There’s alchemy at play in the Wisdom Teeth catalogue. Founded in 2014 by childhood friends Facta and K-LONE, the label has spent the best part of nine years perfecting a recipe that’s turned it into one of the UK’s most reliable underground electronic imprints; a home for bubbling blends that hit a sweet spot between bass-charged velocity and daydream reverie.
Though ostensibly cut from the same sub-soaked and percussion-patterned cloth as labels like Livity Sound, Keysound and Timedance, Wisdom Teeth’s output has set itself apart by adopting a progressively lighter, more colourful timbre than some of its peers’ under the nebulous ‘post-dubstep’/‘UK techno’ umbrella. From club-tuned EPs to longform projects tailored for the headphone zone, the imprint’s 35-and-counting discography traverses tempos, moods and flavours confidently, but the real magic lies in how those vibes cross-pollinate between releases, cohering into one delightfully hybrid ecosystem.
“Overall, we like interesting, ear-catching music that maybe doesn't sound like it would fit on other labels,” says Facta, real name Oscar Henson, when we speak in late February. “I think the label has ended up having a fairly distinctive sound; the thing that people always identify as slightly ‘plinky plonky’. It’s the combination of quite techy, synthetic stuff with more organic stuff. We love melody; we love slightly psychedelic stuff, and dubby, spacious stuff. But all of it is, I hope, quite fun.”
It is. Just listen to Welsh producer Jorg Kuning’s warped, modular house EP, ‘Chosta-del-sol’, the hyperkinetic drumplay of Dubliner Sputnik One’s ‘Love From Above’, or the kaleidoscopic synths of Iglew’s ‘Light Armour’ to get a taste of the label’s playful palette. For every track that plinks and plonks though, there is one that snarls and kicks, and another that gently glides and chimes: Mexico City-based artist Tristan Arp’s gorgeous ‘Sculpturegardening’ LP wraps Arthur Russell-esque cellos around lush generative synths; Swedish producer Shielding’s ‘Collecting Seaweed’ EP is an intoxicating mix of Basic Channel’s dub techno with Ashra-style kosmische; Milan’s Piezo oscillates from psychedelic dembow and glitchy techno into aquatic downtempo on 2019’s ‘Steady Can't Steady Can't Stay’ and 2022’s ‘LSD Superhero’.
The label’s stylistic evolution mirrors that of its founders, who appear regularly with releases touching on everything from bleepy broken techno and house to UKG and electrified bossa nova. A landmark moment came in 2020 with the release of K-LONE’s debut album, ‘Cape Cira’, which stepped away from the dancefloor and into a serene dreamworld of Steve Reich-inspired mallet percussion and ambient textures. This was shortly followed by Facta’s ‘Blush’ LP, a suite that seamlessly stitched tendrils of cosmic, balearic and autonomic electronics into a rich melodic tapestry – a far cry from ‘Polywhirl’, his murky bass stepper that launched the label alongside Wen’s ‘Late Night’.
“I think it's been a very natural progression,” says K-LONE, aka Joe Gladwell, of the label’s journey. “It's just me and Oscar discussing what we're into at the time, and what fits. It just happens to be that we both have quite similar tastes, and a similar idea of what we want to do. We definitely do disagree sometimes, but that’s also the best part of doing it with someone else. It would be a very different label if I was just doing it, or if just Oscar was doing it.”
The two became friends around the age of 11 or 12, and quickly bonded over a shared love of music. “We went through all the different phases together,” says Facta. “The indie phase, the new rave phase, then got into dubstep, and the rest is history.” “I think the first time we tried out decks was together,” remembers K-LONE. “We always wanted to do something musical together.”
They started making tunes, and even tried starting another label before Wisdom Teeth, assembling a compilation of tracks from producers they’d been chatting to online. It fell through, but the idea stuck. When K-LONE – who studied music production at Leeds College of Music – found out through his friend and classmate Tom Blip that grants were being made available through the uni that could help people get a record made, he and Facta jumped at the chance.
Initially, the pair were influenced by artists like Etch and Epoch, and producers with backgrounds in dubstep who were venturing into new, adventurous territory around the 130 BPM mark. It’s a vibe they captured on the label’s first release, and on subsequent early 12”s featuring the likes of Hodge, Alex Coulton, Acre and Chevel. A turning point was 2017’s ‘On Line (Vol. 1)’ – “Volume two pending, probably never” – which saw Simo Cell, Don’t DJ and K-LONE turn their hands to more minimal, ambient compositions. Then came a string of EPs from Freerotation festival regular Duckett, its founder Steevio, and LOFT (now aya), each of which pushed the experimental edge even further with trippy rhythms and shapeshifting sound designs.
Nowadays, Wisdom Teeth runs like a well-oiled machine, with a small group of visual artists they work with regularly for artwork, a democratic approach to all decision-making, and a healthy dose of debate in selecting what ultimately ends up getting released. “If [one of us] doesn't like a tune, we'll probably try and convince the other that they're wrong for a bit, which is actually a really good part of the process,” Facta explains. “A lot of the time, you come with certain biases, or what you're expecting to hear from things, but I think we both really trust each other's tastes, and know what we're talking about at this stage... There's definitely a few records where I think, from either direction, we've kind of had to make the case a little bit. But often, those are the coolest records.”
The “human element” of running a label is crucial for the pair. “We want to be mates with the people we work with,” says Facta. “[We like] meeting people, hanging out with them – we always try, around releases, to do some gigs with the artists.” “We want to help out as much as we can as well,” K-LONE agrees.
“At the end of the day, with running a label now, it's like... Anyone can release music themselves,” Facta adds. “If we're going to essentially take your music and bring into what we're doing, we need to be offering something other than just putting it up on our Bandcamp rather than yours and doing some social posts. We definitely will do as much behind the scenes stuff as we can, putting people in contact with people, trying to set up press. Over the years we’ve accumulated contacts on that front, so we try really hard and give people a leg up when we can and help with any bits and bobs... I’m proud of that.”
In November 2022, the label released one of its most adventurous projects to date: the 10-track collaborative album, ‘To Illustrate’. They invited a variety of artists to contribute tracks in-and-around 100 BPM, a region that the London-based producer and friend of the imprint Parris had already explored to exceptional effect on 2020’s ‘Terrapin’ EP. From twisty R&B and buoyant dembow beats to animated electronica and burbling bass, the compilation features cuts from the likes of Clemency, Nick León, Salamanda and Henzo. There’s also collab from the label heads, and one from Facta and Bristol’s Pressure Dome label founder, Yushh, whose recent debut EP for the imprint, ‘Look Mum No Hands’, is a superb, tempo-surfing selection that weaves elements of footwork, d&b and bass-packed techno.
‘To Illustrate’ came together quickly, and was a fun way for Wisdom Teeth to explore its club/home-listening corridor, honing in on a tempo they had noticed a lot of artists they admired dabbling in. “We’re quite keen to do a 170 BPM one,” K-LONE teases. In a rare-ish move from the label, the collection was released in a digital-only format. While the decision allowed them to be strike while the iron was hot on the music they were excited about, it played into an ongoing discussion they’ve been having around the viability of pressing records at a time when prices are sky high and rising, and production delays mean that projects may be all but complete up to a year before they hit the shelves.
“It’s never been so bad,” says K-LONE. “For EPs, if you want to press 300, then it could cost the person at the end £20 for four tracks, which is just crazy expensive compared to what it used to be. It's hard because it's such a big part of the label, and a big thing that we're able to offer artists that they might not be able to do themselves. Working out how else to do it is important. We're thinking we might start doing mini LPs with more than four tracks, so at least you are getting something a bit more for your money.”
“Things obviously move fast don’t they,” adds Facta. “The real trade off is that vinyl slows things down, stops things from being so transactional and rapid. We’re dealing with things moving so fast and genres changing so quickly that, in a way, it’s quite nice when you’re putting out something physical and investing in a record, you're making a bit more of a permanent stamp and trying to put some roots down. But then the flip of that is that it's gonna take you literally a year to put something out, so if you are trying to capture something that is happening at the moment and say something quickly, you can’t do that with vinyl at all. We’re still trying to work it out. We’re definitely going to try to experiment with a few other options, but we’re going to keep doing vinyl for sure for LPs, and as much as we can for EPs.”
Regardless of format, there’s a lot of music in the pipeline for Wisdom Teeth. There’s an EP on the way from London's Will Hofbauer, and K-LONE’s in the middle of wrapping up the new album he’s been working on for the past two years. Going down a housier route than ‘Cape Cira’, he was having some stress-induced doubts about it in its final stages, until Facta came through some words of reassurance, a favour that’s been exchanged in kind plenty of times before. It’s a sense of camaraderie and counterbalance that makes the label what it is: an ever-evolving entity that, no matter the concoction, keeps things moving onwards and outwards.
Listen to an exclusive mix of tracks from the Wisdom Teeth catalogue, including forthcoming music, below.
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Facta 'Sistine (Plucks)'
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Tristan Arp 'Pond In Moonlight'
Shielding ‘111 ways’
Tristan Arp ‘A Clearing (In Empty Space)’
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Tristan Arp ‘Gypsum’
Iglew ‘Rockpool Pool Party’
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Nick León ‘Separation Anxiety’
Henzo ‘Whirlpool Vanish’
Piezo ‘LSD Superhero’
Lurka ‘Stay Lets Together’
Parris ‘Soft Rocks With Socks’
Duckett ‘Looking At Mum Objectively’
Will Hofbauer ‘Crow’
Iglew ‘Light Armour’
Jorg Kuning ‘Ex-tensor’
Facta ‘Rose Red’
K-LONE ‘Sine Language’
Sputnik One ‘Microbead’
Benoit B ‘Kimono’
Yushh ‘Same Same’
Facta ‘C Sequence’
Will Hofbauer ‘The Shovel Is A Shovel Was A Shovel’
Jorg Tuning ‘Chosta-del-sol’
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Iglew ‘Hawksworth Woods’