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Best Of British: Best Record Label - Hyperdub

Fine Tuning: The 'weirdos' win out

With their restlessly futuristic vision, the records released on the Hyperdub label are as bleeding edge as it's possible to be without ending up in A&E. Yet whilst their synthesis of the human and electronic makes them both timeless and a soundtrack for our contemporary age, in some respects the label's modus operandi belongs to a much older aesthetic. For in a music industry in which the wheels of hype revolve at ever greater speeds and where a million tunes promising instant aural gratification are available at the click of a mouse, the idea of finely crafting a finished product which is then released as a physical product only when the time is right seems almost antiquated.

"I think one of the things that's lost in our web 2.0 world is a sense of surprise, as well as the reward that comes from the effort of having to wait for something, track it down and only then listening to it," says Hyperdub label manager Marcus Scott.

"There's no over-arching philosophy behind it but it's important to have a certain sense of mystery and retain complete autonomy over what you do. Don't give everyone everything straight away - and if you're serious about releasing music then you shouldn't fuck about with any other nonsense. We just put out music where the quality is always high and that should be enough to keep it interesting."

Which is why, Marcus believes, it's Hyperdub rather than any label with a vast marketing strategy and budget that has scooped the award for 'Best Label' in our Best of British awards, and why the imprint has an audience of loyal fans who actually buy their records rather than just thousands of so-called Facebook 'friends'.

"We've really worked hard on releasing records like the fifth anniversary compilation and the King Midas Sound album this year," he claims. "So it's great that it's the people who've been out to get them that have voted for us, which means more than being voted for the Mercury Music Prize by a load of industry 'insiders.''

Ah yes, the Mercury Music Prize and the shortlisting of Burial's 'Untrue' album, which last year heralded Hyperdub's ascension from cult underground concern to, if not exactly household fame, then certainly wider recognition and a name to drop by the broadsheet clubbing cognoscenti. A fact that Marcus regards as something of a double-edged sword, with the boost in record sales mirrored by a rising perception that Hyperdub was simply "Burial's label", a misconception that their current five-year anniversary compilation 'Hyperdub 5' seeks to redress, alongside celebrating the diversity of the roster Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, has assembled since beginning Hyperdub half a decade ago.

"The intention was to make people who bought Burial aware of some of the other artists on the label, as well as bringing some fresh stuff through for the fans," Marcus explains. "If you want to pigeonhole Hyperdub as a dubstep label then you won't be able to after this."

Indeed, Marcus professes to being a little baffled as to why Hyperdub has become so synonymous with the dubstep scene.

"Hyperdub's just always been about a certain sense of speed and bass, as well as a quality Steve searches for that makes your synapses snap. If any of the records sound like dubstep it's because they have strong basslines and move at dubstep speed, but that's just an accident," he says.

And anyone expecting two CDs comprised solely of flatulent basslines and skunked-out skanking would be equally confused by one listen to 'Hyperdub 5', featuring as it does the likes of Ikonika's twisted house hybrids and Darkstar's 8-bit proto-funk, not to mention Kode9 and Spaceape's radical reworking of The Specials' 'Ghost Town' - a nod back in the direction of their version of Prince's 'Sign O'The Times' called 'Sine Of The Dub', which was the label's first release in 2004.

But whilst all of the seminal Hyperdub moments are present and correct in the form of Burial's 'South London Boroughs' and Joker's 'Digidesign' amongst others, Marcus is loathe to pick out any 'key' records from their back catalogue, saying that "the records that we're most excited about are the albums from King Midas Sound, Ikonika and Darkstar that we've got coming up".

It's this refusal to dwell on the past that means Marcus is quick to brush aside any notions that Hyperdub belongs alongside such luminaries as Warp or Factory Records in any great bloodline of idiosyncratic British labels that defined their individual eras.

"Things like that only become clear in retrospect," he claims. 'I mean, there was a lot of great music on those labels but we're not trying to do anything similar. We don't really feel like we have any kindred spirits at all - we're just this bunch of weirdoes wondering how the hell we won this award!"

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