Tuesday, August 27, 2013

True Independent Music Labels

A truly independent music label exists as a self-sufficient operation through their own financing and sales. When one of these labels enters into an affiliation with a larger record company to help distribute or otherwise enhance their venture, they are no longer really an "indie."   No matter how cutting edge or innovative their catalog may have been at the time, they are now actually a subsidiary of a larger company. This affords them distribution advantages and financial clout that the true indie does not have.

 What follows here is focused on music being put out by true independent music labels.

 First up, some recent releases from old friends of this blog, Squirrel Records

Earlier this year the good folks at Squirrel sent me a package that contained this 7" record

The mysteriously named band and it's peculiar imagery was compelling enough right away to dig in, give a good listen and see what this was all about.

Fortunately this accompanying promotional video makes for quick and easy access to the track as well as providing visual enhancement.

A driving snare shot drum beat comes surrounded with enough reverb to evoke comparisons to “Barbed Wire Kisses” era Jesus and Mary Chain. But the pulsating synths that follow point to an earlier period, bringing to mind synth-pop’s first wave in the 1980’s. A distinct, hooky melody line emerges on top of that already lush backdrop, leaving no doubt that vintage keyboard sounds will dominate. Vocalist “Sissy Space Echo” presents an impassioned tale of behind-the-wheel driving impressions that echoes the spirit of “car song” pioneers The Shangri-Las and the dangers ever present. Another layer of keyboards emerge as additional sonic enhancement for the coda section that features a repeated vocal line about “time” and “these dirty streets.”

Another unique feature of true independent record labels - the 7" vinyl single.

Complete with inside liner notes.

The other side of this single serves up a track called "(I'm A) Willing Receiver."  With whip-slap percussion  under a throbbing electronic pulse, verses are delivered in teutonic narration-style as electronically altered amplified guitar sounds create the impression of radio static behind. A chorus of sorts repeats with the lyrics "you don't know I exist" and "you don't know how I feel" which ultimately resolves with the line "but I know you." There's enough mysterious word play throughout - "icy smile - penetrate the glass - look in the mirror - take it in the trash" - to keep you guessing as to the overall subject matter.  The track was recorded and mixed in mono, which contributes to a certain overall nostalgic charm. However there is enough separation between the sounds to approximate the feel of stereo.  Abrasive guitar washes (always welcome) lead it all to a noisy conclusion of crackle and mayhem.

B-side vinyl goodness

More recently Squirrel released a follow-up single from this band again.

The A-Side here is quintessential pop music in the way Bobby Sherman used to make when he ruled the teen airwaves, with a dash of Conway Twitty when those songs dominated the country charts.  Structural similarities aside, the lyrical content and accompanying video presents an homage to the central character of popular 1970's era film "Logan's Run."

The B-Side takes things off into more adventurous directions. With a title that playfully twists off an Echo and The Bunnymen classic, “Bring on the Dancing Horse Meat” pulses with slap percussion and buzzing synths.  Soft upfront mixed vocals sound perfectly placed, putting the right amount of emphasis on those curiously intriguing lyrics. A ripping guitar part emerges in a style that's equal parts prime period Velvet Underground and late 1960’s era Byrds. Unexpectedly, the track morphs into a quicker driving beat, with “choir” patch synth textures and throbbing bass guitar. With “Sissy” singing about listening for bells and the ringing, additional layers of guitars jump into the fray. Ultimately the whole track devolves into frantic raveup of urgency.

Have a listen and hear for yourself

Both 7" singles (among many other things) can be ordered directly from the label's website:

Patetico Recordings is an independent music label based out of Philadelphia under the fervid attention of it's owner Tom Lugo.

In addition to running this label, Tom writes and records his own music as well as engaging in collaborations with others.

The recently released Drowning Dreams is one such project.

Stand out track "Leave It All Behind" emerges slow and gently, like the bubbles rising up on the albums cover.  Precisely placed bass notes establish the full progression, allowing for loose and jammy drums to share sonic space with a single note struck guitar melody that sits perfectly with digital delay "echo" overtone enhancement.  Midway in a piercing guitar solo takes off on top of everything, creating an additional level of excitement that is most welcome.  This added guitar continues to build in intensity as it expands across the sonic field.  The drumming becomes more intense as a result of this inspired guitar work, and you can hear subtle changes in the bass progression.  The overall impression given is that of a basic song idea that blossomed under improvisation and a mutually shared passion for the psych rock sound.

Listen to the track here:

Find out how to obtain this album as well as the full Patetico Recordings discography at this link:

Custom Made Music has been putting out an eclectic blend of releases from both new and previously established recording artists for quite some time now.

Prior entries on a variety of recordings from this label can be found in the archives of this blog as well.

A new 7" single is now available from the band Eartheater

Featured A-Side track “Birds Eye” presents a creative blend of relaxed-groove dual-guitar interplay, fluid bass playing, and light electronic percussion. Vocalist Alexandra Drewchin presents an eccentric story about spies, the need to keep silent, and staying above it all – “high like a birds eye.” At times her vocal delivery takes on the quirky inflections that singers Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries (“Zombie”), Lene Lovich (“Lucky Number”) and even Yoko Ono (everything) popularized. The song structure itself takes interesting turns as a descending progression appears a third of the way in (within the first minute) accompanied by industrial speed-snare percussion and distant siren sound effects. This pattern repeats as a bridge between verses until the final minute of the song. At this point the track veers off into an unsettling movie soundtrack mode, which the accompanying video made for it fully capitalizes on.

 Look and listen here:

Find out more about the Eartheater release on Custom Made here:

And everything that label has to offer here:

You can read a prior feature on Custom Made releases published exclusively on this blog, here:

Another indie label who's work has been featured on this blog over the last few years is the Virginia Beach based Planting Seeds Records.

 New releases have now been delivered to the public with an enthusiasm that presents each artist in the genre best suited to their respective creative output.

Death Valley Rally roll out their first EP on the label with the six song "The Stars Shine Brighter After Midnight."

Lead single "Come On" is fast paced and driving with a fuzz-bass undercurrent that points directly at early Jesus and Mary Chain (and more recently Ringo Deathstarr) as sonic forbears, at least instrumentally.  Unadorned boy-girl vocals sung in tandem move things in other directions, as the honest clarity (no heavy studio autotune correcting here) creates a charming atmosphere.  With the actual EP title showing up as an additional hook further into the song (the song title itself being the first), the band exhibits a knack for catchy phrases, intended to stick in your head.

Have a listen to "Come On" and discover for yourself:

Find out more about this band (including how to order their record) go Here

Another signficant PSR release is the limited edition 7" 45 rpm Vinyl and
4 song digital download from The Young Sinclairs

Titled "You Know Where To Find Me," these label home-state residents have been honing their particular brand of pop music for a number of years, compiling a sizeable catalog of releases (which can be found here ).

The era this band so obviously chooses to emulate is that point in the early 1960's when popular music stood at the crossroads between American standard bearer Buddy Holly and the "invading" influence of The Beatles.

The title track here presents a faithful homage to Holly's spiritual sound while referencing at points the structure and lyrical sentiment of the aforementioned Beatles "Please Please Me."  A sense of unrequited love (for now) runs through the lyrics, after being "left alone" once again. He's leaving it all out there for her - “can’t you see what I want – and what it could be.”

Listen to "You Know Where To Find Me"


To find out about this release and all the other artists at Planting Seeds Records, follow the link below: 

Speaking of Buddy Holly, the new Suzy Blu release takes on the Texas legend in a truly inspired way.

Building their entire song around a single word sound sample of Holly's trademark "Well" - provides the necessary sonic gravitas for Suzy's own creative flow.  After Buddy's initial "appearance," the track takes on a forceful minimalism of driving tom tom percussion accompanying storyteller vocals.  Guitars emerge into the mix and serve to create an appealing level of tension throughout.  The bigger move, however is a jacked up chorus featuring buzzaw guitar chords, matched throbbing bass, electronic handclap percussion and floating outerspace sounds.  It's all pulled back together with the return of Buddy's "Well."  The cycle repeats with enough incidental sonic variations to hold the listeners interest.  The story being told focuses on the eternal search for love - or at the very least a compatible partner.  While one may "find it easy to lie in the dark" the other challenges them to "play your part."   "Do you want to sink or swim?   Show me how thick's your skin!"  If only Buddy were around to hear this.

Fortunately, you are and therefore can (listen - and look):

Find more about Suzy Blu here:

A new track from Vandana Jain has recently emerged that is well worth checking out.

Creative sound design is woven throughout this masterful recording. Passages appear stark and minimal in places – yet it somehow still sounds incredibly big. Such seductive vocal delivery (and placement) makes for a wonderful headphone listening experience. Lyrically the subject matter addresses the “mask” we all put on every day to function. The point of view presented here takes a candid look at the all too frequent deceptive nature of this practice. Referencing a “wicked smile” that is “crooked and sideways” with “misleading” intent driven by “imposters.” Ultimately the mask is removed when alone, allowing for an unguarded mirror conversation with your own mind. This is the work of a serious electronic musician who’s visual imagery further enhances an overall appealing sensory mix.

Listen to this wonderful track:

Prior coverage of Vandana's live show can be found here:
For additional information, links
to all the pages relating to this artist can be found through
her Soundcloud, here:


Misty said...

wow. another amazing many band blog to digest! first impressions have got me enjoying the girl one and the grease guns tracks. eartheater is really interesting, and i can't believe i'm seeing my tv dreamboat playing bass there! also, suzy blu singing with buddy holly is pretty amazing!

DaveCromwell said...

Every once in a while I like to showcase a number of deserving artists (and in this case, their respective labels) focusing on signficiant (usually the latest) releases.

Good to read those particular one's appeal to you, Misty. After you've given a good listen to them all, check back in with any additional reactions you might have.

Ivanka said...

so many cool bands and cool tunes!!! There are something reall nice that deserves attention! Great review, thanks for sharing!!!

DaveCromwell said...

Indeed, Ivanka.

After listening a bit, if there is one (or a couple) that stands out for you, don't hesitate to share your thoughts about it.

Mr Smork said...

cool stuff.

good to hear tha there are some labels that has some nice music to offer.

though i would differ two of them:
the young sinclars that reminds me of some band you wrote before "manhatan suicides" or something.

and "earthhater" that reminds me of lazy "the cranberries" from their vibe vocals.

...i must me reminiscing a lot... :P

Patricia Mena said...

Super great review Dave! Cool bands and songs. "Driving without headlights" has an excellent sound and contagious rhythm, I like it so much. "Dream while".. It's a nice melody, would listen it while i am drawing.. feels like being on the sky. "Come on" Very nice song, danceable. And the super fantastic ending with Vandana.. Love, love that song, soooo cool! :D

DaveCromwell said...

Ah yes, Paty - I knew you loved that one by Vandana Jain. It really is near perfect electronica. Nice to know you also picked up on the qualities in GOATGG's "Driving," the Drowning Dreams track and DVR's "Come on." And yup - I heard that Cranberries vibe (at least in some of the vocals) on the Eartheater track, Mr. Smork.

Unknown said...

Hey Dave! Very cool-- I especially like Girl One and the Grease Guns as well as Leave it All Behind (Drowning Dreams)..that, I downloaded. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Dave, thanks, this is cool. I downloaded Drowning Dreams--and I especially like Girl One and the Grease Guns! On another note, you've got a good looking family!

DaveCromwell said...

Excellent to hear, jaggerandrea. Downloads are how so many of us now listen to most music (I know it is for me). But, I like that many of these indie labels take pride in producing these physical 7" vinyl records as well. We presently live in an age where all formats are still being produced based on the labels own driving force. That's pretty cool.

The Midnite Rambler said...

Wow Dave I don't know how you manage to find so many great new bands that I haven't heard of yet. I imagine New York / Brooklyn has a great music scene. Your blog has become a valuable resource for me. I particularly liked Girl One & Death Valley Rally and have already added some songs to my playlist. Keep it coming!

DaveCromwell said...

Great to know that some of these songs are already on your playlists, Rambler. I'm sure the artists themselves will be happy to hear that. It's no secret that New York and especially Brooklyn in particular have a continually thriving music scene - however it should be noted that this feature actually emphasizes a lot of music from other places - Leeds, UK and the states of Virginia (2) and Pennsylvania.

William said...

A true independent is hard to find but indeed a very special thing - these guys seem to be doing some super cool stuff !! These are the guys who are making the music industry work these days a lot of the time

great muzak too!!

DaveCromwell said...

It's good to see some attention focused on the people doing creative things like this. The big guys don't need anymore help. I know you are involved with many grassroots level projects too, William.

The Grim Reefer said...

I have long asserted to any & all who'd listen that there's great music being made in the nooks & crannies of every culture. The "music Scene", as defined by fanmags & the star making machinery, is a dinosaur sinking into the tar pits...........Screaming, hollering,hissing & legislating, trying to hold hands full fog with ropes & chains.
.....and the Indies sprout like liberty caps, spreading the word...
...That's where intrepid explorers like yourself serve your purpose. Having come to "know" you somewhat, I know your tastes & where they dovetail with my own. And where they do not. Your guidance becomes an invaluable tool, a great filter, a trusted compass.
...You provide a nice read, great visuals and,and for the most part, nice music.
Keep on truckin baby!

DaveCromwell said...

What a pleasure it is to read the inspired prose that is a comment from our friend The Grim Reefer. The nooks and crannies of our culture are the only places a forum like this should focus on. Real creativity more often than not is found on the fringes and not the center - especially when it comes to music.