, insider pop, minimal footwork, hybrid footwork, hyperreal heart-attack music, shit-your-pants club tunes, future funk, breathing electronics, techno computer gaze, modern classical MIDI worship, experimental synth explorations, or the indistinguishably new and old, each release is as enjoyable as it is different. Obviously, then, what makes Orange Milk a favorite around TMT headquarters is its uncanny ability to drop complex, unique, and emotive releases without break. And no matter what it is, there is a surreal and playful presentation in both the music and the out-of-this-world artwork. Orange Milk doesn’t take anything too seriously, and we appreciate that. Oh, and both Seth and Keith released incredible albums this year, too.

Not Not Fun

Back in 2004, Amanda and Britt Brown made up an intricate handshake chockfull of around-the-world handslaps and fistbump explosions, promising to ball forever. Since then, their label Not Not Fun has racked up hundreds of LPs, 7-inches, cassettes, and digital releases, to the point where around 2011 their Discogs page becomes the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon of the blog era. More recently, with the add-on of sister label 100% Silk, Not Not Fun has slimmed down in the way that switching from 2% milk to 1% is a major turning point in someone’s morning routine. The label’s last few years have hit critical mass with albums like Peaking Lights’s 936 and all of Maria Minerva’s LPs, alongside the underappreciated: Torn Hawk’s Through Force Of Will, Sapphire Slows’s Allegoria, and Antoni Maiovvi’s Avrokosm. 2k15 ended up being the smallest sampling from Not Not Fun yet – and, comparatively, one of the largest for 100% Silk – but boasts three of the year’s best. Beat Detective’s Climate Change is desk fern FUBU. The baby of James Ferraro’s LAPD and the actual LAPD is Night Court’s Law & Order. And the cassette re-release of 2814’s 新しい日の誕生 is fully explained here. Thanks for making 2k15 not not fun, Not Not Fun.


Field recordings have always provided a fascinating vehicle for artists eager to document their experiences through environmental sound. Conveying an emotional response to what they are seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and hearing through a sonic medium in real time can take on a huge number of forms, and Gruenrekorder has done a smashing job this year in promoting gripping, thought-provoking releases. The label operates out of Germany, and it’s dedicated to promoting a massive range in what it deems to be experimental music and phonography. It publishes a bi-lingual Field Magazine, puts on events, holds workshops, and streams online, but it’s also noted in 2015 for the depth of its material and the vivacity of its selections. Hafdís Bjarnadóttir’s Sounds of Iceland and Juan Manuel Castrillo’s El Coro de Arasy stood out as being two of the most powerful field recordings this year, while Bryan Eubanks’s from the cistern and R. Schwarz’s The Scale of Things highlighted the scope of some of the label’s most experimental output. As a niche organization working within a relatively strict, self-imposed remit, Gruenrekorder is responsible for distributing some of the most mesmerizing music this year, giving the label a well-deserved place on this year’s best-of.


Formed in 1999 by Jon Abbey, Erstwhile Records quickly became the definitive label for modern group improvisation. Starting in the early 2000s, Abbey began organizing festivals around the world under the Amplify banner. The ErstLive sublabel was founded to document these happenings, and many other subsidiaries followed. Along the way, Yuko Zama joined and became an instrumental principal within the label, especially with the design of the CD cases, which are undefeated since approximately 2008. And many seminal releases have passed through the doors of the label’s Jersey City headquarters: Keith Rowe/Günter Müller/Taku Sugimoto’s The World Turned Upside Down (2000), Keith Rowe/John Tilbury’s Duo’s for Doris (2003), Sachiko M/Toshimaru Nakamura/Otomo Yoshihide’s Good Morning, Good Night (2004), and, more recently, Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet’s trilogy of The Breadwinner (2008), Air Supply (2010), and Photographs (2013). So with all of that in mind, when I say that the label’s 2015 output is its best of the decade, you should take note. You’ll never hear basketballs in the same way! Wow, this is really pretty! Why is this guy talking about duct tape? LOL.

Lime Lodge

Much like desert-swept Santa Fe, the first impressions of Lime Lodge are dry, arid sleeves. Crisp white broken by knotholes of gnarly color. The clean presentation is beautifully engaging yet intimidating. What lies beneath the sandy surface: is it a viper’s pit of inhabitable flora and fauna, or a vivid experience that only the thickest skinned people can endure? Turns out, it’s both, as the label’s inaugural 2015 batch is rough, unyielding, but ultimately rewarding. It’s a path of spiritual awakening, best captured by founder Angelo Harmsworth’s Cerrillos Disco; the harsh winds of the desert sandblasting away recognizable melody until only a sheen on the rocky noise remains. Torturing Nurse’s Collapse/Ikiru takes it even further, bearing skin to the searing heat until it boils and burbles as penance. But once in total isolation and surrounded by nothingness, the warped alien signals of Justice from Christian Michael Filardo begin to call from the heavens — you’ve found salvation in the middle of nowhere. All this not far from little old Santa Fe, bleached by the desert sun — or is it Night Vale, darkened by a more sinister purpose…

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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