The music industry is over, they said. The labels are dead, they said. Well, they were wrong. However, to be a successful label in 2012 meant you had to hold your balance on shifting sands, to diversify and reflect how people engage with music in the 21st century and also—crucially—possess flawless curatorial chops. The latter was abundant in vanguard label 4AD, our Readers’ Poll 2012 winner for Best Label. One of the year’s bigger surprises came when they signed Miami’s SpaceGhostPurrp for his debut full-length, Mysterious Phunk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp, a departure for a label more associated with forward-thinking guitar music and art pop (but hey, Zomby’s also on their roster, so… ) It was a inspired acquisition—the inky murk of SpaceGhostPurp’s sordid and black-draped hip-hop meets a label who helped defined the baroque end of post-punk. Such brave acquisitions were also bolstered by one of the most impressive release schedules we’ve seen in a long while: Scott Walker, Purity Ring, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Twin Shadow, David Byrne and St Vincent… All put out records through 4AD this year.
Second was another label with experience on their side. Ninja Tune were responsible for introducing Slugabed to a wider audience with the oozing boogie of Time Team, while Lorn‘s second album Ask the Dust quietly won ‘heads over and south London trio The Invisible upheld the label’s reputation as London’s finest purveyor of leftfield electronica.
It won’t surprise anyone to see Kiran Sande’s Blackest Ever Black making the cut. This label, perhaps more than any other, summed up the gnawing atmosphere of bleakness and severity. Going clubbing became a place of emotional purging; industrial, techno and noise became indistinct as we were caught up in the death imperative: we needed it harder and noisier and so very, very serious. It’s hard to counter how young the label is (Sande set it up in 2010) when this year alone saw material coming from Raime, Cut Hands, Black Rain and Dominick Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project. Incredible.
Tri Angle kept the momentum that they’d build up in 2011 right through to 2012. They powered into the new year with new signing Evian Christ and the Tri Angle showcase, part of CTM, in Berghain last February was one of our favorite gigs of the year. While the internet remains Tri Angle’s primary dominion (see the decision to keep Kings and Them available as a free download, even after its official vinyl release) the last 12 months also saw the NY/London label edging into the mainstream: AlunaGeorge pierced the BBC Radio 1 playlist and have made the BBC Sound of ’13 poll. Can they make it three years in a row?
Finally, we were overjoyed to see you enjoying the output of PAN as much as we did. Bill Kouligas‘ boutique label was responsible for some of our favorite releases including Heatsick’s Déviation EP and Lee Gamble‘s double whammy of Dutch Tvashar Plumes and the conceptual Diversions 1994 – 1996. The emphasis placed on sleeve design and production values, these were truly records as artefacts, was a timely reminder of the importance of the physical release.
Electronic Beats Readers’ Poll 2012 — Best Label:
The 5th prize—a copy of Pet Shop Boys’ exclusive “Winner’” 7inch single plus special catalogue—goes to Meri Lehtinen, Tampere, Finland.
Your favorite mixtape, compilation or DJ set of 2012 will follow on Friday, December 28. Find all poll results in here.
Published December 26, 2012. Words by Louise Brailey.