In this series we are seeking to highlight some of the UK’s best and most invaluable independent record labels across a variety of genres. Part I focuses on the House side of the electronic dance music spectrum…
Anyone can start a label these days, it’s true; but it is incredibly difficult to create an imprint that endures the test of time and boasts a consistently excellent back-catalogue. This takes a lot more work, and it is crucial that there is also a huge amount of dedication involved too – independent record labels aren’t exactly money-making ventures after all. So a passion for the music is imperative to the success of these small imprints, and it is also something that bleeds into the general musical fabric of communities, moving the whole “scene” forward in various instances.
And actually, it is this fact that can often be more important than the actual ability to buy the music itself. The healthy state of the UK dance music world especially is down to the fact that producers can regularly find a place to release their music, therefore creating a community of like-minded people with like-minded ambitions. Without the independent labels giving them the platform to do so this would not exist, and the UK’s music scene – especially underground – would arguably be nowhere near the same. The work these people do absolutely needs to be highlighted; it is quite literally the least they deserve.
House music has been around since the 80s, however if it was not for the hundreds of record labels continuously refining and refreshing the genre it may have dipped in popularity way before now. If anything House music is in its most popular moment nowadays, with a variety of subgenres that are widespread across the world. A lot has changed since the days of Paradise Garage and The Warehouse, with Frankie Knuckles and co. leading the way forward. There are so many offshoots of the genre, for instance, something largely down to the numerous labels all perfecting their own vision of the sound. The scene simply would not exist without them, and for this reason they are massively deserving of some attention. Let’s meet some of the best independent up-and-coming House labels…
For such a young record label Chequered Wax have already found success with a few expertly curated releases that merge the worlds of House, Techno and Disco in an outrageously intoxicating fashion. The Manchester based outfit were founded early this year, earmarking themselves out as specifically a platform for up-and-coming producers to show off what they have got to offer. Here is an attribute that really cannot be commended more, and is also a staple-mark of many other labels mentioned in this article – who is going to take a punt on the next big thing if not for the small independent imprints?
In a testimony too to music’s power to cross artificial boundaries with ease, Chequered Wax have a roster full of artists from not just the UK, but further afield in Europe and even Eastern Asia. There is, therefore, an inherent aspect of musical cross-pollination with many of their releases, something exemplified by tracks such as “Matsuko Conference” by Guchon on their second various artists compilation. The future looks incredibly bright for Chequered Wax, and with a new series of midweek parties on the way at Manchester’s Off The Square you will certainly be hearing a lot more from them.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what “paradiso” translates into from Italian… that’s right – Paradise. As label head and hotly tipped producer in his own right REES elaborates, “the philosophy behind the name comes from our admiration of so many different styles of electronic music so we try to display and capture ‘everyone’s idea of music paradise’”. It is an endeavour that has been paying dividends since their birth in 2018, with the imprint regularly putting out top-quality dance music that can vary from gritty Electro to feel-good Disco infused House.
Paradiso are more than just a label too, with the initial idea being “to have a record label accompanied with a blog/magazine type online website where our fans could read up on our latest music, interviews, artist top 10 picks etc.”. They have a string of digital releases under their belt, however entering the physical market is also something high on the agenda for the young label. In the meantime the team have set up a “Paradiso Presents” party series that will see events pop-up across the UK. As REES makes certain, “the main aim of the label is simply to spread emotion and non-stop dancing” – cannot get much better than that now can you?
Fresh Take Records
Fresh Take Records are another fairly young independent label who have made strides in the House and Disco world over the last year or two. Founded in Edinburgh as a way for original founder Lee to pursue a side project alongside his marketing masters, the imprint has gone from strength to strength in a relatively short time, testimony to the passion behind the project. They have already racked up over 20,000 collective plays on Soundcloud, for instance, something helped massively by a very well regarded guest-mix series. Particular highlights from this have got to be the contributions from Mr. Sosa and Cassettes For Kids.
Over the 2018 festive period Fresh Take released their first set of tracks for free, paving the way for the Italian producer MarBlu’s two track EP in March 2019. This was picked up by music platforms such as Four Four Music, and made its way into sets from a variety of well-renowned DJs across the world. Fast-forward to August and the label have just released a ten track VA compilation that has already been making waves across the House and Disco spectrum. BURNO’s “Movin’” is a particular highlight, taking vital inspiration from the Artful Dodger classic “Moving Too Fast” and recontextualising it into a floating Lo-Fi House track. In their own words, “the future for Fresh Take Records is busy!”. Don’t sleep on this emerging label.
Shanghaied is a joint collaboration between Graham Farmer of Data Transmission and the hotly-tipped DJ Wax Worx who has seen his stock rise significantly over the past few years. Like so many labels, the two came together in 2017 with the intention to “create a platform to showcase up and coming talent as well as release music by some of their favourite artists and friends”. Since then they have made a huge amount of progress, emerging as one of the most exciting new imprints in the Tech-House world. “Bump Shake” from head-honcho Wax Worx was the first release, one that immediately put Shanghaied on the map with a premiere spin by Monki on BBC Radio 1.
That was a couple of years ago, nowadays music from Shanghaied is a regular occurrence on the UK’s premier radio stations, as well as in raves across the world. The imprint has had stellar releases from the likes of Vangelis Kostoxenakis, Rich Wakley, Sooney, Wolf Story, Demuir and Marcellus to name just a few. They are also equally passionate about pushing few a new breed of producers and giving them the industry tool necessary to progress their careers, something critical to the enduring success of the House world. Shanghaied operate with the To Be Shanghaied ethos – “Inviting party people into a secret place, to join a vessel and become part of a crew, and to take them to a higher state of euphoria through music and high jinks.”
Shall Not Fade
It would just be completely wrong not to include the vital House music imprint Shall Not Fade in this article, mainly because many of the other featured labels probably owe the Bristol crew a fair amount of gratitude. Established in 2015, they helped change the musical topography of the House genre, with a certified knack at seemingly signing the next big thing. Take the very first Shall Not Fade, for instance, at the tail end of 2015. “Alone” was a gritty four-tracker that could easily be placed side by side with a number of Chicago House classics, and the producer responsible? Just an, at the time relatively unknown, artist called Mall Grab…
Since then the Australian producer has well and truly exploded into huge popularity, bringing in the Lo-Fi craze that has swept the world in the past few years. Shall Not Fade’s next few releases further exemplifies their eye for talent, with DJ Boring, Ross From Friends and Adryiano being a couple more stand-out artists in the new school of House music. They never stand still either, with new tracks from up-and-comers that are set to break such as KETTAMA. As they say themselves, “we want to evolve with artists, we want to make people dance, and most importantly we want to make people happy. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”. Couldn’t have said it better!
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