Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dude, Where's My Sleeve?

As every music enthusiast knows, the ability to quickly locate a given track within their collection is almost as important as having the record there in the first place. Artwork is without doubt one of the best ways of making such a task possible and even with a (well ordered) large vinyl collection, it's easy to pick out specific releases based on spine markings. However, over the past year or so, I seem to be picking up an increasing number of records that are sold in nothing more than the flimsy paper inner and to make matters worse, many of these releases bear little more than a rubber stamped label logo rather than the usual artist and track name details.

Many of these records seem to be coming out of Berlin and are frequently associated with the Hardwax and Berghain crews e.g. MDR and Equalized although another Berlin label that really surprises me with it's lack of proper packaging is Styrax Leaves as this seems totally at odds with the care and attention that clearly goes into their artwork (not to mention the music itself).

Sandwell District is another label that's (sometimes) guilty of this too and in terms of the ueber-anonymous protagonists, Seldom Felt has clearly decided that the UK can hold it's weight against the mainland Europeans by sharing little more than catalogue numbers and a brief statement around the label's ideology.

OK, that's my moan over and in reality this is little more than a minor annoyance which can easily be resolved by picking up some sleeves from a local independent store. All that really matters is the quality of the music contained in the grooves and this is without doubt where all the labels mentioned here are right on top of their game and what keeps me going back for more of these little beauties.

Berghain-related material has been getting a lot of column inches of late and the residents seem to be gravitating towards iconic status so I figured on sharing two tracks that are worthy of similar praise although you'll have to make your own guesses about who's behind the Seldom Felt one.

Silent Servant & Kalon - Violencia
// Sandwell District buy
Unknown Artist - Seldom Felt 4 (A) // Seldom Felt buy

The final part of today's post goes out to a mix that I got sent a few weeks back which takes a whole bunch of this sort of stripped down techno that I'm so fond of and splices it all together to deliver 60 minutes of warehouse style goodness. It's from a little-known known DJ called Benjamin Anon and if you like what you hear, why not pop over to his Myspace and say hi.

Benjamin Anon - State of the Art


Sleeparchive - Radio [ZZZ]
Dasha Rush - Ionik (For Me Mix) [Fullpanda Records]
JPLS - Synthesis (Wax Edit) [Minus]
JPLS - Quasarlude [Minus]
Brian Aneurysm - Certify (Remix) [Ironbox]
Samuli Kemppi - Vangel [Ostgut Ton]
Function - Burn [Sandwell District]
Marcel Dettmann - Corebox [Marcel Dettmann Records]
Robert Hood - Side Effect [Music Man Records]
Len Faki - My Black Sheep (Marcel Dettmann Mix) [Figure]
Jonas Kopp - Ruido De Junio [Weave Music]
Plaid - OI [Warp Records]
Kalon - Man Is The Superior Animal [Sandwell District]
Gowentgone Remixes - ibex (Marcel Fengler Remix) [Vidab]
Regis & Female - CChaos [Dust Science]

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Well here's a real, English language comment for you regarding the jacket issue. As someone who's run a couple of small underground labels in the past, I can tell you that cutting out the jackets or using stamps for art instead of printing labels saves a substantial amount in production expenses. That way vinyl labels can squeeze out slightly bigger profit margins. Another way to go is take what's saved on packaging and put it instead towards better mastering and higher grade of vinyl, ending up with a great sounding, quality product for a cheaper price (that just doesn't look as pretty). With the cost of pressing records being so high and sales down, I'd say cutting back or compromising on packaging can be necessary for some labels to even stay in business.
Daft as it may sound, I'd never really thought about the financial aspect of the packaging.

The sleeve has always just been something that's there and it's only when it's not present that I realise that it serves a useful purpose to protect the record and help identify it.

While I have a suspicion that certain labels do away with packaging and labelling to try and enhance the aura of 'underground cool', if doing away with artwork and sleeves genuinely allows more money to be spent on the mastering and / or helps a smaller label to survive then it's got my full backing.
Scott Grooves will be playing at East Village in London on 20 November! Check out the event on Facebook!

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