[Ed. Note: Due to several netlabels retiring, this article has been updated to link to archives on The Internet Archive where necessary.]
In July I published 10 Netlabels To Follow, the first guide to alternative labels for the music that saturates our lives. The idea was to expose different labels and bring some attention to the people making music available that challenges our listening habits. So, here is the next list of 10 excellent independent labels.
From the Rumpfunk website: “Rumpfunk Records was founded in 2006 by Christoph and Matthaeus. The label is open minded. The intention of Rumpfunk Records is to show several styles of electronic music. Releases are more than Genre-Typical stuff. There are over 40 Artists from all over the world, over 30 releases and a lot of different styles.”
From the blocSonic website: “blocSonic is netlabel music, it’s creative commons music. We spotlight the best of creative commons and netlabel music. blocSonic represents the next phase of the netlabel revolution. We release compilations and original releases featuring the best netaudio music from our homebase in the State of Maine.”
I’ve had the opportunity listen to many fine releases from this label. Artists like Dr. Mindflip, The Impossebulls, MPorted Flows and Mr. & Mrs. Smith remain favorites of mine. Recently blocSonic has tended to lean more towards hip-hop releases, However, quality is what the label is about, so explore some of the vast catalog, you are likely to find something that will interest you.
Clinical Archives is a netlabel that showcases “eclectic and illogical music.” They take pride in finding styles that are unusual. For example, this is the only label that I’ve seen “dark disco” listed as a style. But, I am always impressed with the releases on this label. Take the Perry Ferya Band for example, their release Mantra is in the running for one of my top releases of 2014.
La bèl netlabel was established on March 1, 2010 in Rome/Biella, Italy. In the past four years they have maintained exceptionally high quality releases. The CerebralRift has reviewed two releases from this label. Most recently Psycho by plusplus which is in the race for one of the top 2014 releases.
Pic Pack is one of the more interesting labels I’ve run across. They describe their work as “We advance the experimental music which has been not limited by settled genres.” That’s a tall order when you consider there are so many artists working in experimental, noise, ambient, and other genres. And yet they manage to surprise me with new and enticing releases.
Webbed Hand Records is one of the stalwart ambient music labels in the netlabel scene. It is operated by C.P. McDill and Aria Nadii. Webbed Hand Records started in 2003, and has nearly 300 releases in their catalog. While this is an ambient label, their primary focus is on getting music released and available for the widest possible audience to listen to.
Petroglyph Music focuses on ambient and experimental music, and the fusion of genres within these styles. They were formed in 2012 by Rune Martinsen and Øystein Jørgensen. If you are familiar with the netlabel ambient scene, you won’t be surprised to find artists like Ari Porki, Cousin Silas, Grove of Whispers, Mystified (what ambient label hasn’t he released on?), Scott Lawlor, and Sean Derick Cooper Marquardt. But, there are many many more, both familiar and unfamiliar on this label. I was originally attracted to Henri Feuillade’s Wraith Paradigm, which impressed me as more of a modern classical work.
If you were to ask me about my favorite netlabels of all-time, Softphase would be on it. They don’t release often, but every single release is exceptional, and always has a special “something” that makes them stand apart from other lables. The most recent release “Exist” was the first new release from Planet Boelex (who is also the owner and operator of Softphase) in four years. They don’t focus on a particular style of music, rather, they choose to focus on releasing music that the artists have poured their hearts, souls and bodies into.
HAZE is an experimental and electronic music netlabel. The releases on HAZE are distinctive, ranging from sound collages to complex electronic arrangements. One of the notable features of HAZE is their Sound Interpretation series. They present compilations based around subjects like cities (Shanghai, Reykjavík, Berlin, Minsk, etc.), or authors (Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, james Joyce, Albert Camus, etc.).
Phonocake started on June 1, 2003 to present electronic music from Dresden. In 2006 they expanded and started releasing music from friends and artists worldwide. Phonocake focuses on IDM and electronica with some experimental elements. Phonocake has a strong free culture attitude. In 2010 they restarted their sister label: Sleepy City.
These labels serve as a further example of how the music landscape is changing because of the internet. While some of these labels existed ten years ago there weren’t many people looking at them as changing the music industry. Now it is time to look at them. It’s no longer necessary to consider only music released by a bunch of greedy corporations when there is music that meets or exceeds the quality that is coming out of the major labels. These labels are ten more examples of that quality.