With the digital age, more labels have popped up in the last few years than have ever existed before. Many are fly-by-night, at home operations that serve only to clutter the electronic music landscape with forgettable, cookie-cutter music. But some, even smaller labels, forge ahead as bastions of cutting edge music, slicing through the noise to deliver often timeless, world class singles, EPs and albums. Here we look at 10 labels that in 2014 have stood firmly on the latter ground. These are Pulse Radio's 10 Best Labels Of 2014 So Far - and don't forget to check out our playlist at the bottom, as we've selected two of our favourite tracks from each label.
Life and Death continue to be one of the most striking labels around at the moment; from the fascinating artwork on each release to the unique and distinctive sounds that the label puts out. This alternative sensibility can be largely attributed to the influences of its key players – DJ Tennis, who has produced TV adverts, film soundtracks and music for theatre, Greg Oreck, one half of Thugfucker, and Tale Of Us’ Matteo Milleri. Underpinning each release is something that will complete grab your attention, whether it’s the pop sensibility of Âme’s remix of ‘Turn Around’ by Sailor & I or the instantly recognisable synths on Ten Wall’s ‘Requiem’. Life and Death keep us guessing, but with each record we know we’re going to get something original, unique and ready to smash the dance floor. Not allowing themselves to rest on their laurels, sub-label Parachute Records has been launched, exploring a more raw musical output.
Oli Furness' Manchester based label Music Is Love has steadily been growing into a stand-out label for straight-up house cuts of the highest quality delivered by a finely selected array of underground producers. Key parts of their ethos include paying careful attention to the roster of artists they select and focusing mainly on vinyl releases. Sub-label M.I.L. has also been set up to give a platform to productions with a tougher, darker edge. The past year has seen the label venture into throwing parties, with a monthly residency at Sankeys Manchester, delivering the likes of Marcel Dettmann, Nina Kraviz, Chez Damier and Dungeon Meat. They’ve also taken parties to ADE, Berlin and have parties forthcoming at Sankeys Ibiza in September.
After handling Harlem Records, Steve Lawler founded VIVa MUSiC back in 2006. Since then some of the most acclaimed names in tech-house have released on the label including Andrea Oliva, Leon, Livio & Roby, Robert Dietz and Audiofly. VIVa has gone on to spawn successful parties all around Europe, with the VIVa Warriors brand going from strength to strength every Sunday at Sankeys Ibiza in particular. VIVa continues to serve up some of the finest tech-house on offer from a host of exciting artists – System2 and Cera Alba are two hot names that have released on the label recently.
You’d be hard pressed to find a label so eclectic across the house spectrum that still maintains its own sound than Permanent Vacation. So far this year it’s been business as usual for the German imprint, along with some delicious curveballs thrown in for good measure, such as the proto-house 2.0 sounds in Lauer’s ‘Donner Lake’ EP, and Dollkraut’s recent leftield electro release. Never a dull moment.
The Sydney based label has come a long way from its deep house and nu-disco roots, with recent success coming from Australia’s newest hotbed of beatmakers. 2012 was the year that really threw them into the spotlight thanks to Flume’s all-conquering debut LP, and this year they’ve tapped into chart topping magic once again thanks to digital crooner, Chet Faker. With some much anticipated albums still yet to drop from the likes of Seekae and newcomer Thrupence, FC are continuing to push forward thinking sounds from down under.
Berlin based imprint Innervisions helmed by founders Steffen Berkhahn aka Dixon and Frank and Kristian of Âme releases deep and innovative house music from a stable of in-house artists including Âme, Henrik Schwarz, Marcus Worgull and Tokyo Black Star. That, along with forward-thinking records by Laurent Garnier, Château Flight and Culoe De Song, amongst others, has been further evidence of the label’s commitment to stringent quality control. Dixon’s avowed aim is to make Innervisions unforgettable, and, in limiting its output, has succeeded.
Launched by Dubfire in 2007, SCI + TEC has becoming one of the industry’s most watched labels for emerging talent. Showcasing the best from the likes of Miss Kittin, Sante, Harvard Bass and Dubfire and emerging artists like WHYT NOYZ, SHADED, Kevin Castro and many more, the imprint is has been paving a solid way for itself through the underground community. Fresh from Barrakud festival in Greece, where Carlo Lio, SHADED and Dubfluss threw down some serious tunes, SCI + TEC looks to continue its run as one of the most cutting edge techno imprints around.
Irish DJ and producer, Sian, is the boss behind techno imprint Octopus. Highly focused on showcasing the best and brightest of emerging talent, releases by artists like Paul Strive, Sasha Carassi and Jay Lumen are featured in radio shows around the world. Strive’s latest release titled ‘Take This Sound” was remixed by master Dutch selector 2000 And One and Sian’s "Shame Cube (Oliver Huntemann Remix)" is currently No. 2 on Beatport’s Techno Top 100 chart. Nicole Moudaber, Alan Fitzpatrick and Joel Mull are among the number of influential artists to support the label.
Since inception in 2008, Spain’s illustrious, kitty-loving record imprint has been trailblazing a path for modern deep house, tech and techno. From a foundation that saves street cats to a party in Ibiza, Suara label boss Coyu has stormed the industry and cemented a reputation for sheer quality output via releases by Dosem, Edu Imbernon, Gary Beck, Jay Lumen, Ramiro Lopez, Technasia and Tube & Berger, often backed by stellar remixers like Adam Beyer, Paco Osuna, Rodriguez Jr, Gregor Tresher, Slam or Thomas Schumacher. They'll also see a label party at Qube London this November.
Globally acclaimed for both their production prowess as well as their legendary DJ sets, Tube & Berger (Arndt Rörig and Marco Vidovic) joined forces with friend and fellow DJ Juliet Sikora in 2005 to start Kittball Records. Alongside their own productions, the Kittball crew release consistent top quality deep and tech house by artists such as Timo Maas, Format:B, Ida Engberg, Daniel Steinberg, Martin Eyerer, Namito, Wild Culture and many more.
Check out our 10 Best Labels Of 2014 So Far playlist, featuring two of our favourite tracks from each label mentioned.