Straight To The Source: Five Independent Labels To Support
Today - September 9th - 6Music is celebrating independent music in this country, spotlighting the labels and venues who make it happen.
It's a key point, really. New music has to come from somewhere, and more often than not it comes from the fringes, with innovation occurring on the margins before making its way centre-stage.
The independent sector is something that is continually in flux, constantly trying to deal with the latest challenging, while keeping its head above water.
2020 has presented some unique challenges, with the pandemic essentially shuttering live music, closing off a viral revenue stream in the process.
Somehow, independent music in the UK remains in rude health - everyday, we're being sent vital releases, the sort of things that just for a second make your forget the chaos outside.
In keeping with the theme of 6Music's broadcasts, we're spotlighting five independent labels we love.
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Consistency is one of the most important attributes that a label can have, but it’s rarely recognised. After all, few awards ceremonies dish out trophies with Most Consistent emblazoned on them.
If they did, however, Bella Union would certainly be in with a shout. Truth be told, the label’s finest year could be any over the past 15 years, releasing a slew of phenomenal albums by Beach House, Father John Misty, Midlake, Fleet Foxes, Explosions In The Sky, and more.
2020 is a case in point. Pandemic aside, Bella Union are enjoying yet another gold rush – Lanterns In The Lake have been recognised with a Mercury nomination, while key releases include potent projects from A.A. Williams, Emmy The Great, Landships, and The Flaming Lips.
Perhaps it helps that founder Simon Raymonde is himself a musician – formerly a member of seminal group Cocteau Twins, his current project Lost Horizons also have an album on the release slate for this year.
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London’s much-mythologised jazz scene didn’t suddenly appear overnight. Dig a little deeper, and some formidable organisations have been working in the trenches for years, helping to platform young musicians and harness creativity.
Jazz re:freshed match key live events at West London’s Mau Mau bar – paused due to COVID – alongside a slew of fantastic releases, building up a catalogue that includes key projects from a glittering array of UK jazz musicians. Keyboard player and composer Sarah Tandy shared ‘Infection In The Sentence’ through the imprint, while SEED Ensemble’s ‘Driftglass’ notched up a Mercury nomination just last year.
The ongoing 5ive series is well worth checking out – Rosie Turton won acclaim for her release, while Nubya Garcia, Ashley Henry, and TriForce have all recorded standout endeavours.
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Run by former FACT editor Tom Lea, Local Action is renowned for its curatorial abilities, managing to somehow balance a hugely broad catalogue with an extremely defined sense of identity. An imprint that simply seems to get better with each passing year, 2020 has brought a slew of highlights.
India Jordan’s EP could well be their crossover moment, with many tipping it to dominate the End Of Year polls when 2020 finally trundles to a halt. A platform for a disparate array of voices, what shines through most effectively with Local Action is its continual support of artists. Whether that’s pushing Yamaneko’s music from the fringes to a genuine international following or the wonderful physical pressings for e.m.m.a’s recent ‘Indigo Dream’ project, everything Local Action gets involved in is delivered with a supreme level of care.
That’s all without mentioning the label’s connection to Manchester club figure Finn, or Dawn Richard’s exemplary R&B futurism or Elkka’s rave abstraction or…
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Much of the current wave of UK rap creativity has been funnelled into the digital sphere by label licensing; in essence, artists retaining their independence, while gaining access to the machinery and apparatus of a label. It’s not a particularly glamorous thing to talk about, but it’s certainly an iteration of the independent ethos.
MOVE Recordings, however, matches the digital-first ethos of this arrangement with something more curated and defined. The London-based imprint brought Naira Marley to international success, and it has developed a roster that combines drill hard-hitters with some of the most adventurous MCs operating in the capitol right now.
Love Sept. channel the chaos of early Odd Future but in a drill aesthetic, while Fizzler’s youth belies the raw creativity at work in his bars. Maintaining an excellent level of quality on every project they work with, MOVES Recordings is definitely a label to watch.
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Lost Map Records
One of the factors that drives a label to greatness is its sense of community, whether that’s Motown’s factory floor approach to pop or the way Metalheadz reconfigured drum ‘n’ bass around a handful of friends.
Taking this to its logical extreme, Lost Map is housed on a tiny Scottish island, a setting it uses to its advantage. Founded by The Pictish Trail, the label has recently released material from Martha Ffion, Savage Mansion, and Good Dog, quietly amassing a catalogue that is packed with free-thinking. The imprint’s VISITATIONS project, however, links their creative activities to the community that surrounds them.
Isle of Eigg was bought out by residents some 20 years ago, and this new project adds a small number of semi-permanent visitors – at least for the time it takes to complete an album.
Recent ferries to Eigg have shuttled across Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, Rozi Plain, and Sacred Paws figure Rachel Aggs. Each were charmed by the surroundings, and each responded in a completely different way, resulting in three projects that add something both to the label, and to the island itself.
All in all, Lost Map is worth visiting.
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