Hello Dangerous Minds. It’s time for a quick introduction - I’m the Niallist, a music maker and blogger based in the UK, and I’m going to be posting regularly about music on here in 2011. This will hopefully compliment the posts already here while presenting a different perspective. “Netlabels” is an on-going series where I will write about the best and most interesting Internet-based record labels, and for the first installment I’m gonna block my ears to cries of nepotism and cover our own netlabel, Little Rock Records.
So, as the name would suggest, a netlabel is a record label set up on the Internet, that primarily distributes its music digitally. There is an ever growing community of netlabels around the globe, so much so that they coalesce around sites like netlabels.org, and congregate at festivals like Netaudio. Music is (generally) released on a copyleft basis, and most of it is for free. People with no-to-very-little budget being able to release any music they please, particularly experimental work that majors and large indies would never touch. This can lead to claims of “it’s not good enough to sell” (which is justified in some cases) but as anyone who has had experience dealing with the music industry can testify, music is very rarely sold simply on how good it is. At least with netlabels artists don’t have to worry about financial returns, fitting in with trends and complying to certain label-based agendas.
The best netlabels, in my opinion, carry on the ideals of previous generations of indies (split releases, ltd edition pressings, representing local artists, etc) but now have even lower outgoings, a much faster (almost instant) production schedule, and a truly global reach. Growing up heavily immersed in the music press, I was constantly told of how much punk-rock changed music and the industry. Sadly by the Nineties those changes already felt like just another set of rules to conform to. Sure, punk shook things up, but it never democratized music the way the internet and digital technology of the last decade has. To release music nowadays you don’t need a band, a studio, an engineer, a manager, a pressing plant, a distributor, or a promoter - all you need is an idea, a computer and an internet connection.
As an artists who has worked with labels that have either folded or changed priorities, I found the idea of running a netlabel to be hugely liberating. Little Rock Records launched in Glasgow on 07-07-07 with 7 digital 7 inches (a direct copy of the format of pioneering netlabel Jahtari, who I will be covering in the next netlabels post). At the moment there’s about 75 releases in the catalog. Some of this is stuff that would not be able to see the light of day legally, some of it is stuff that has been rejected by larger labels, some of it has been recorded specifically for us. I’m not gonna lie to you folks, some of this stuff is pretty experimental, but if you think your ears can handle it, I invite you to check it out.
A good place to start is the 2008 compilation NORAVE, and its follow up from 2010 FUCKNO. NORAVE was a reaction against the then-trending “Nu Rave” scene, and our brief was to compile lots of “dance music you can’t dance to”. Yes, some of it is pretty abrasive (Gay Against You, Metaforce VCR. Tayside Mental Health) but some of it’s also surprisingly beautiful in its weirdness (Hudson Mohawke, Eyes, Fox Gut Daata). For FUCKNO we upped the track count from 18 to 31, and included more rock from the thriving Glasgow School of Art nexus and newer friends further afield (Kids On TV, Dam Mantle, Divorce, Kylie Minoise, Vars of Lichi, Noisy Pig, Gummy Stumps, Geoff Before Dishonour).
If you don’t think you have the stomach to download both compilations, there are also two short taster EPs for both, featuring different tracks from some of the featured artists. (FUCKNO here / NORAVE here) If you’d rather something more straight-up, the four main producers involved in the label each contributed a track for the Departures EP earlier this year, with a more minimal, dance floor-friendly approach.
If your tastes are a bit more “vintage” (or perhaps of an occult bent) I highly recommend DJ Goatface Killah’s Ave Satanas mix, which features 18 tracks of late 60’s/early 70’s metal and psychedelia, all in praise of our dark lord Satan. Goatface seriously knows his stuff - he’s included tracks from Coven, Arthur Brown, Bobbie Beausoleil and the original Iron Maiden. Horror soundtracks fans should check out the Chateau Of Doom EP by The Evil Eye, our now defunct band. An homage to all things Carpenter & Goblin, the tracks veer from cold-wave to ambient to thrash metal. As for my own music, well, if you like krautrock/kosmiche, I’ll point you in the way of The Next Big Thing, and if you want to explore further, there’s the longer Lo-Fi Gold LP.
Most of the links above are on Last FM so you can listen before you download (and to spare our bandwidth!) but as I said before, this is not music for everyone. But then that is the beauty of being able to release music so cheaply and easily. You may like it, you may not, but you can at least judge for yourself. And if you don’t like it we will give you your money back - that’s the Little Rock guarantee.