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Record Labels We Love

Amongst other things 2021 offered some people a bit of time to reflect, to channel some ambitions, to push themselves further than before and to bring things to fruition. One thing I noticed is that a lot of people did was to release tapes or cassettes, a not so new format that became an easy way to produce and get physical music out there.

People in their 40's won't be too surprised about cassettes, only concerned of the necessity for them to come back. However some younger people may have never actually listened to a cassette never mind decide to print and put one out. So with this new necessity to get physical, affordable things into the ether a few labels have really come into their own and have made a full roster of fantastic artists printed on some beautiful stuff.

Here is where you find where you can spend a load of your leftover Christmas money!

Pure Life Records

Pure Life Records started out in 2018 founded by multidisciplinary artist Panta Rhei. This label covers all manner of audio/visual scope with a real focus on the latter, of which the founder takes leadership on. Featuring experimental, ambient, synthwave, industrial and everything in between this label seem to be releasing some of the coolest stuff from around the country under their genre name 'Ambient Punk'.

The most exciting part about Pure Life is that they consistently release music -perhaps not with a consistency besides the founders taste- that highlight fantastic Manchester musicians including CMD094 (also their in house producer), CURRENTMOODGIRL and Kuroi Ame alongside international artists like QMDX.

They don't have information along with every release so I'm not sure if a lot of the releases are more music releases under different names by the same in-house artists but either way it looks excellent. Their execution of releases has been better than I've seen many other do, highlighting the beauty of the different formats through exquisitely curated art in and out of the release.

This is a label that looks as though it will reach the top and that's present in none other than their 'Ambient Punk Life @ IKLECTIK' release showcasing their two day show at the IKLECTIK gallery space in Lambeth.

Favourite Release -

Rhythm Lab Records

Rhythm Lab are a rare and special project that I truly hope will persist in their community building. They were set up as an off-shoot project by Reform Radio that were made up of people hired full time through the government Kickstart programme. Massive respect to Reform for doing this to begin with.

The label then had to raise money to continue its existence and release music based on funding schemes and physically create music that was 'worth' something more, worth something to community and people outside of the musician. They have had a multitude of projects throughout this year such as 'gIRL's' which celebrated female identity and brought wxmen together to create music together including Niix, Martha Pryer, Sutty Ella, Migixhi, Kahreign and Shuana. They have also celebrated Black History Month within Manchester by bringing together 90's legend Madrush MC with a new up and coming producer Ethan Hill to release the 'Corrupt Clarity EP' and cement what it is to be black in 2021.

Having a group of people that cares about creating music that matters, makes a change and represents areas that are not yet covered is a really important thing within the city and within the whole music industry. May this label be a beacon of positivity and possibility within the community.

Long live Rhythm Lab Records.

Favourite release -

Do Your Best

Do Your Best continue to be at the centre of the strange and wonderful in Manchester with the likes of Another; Country $$$, POSA and 6a6y 6 at the centre of their roster. The label looks solely at the outcasted music of the modern day featuring electronic, industrial, dance, queer, acoustic and all round strange music.

The label started in London over 4 years ago and moved to Manchester 3 years ago, since then it has cemented itself in the hearts of the alternative Manchester community with Kalum Winters at the helm and artwork by Theo Eze whose work has been featured in Black Spring Zine.

The label can be represented fully in its latest release 'Cherry Tree Carol' by Chermansog which had Theo and his partner Sam on vocals and backing vocals on the track and Kalum's partner Ella Skinner (Islington Mill resident) creating the artwork for the release. The label is building a family and above all else that is something special and truly important in a city full of competition and greed.

Favourite release -

Noire State

Noire State are self confessed 'party planners' and it has to be said, they put on a right good party. After seeing their shubs at Off The Square with Poison Ivy, Charlie B, Shawne Cartier, Dufrane, Borai , Denham Audio, Pussystamina, Swamp 81, Interplanetary Criminal and Charlie Boy Manson you can only imagine what the label is releasing.

Dosing us up with a heavy selection of house, dub, funky electronics and breakbeats the label is giving us a taste of the great electronic producers around the country right now including Ident, Oldboy and Bertie up to date. They basically make the music that people take pills to...

With Manchester being host to some of the best nightlife at the moment it's no wonder that DJ culture is skyrocketing everywhere you look with producers like aya and Anz pushing it on from the front and if Noire State keep on pushing then they can come along for the ride.

Favourite release -

Dry Cough Records

Through the turn of 2021 Manchester was rife with a metal music, black metal, heavy metal, sub ironic metal with dogs as vocalists and The Bay Horse and V-Rev were at the centre of it. Fast forward 10 years and now everyone is either in a post punk band or are a DJ, no escaping it.

Dry Cough Records are continuing to wave the flag of metal music in the city that was forged and promoted by labels such as Church of Fuck and I thank them for it.

Names you will certainly know like Esoteric Youth (Dom who founded V-Rev is the lead singer), Slimelord, Gouger and as far as Slovenia's Leechfeast, Finland's Slave Hands, Czech Republic's Slave Patrol.

Long live the metal scene in Manchester, I hope it comes back in full force one day but for now we thank Dry Cough for keeping Manchester on the map.

Favourite release -

Alphaville Records

Alphaville Records are made of the couple Hayley Scott and Kane Martin who you may know from frequenting Wilderness Records. They have created the perfect indie-alternative label to nourish the soul and make you smile.

The label run as a not-for-profit and specialise in specifically North West artists and developing said artists also, which is a lovely thing for someone to do. So far they have Swedish Magazines, The Vat Egg Imposition, Threads, Oort Clod and Priceless Bodies on their roster to highlight what the area has to offer.

The label is also running Alphaville Gigs which is putting on the shows to bolster the community they are growing with a huge New Years Eve show to showcase the talent they have got and the musicians from the are that they love.

I hope to see much much more from them moving forward.

Favourite release -

Decaying Spheres

Decaying Spheres started at the back end of 2019 and have cemented themselves as making some of the best looking tapes in the city. Featuring gritty ambient, drone and experimental music from Helsinki to Hamburg to North Carolina you can expect some world ending synths from this label.

They seem to be creating a blissful community of dark music fans across the globe slowly but surely with listeners and fans coming in from all corners, but does your home city know about you? There isn't much else out there about who or where this label is so if you're reading Decaying Spheres, then say hello and let us know who you are!

Favourite release -

Tesla Tapes

This label are an enigma.

Started back in 2013 by members of the band Gnod, this label lived in Islington Mill with the purpose of giving those amassed musicians a place to put their weird and wonderful musical projects along with some of the great things that the people of Salford and beyond could create. Some to feature on the label include Locean, Dwellings, Negra Branca, AHRKH, Errant Monks and Gnod.

Since their inception they have released 52 projects that all hit home in different DIY ways from field recordings, harsh electronics, dark synthwave, heavy rock and whatever your head can fit in between all of them.

The label is a mystery, a cherished gem and something to keep an eye on.

Favourite release -

Open Tapes

Founded by Jack Lever in May of 2021 this label appears to serve as the documentarian or archivist to some unknown art scene within Greater Manchester. It's 4 releases all serve as live recordings of some far off happening, whether it be John Powell Jones making noise music in Merseyway shopping centre or The Tape Loop Orchestra performing 'Liminal' in The Talleyrand.

Yeah you heard all of that right, weird isn't it?

Either way I love the ridiculous nature of this label, it feels like you're peeking your head out of the chest pocket of someone who walked into a room they shouldn't have yet decided to stay.

What else can the label come up with that will turn more heads?

Favourite release -

Fixed Abode

Fixed Abode put themselves on my radar towards the end of last year when they put on a free showcase at Soup which included Moseley, Croww, Blackhaine, Space Afrika and Rainy Miller, a lot of people that are famously choosy and hard to get to work with.

The label was founded by Rainy in 2020 as the platform for his music and the music of his friends and it is for this reason that they do not have to work on other labels and 'for' people. To date the label have only released 3 projects, two from Blackhaine including his debut 'Amour' which featured Iceboy Violet and Miller's debut 'Limbs' which featured big hitting track 'Chalamet'.

Latest releases from both Blackhaine and Rainy Miller have exploded internationally with Head II taking 'And Salford Falls Apart' and Fixed Abode releasing 'A Choreographed Interruption' but are both labels the same thing, the same person and the same group? Does nobody else want to put these guys out or do they keep all the power to themselves and therefore control every element of their artistic nature?

Maybe that alone is the power of Fixed Abode, hopefully we see more consistency in the future.

Favourite release -

I think this list could go on and on forever with Manchester being such a musical hub internationally so instead I'll give some shoutouts of other labels that I also love!

Natural Sciences have been a crudely unappreciated label in Manchester for years and I hope that can all changes. They look deep into the abyss of international industrial dance music with hints of hip-hop and rap throw in there for good measure.

I feel that I can't fully surmise what really goes on at this label but I do know that Alex is a lovely guy and deserves everything he releases to be bought and downloaded. Check out the annual Future Works release to jump straight into the audio ethos of this label

Sour Grapes should have always been on your radar whether that is for putting on excellent psych rock shows consistently, releasing bootleg live albums of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, making a compilation album to raise money for the bar Big Hands or for opening up the cassette shop Mars Tapes.

The guys behind this label have been doing it for years and are truly pioneers within our city bringing their unique rock sound to this indie/DJ landfill city. Local names like Farfisa, Gardenback and Bones Shake fill the roster to give us a lovely view into the Sour Grape world.

Sprechen have wonderfully created a label that showcase and celebrate the best of international pop influenced house music, it basically all feels fun, it all gives you summer vibes and that is clear with their Freight Island DJ residency putting them even more into the Mancunian consciousness.

There releases have seen them work with musicians as far as Italy, France, Norway, Spain, Argentina, Indonesia and none other than Manchester with in house names like See Thru Hands, Bill Brewster, Pychederek and Chris Massey.

I'm a fan of everything they have released so go listen to it all.

Red Laser Records are self confessed originators or MANCTALO or to the rest of us, Mancs doing Italo Disco. I kinda feel like that's all that need saying.

From big shows at The White Hotel to having a DJ called DJ Absolutely Shit I'm all over this label for any way to start a good shubs.