It seems hard to believe that Erased Tapes, the home of some of the finest contemporary classical output in recent times, has just turned ten this month.
Perhaps it’s because of the enduring quality of the releases, or the fact that since that first late-noughties glut of records from Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm the label has barely dropped pace. Or perhaps this writer is just getting old.
Whatever the reason, it’s undeniable that the team at the label have successfully cut a groove that plenty of music lovers want to follow them down.
And it’s not just the music that has kept people digging out LPs stamped with that unassuming mountain top logo: there’s clearly a huge amount of care and attention that goes into making an occasion of each release, whether in the beautiful art, extensive sleeve notes, accompanying commentaries or documentary films.
All of this makes recalling the Erased Tapes back catalogue an easier task than usual – which in turn makes picking out just seven of the best even more difficult that it already might be. It won’t stop us trying, though. So, in no particular order…
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Ólafur Arnalds – 'Eulogy For Evolution'
The record that cemented the impossibly charming Icelander and former hardcore drummer (for the excellently named Fighting Shit among others) on people’s radars, 'Eulogy For Evolution' sounds as unassumingly inventive today as it did back in 2007.
Just 17 when he wrote the record, Arnalds’ vision belied his years. On 'Eulogy for Evolution' he showed early signs of his curiosity and desire for experimentation within the often staunchly traditional realms of classical music. Atmosphere and emotion take precedence over virtuosity here.
It set a standard for the label’s artwork too, with the LP arriving as a beautiful printed gatefold edition – a high benchmark that the label has revelled in raising with each subsequent release.
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Nils Frahm – 'Spaces'
Along with Arnalds, Nils Frahm is perhaps the most high profile artist on the label – and shares the Icelander’s penchant for experimentalism both in terms of his musical output and how he chooses to deliver it to his audience.
Frahm also shares a love of the piano with Arnalds, and indeed most of the Erased Tapes roster. It was for his first solo album for the label, 'Felt' in 2011, that he returned to his stool having spent time focused on producing music from behind a mixing desk.
Fast forward a few years, and Spaces sees him intertwining these two strands of his musical DNA to great and, at times, envelope-pushing effect.
Recorded at live shows over a period of two years, the album blends concert hall atmospherics with the kind of gentle headphones-on isolation that the Erased Tapes imprint is so good at delivering across the board. The result is far from a conventional live album, and offers a challenging but rewarding entry point into Frahm’s oeuvre.
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A Winged Victory For The Sullen – 'A Winged Victory For The Sullen'
From the opening glide of ‘We Played Some Open Chords…’ right through to the final sunken notes of ‘All Farewells Are Sudden’ this album just glows.
A pairing of composers Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie, AWVFTS achieve a cinematic essence with the deftest of touches. The result is something that’s genuinely quite gripping – no mean feat for a genre of music that many would relegate to ‘background listening’ territory.
Each track moves, swells, retreats and replenishes like an album condensed; but there’s a shared texture that plays out across the record to bring the whole thing together into a highly coherent, and highly listenable single entity.
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Ben Lukas Boysen – 'Spells'
After first stepping out from under his Hecq moniker – which has a stronger bent towards electronic music – to release 'Gravity' in 2013, Boysen followed up last year with 'Spells'. In doing so, he produced one of the finest records to bear the Erased Tapes stamp to date.
Combining real mastery of piano and strings with some sparing but momentum-shifting drum work, the album plays out a gorgeous, we hesitate to say ‘spell-binding’ tale.
While his music as Hecq revels in its machined production, there’s a real organic, fleshy appeal to 'Spells' which makes it instantly accessible yet provides it with a depth that affords plenty of return listens.
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Peter Broderick – 'Float 2013'
Though it appeared first on a label called Type Recordings in 2008, 'Float' was given a new lease of life (and a Frahm remaster) five years later and added to the Erased Tapes discography.
There’s a dancelike feel and movement to the album, and its various twists, turns and field recorded glimpses have helped to establish it as a firm favourite for followers of ambient and contemporary classical music.
Had this album had its initial 2008 release via Erased Tapes, then it would have made an obvious and complementary companion to Arnalds’ 'Eulogy…'. Even so, it’s hard to imagine it being more at home anywhere else.
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Aparatec – 'Vemeer'
One of the label’s most longstanding artists, Rival Consoles’ output has been as prolific as it has been captivating to follow – growing alongside the label over the past decade.
But before Rival Consoles, was Aparatec – the original nom de plume of Ryan Lee West. Vemeer was one of the very first releases on Erased Tapes and set out a stall for electronic music that would incorporate the kind of complex composition more commonly associated with orchestral arrangements.
The label discovered his music via mutual MySpace interests, and that collaborative, familial relationship has remained a foundation of the label’s workings since.
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Kiasmos – 'Kiasmos'
What may have felt like something of a departure for an imprint more driven by its ivory keys than 4×4 kicks and snares, Kiasmos’ eponymous debut – pitched by the label as a techno album – was a welcome extension of Erased Tapes’ offering.
A collaboration between Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen that started out as a bit of fun, the project soon evolved into something very much of its own standing.
There are few things worse than an inoffensive, oh-so-emotive house and techno hybrid. Thankfully, 'Kiasmos' lands a great and satisfying distance from that particular pool.
In short, it’s exactly the kind of techno album that you’d expect Erased Tapes to release. Which means, if this list alone is anything to go by, it’d be hard-pressed to turn out badly at all.
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Words: Will Pritchard // @Hedmuk