As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Notice Recordings.
Often times it becomes a chore focusing on a particular release from a particular label. It cheapens the extensive work of a label by ignoring the breadth of their output as it leaves the spotlighted artist on an island; an entity with no attachment to those who were able to release their material. As the proliferation of small niche labels continues and the work of musicians the world over populate these rapidly multiplying catalogs, it only seems fitting to occasionally turn our gaze not just to artists but to the labels.
Problem is, with so many fantastic labels to choose from, where does one begin? Perhaps at the bottom of a mail pile where so many hidden gems lie in wait. Inspired by a recent visit to the KEXP studios, admiring the stacks of releases Don Yates must navigate from my hallway viewpoint, I was inspired to dig through my own stacks and discover (or rediscover) music that I’ve shamefully neglected or forgotten.
At the bottom of the pile was the first batch of cassettes from Chicago’s Notice Recordings. Anchored by founders’ Travis Bird & Evan Lindorff-Ellery outfit, Dense Reduction, the label’s first batch proves a fine representation of the label’s aesthetic without betraying its growth. Each Dense Reduction release is sonically heavy, built on buzzing electronics and a spectrum of minimal effects that layer like a jam-packed truffle, creating a unified rhythm akin to the musics of machines. The duo produced three cassettes to launch their label, each with a slightly differing take on their concrete formula. Samples from past and current releases can be found via the label’s Sound Cloud page.
Since then, Notice has carefully rolled out a slate of releases from some of avant music’s most recognizable names, including The North Sea (a project of Brad Rose, who also runs the Digitalis label which recently released Dense Reduction’s latest cassette, Fictive Agriculture) and more recently, Jon Mueller. The exploration of minimalism in its many guises is scheduled to continue with upcoming releases from Godseye, Ben Owen, Illusion of Safety (a part of Notice’s initial batch) and Nathan McLaughlin (whose recent release on Seattle label, Gift Tapes, quickly sold out).
Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed on his website. He is currently at work on a new column for the KEXP blog set to debut in the coming weeks. You may follow him on Twitter.