Four Labels to Watch in 2004 Year in Review 2003
Published Dec 01, 2003Silverthree
Five exceptional records in 12 months is pretty good for a label that has only existed as long. Based out of Fairfax, Virginia, Silverthree's roster is as diverse as it is talented, ranging from the post-hardcore/new wave of Retisonic (featuring ex-members of Blue Tip and Garden Variety), to the dissonant atmospheric rock of Kimone. Having also released records by Spanish emo vets Standstill and the sort-of-super-group Cardia (featuring ex-members of Rival School and 2 Skinny J's, among others), the jewel in Silverthree's sparkling crown is still the AC/DC inspired rock of Panic in Detroit. Co-founded by Mark Harbin of Burning Airlines and Jawbox, the label's records have been difficult to find up until now, but a recent distribution deal with Lumberjack in North America means that it won't be long before these inspired sounds invade.
A label to watch not only for great music, but for its relationship to the business of world music. Michel and Rosa Tyabji spent three years in Tanzania recording folkloric and popular musicians and staging free concerts. When they headed back to Seattle, the Tyjabis had with nine albums worth of material. The first three releases came out this year, kicked off by the absolutely crucial New African Composers Vol 1 and the propulsive soukous of Yellow Card by Ndala Kasheba. The Tyabjis' goal is to help Tanzanian artists understand and negotiate intellectual property rights, issues of international copyright and artist representation. Most record companies releasing music by African artists do so through recording or licensing music in London, Paris and New York, with little involvement in the communities from whence the music originated. Limitless Sky shows how the encouragement of musical diversity can be a means to social development around the world.
Founded in the mid-90s by music-loving Manhattan entertainment lawyer Jim McGarry, Rainbow Quartz has since blossomed into a premiere source for 60s-inspired, contemporary psychedelic pop. Although RQ's first signing (dream-pop combo For Against) hailed from Nebraska, McGarry was intent on positioning the label internationally right off the mark: thus Nemo (Belgium), Time Lodgers (Norway) and UK bands Me and Coax were among early roster additions. The same sans-frontiers mandate has been maintained with such other international signings as France's brilliantly named Strawberry Smell, Spanish synth-psyche unit the Gallygows and Israeli quartet Rock Four. McGarry's homeland is well represented, too, with acts like Detroit's Fletcher Pratt and Outrageous Cherry, Austin's Cotton Mather and Philadelphia's Lilys now bearing the RQ imprint, along with less 60s-derivative bands like Myracle Brah and New Radiant Storm King. Winnipeg's Telepathic Butterflies and Montreal's High Dials account for the label's Canadian contingent. Although Rainbow Quartz's musical spectrum remains largely homogenous, McGarry's transcendent taste is reflected in electro/dub-bient sister label Amethyst, along with the hands-on honcho's newly-minted alt-country label, Turquoise Mountain.
You can't throw a rock without hitting someone who runs an indie label; it's getting harder for labels to emerge as leaders. But with past releases by acclaimed underground noise terrorists such as the Red Chord, Hot Cross, Page 99, the Now and Employer, Employee, along with a slew of vinyl, Robotic Empire (formerly Robodog) is an aggressive music label on the rise. The Empire stepped to the forefront of the underground in 2003 with the release of the critically-acclaimed and equally criticised Canada Songs by Daughters. Complemented by strong offerings from Crestfallen and Stop It!!, and the Mutation comp (featuring Ed Gein, the Minor Times, the Abandoned Hearts Club, among others), what the Empire lack in quantity they make up in quality. Following the blueprint that once made Hydrahead a juggernaut special packaging and detailed artwork, limited vinyl pressings, attention to detail and, importantly, quality music Robotic Empire is poised for great things in 2004, with a series of Isis remix twelve-inches, as well as releases from Circle Takes the Square, Creation is Crucifixion, Pig Destroyer, Mannequin and Page 99.