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The Sound Of: Love On The Rocks

Always ahead of the curve, Paramida’s Love On The Rocks has been injecting prog, trance, Italo and more back into the underground for the past decade, building a loyal following of record buyers and partygoers along the way. Alongside a mix from its catalogue, Henry Ivry learns more

“If it looks like there is a line connecting everything I’ve done, there isn’t,” producer, DJ, and label boss Paramida tells us, laughing. “I have no idea what I’m doing and have just learned by doing it.” 

She’s recounting the history of her vaunted label, Love On The Rocks, which celebrates its 10th anniversary later this year. As she explains it, just about everything related to the label is a happy accident. The name? Paramida heard Bulgarian DJ Emil Doesn’t Drive play the Italo classic (not the Neil Diamond song) when she first moved to Berlin and the title stuck with her. The distinct release art that fuses religious iconography with a slightly psychedelic edge? The duo Psychemagik posted images of old postcards they’d found in San Francisco and she fell in love with them. Even starting a label in the first place was an impromptu decision: working at a record store and surrounded by talented friends, she was enamoured with “the charm” of starting a label and so asked one about it; a week later, she was sitting in a distribution office.    

All this lucky happenstance is surprising from the outside looking in. For a decade now, Love On The Rocks has been at the forefront of the underground, able to anticipate trends without ever chasing what’s cool. From Italo to progressive, disco to neo Goa trance, the label has touched on just about every variety of funky and soulful dance music there is. 

When we ask Paramida about how she approaches the label’s sound, she’s equally nonchalant. When the label first started, she explains, “I wasn’t hitting the zeitgeist at the time,” but she was OK with that. “Every release is a bit different. The common ground of it is my taste. Someone would say, ‘This is a Paramida record’ — you can hear my taste and I would know exactly what they mean.” We push her to expand on this. Can she think of anything that holds the records together? “I love melody and I like it if it’s a little obscure.” 


Melody is certainly a throughline of the label. From the first nu-disco release by Italian wizard Massimiliano Pagliara to the most recent 12-inch of hi-octane trance from E-Talking, a Love On The Rocks record is a kaleidoscope of emotions, packed with arpeggios, windswept synth lines, and club-friendly drum programming. But the records are also “a little obscure”. Whether it’s the darting acid of Elles and Violet’s poetically titled ‘A Life Lived In Fear Is Like A Life Half Lived’, or the groovy drums on Alex Kassian’s ‘Oolong Trance’, Love On The Rocks tracks are big, but shy away from big-room blandness.  

There’s an abrasive quality to the records, not in terms of production value — Longhair’s 2020 classic ‘The Forbidden Dance’ is so hi-fi, it could have come out of Giorgio Moroder’s studio — but rather in the feel of the songs. There is the je ne sais quoi of the underground. These are records made by producers who spend their weekend in dark, smoky clubs until the wee hours of Monday.   

This punky edge translates into how Paramida thinks about the label in general. Throughout our conversation, she continually tells us that she’s never approached Love On The Rocks “like a business”. This may come across as a bit of a cliche at a time when corporate brands are eager to describe their customers as community, but there is a contrarian edge to everything Paramida does (the first line in her current artist bio describes her as “Berlin’s most hated”). 

This filters down to how she chooses to release music. She explains that while she does hope to recoup her distribution costs, her emphasis on releasing vinyl is never about the sales. “A 12” has to be more valuable than a digital release. Our audience can see the love and intention put into every release, from our notes on the download cards to the artwork,” she tells us. “That’s how we build a true following; I’ve managed to create a loyal family.”  

Proof of this can be found at her Love On The Rocks parties at Panorama Bar. There are “people who fly in for every party,” she says. Last year, she and Alex Kassian made branded handheld fans to distribute to overheated punters on the dancefloor, which have become collectors’ items. But even this foray into promoting was an accident. “I never wanted to throw parties,” she explains. 

Love On The Rocks

As with the rest of the label, things just sort of happened. After Covid, when Paramida ascended to the highest pantheon of Berlin DJs as a Panorama Bar resident, the club’s management asked if she wanted to throw a party. The first one was held in 2022 and, as she says, “it’s now spiralled.” She’s hosted club nights and festival stages everywhere from Kala Festival to fabric, expanding her devoted audience. 

The line-ups are just as expansive as the label; the organising principle is house, but you are just as likely to hear New York’s crown prince of the disco edit, Eric Duncan, as you are the queen of the diggers, Laurine from Slow Life. But like everyone who takes a sip of the Love On The Rocks Kool Aid, you can slowly start to hear what it is that brings them all together.    

Nothing captures this better than the label’s recently released anniversary compilation, ‘10 Years Love On The Rocks - Sky Is The Limit’. There are familiar faces from the roster — Massimiliano Pagliara, who provided the label’s first release, returns with tropical, Italo-inflected house, Fantastic Man and Tornado Wallace push their synths to their emotional limit, and Paramida herself lays out a prog-inflected monster. But what also impresses is how newer recruits to the label blend in so easily. Sweely’s ’80s funk sounds right at home, as does the sexed-up contribution from E-Talking, who debuted last year with ‘The Cosmic Egg’ EP. In other words, press play on either disc and you’ll slip into the Love On The Rocks world.  

Early in our conversation, Paramida tells us that she doesn’t A&R so much as ask her friends for records. “Every release is a reflection of my life, what I’m into and who is around me. If I let someone into the circle, it’s someone I truly believe in,” she explains. Listening to ‘10 Years Love On The Rocks - Sky Is The Limit’ then is a celebration of how singular and expansive a world Paramida has shaped.