DJ Mag's labels to watch in 2020 | DJMag.com Skip to main content
 

DJ Mag's labels to watch in 2020

 
From DIY imprints putting out 160bpm club bangers, forward-thinking electro cuts, twisted acid and rave sounds, through to big room techno's brightest stars launching the sound's most vital new imprint, here are the labels set to make 2020 their own
Hooversound

Possibly the most-hyped label to have not released any music ever, Hoover Sound is the brainchild of Best Of British Breakthrough DJ winner SHERELLE and Beats 1 presenter Naina. “The label started through myself and Naina both having a passion for club music with a twist,” says SHERELLE, explaining how the idea first arose when the Reprezent radio pair went back-to-back supporting The Prodigy at a sold-out Brixton Academy in 2017. “Hooversound has been in the making since then, and after nearly two years of back and forth between us we decided to create the label championing the weird side of bass and club music.”

So what’s coming and when can we expect it? Well, clips of energetic tracks by Sinistarr & Hyroglifics and Deft are up on the label’s Twitter page, and listen to any SHERELLE or Naina set and you’ll undoubtedly hear a bunch more of the “pure bangers” they have in the pipeline. Releases will kick off from February onwards and the pair have plans for label parties around Europe in 2020 too. And what makes a Hooversound track? “Our ethos is to really go with our heart,” says SHERELLE. “If myself and Naina both make a bassface… we know we’re on to a winner.” Ben Hindle

Céad

 

OR:LA’s Céad label may be only two releases deep, but when both of those have ended up in our Killers section, it shows a level of quality a step above. “I wanted to create something which I had full control over, a project where I could just go with my instinct with regards to creative decisions,” Or:la says of how the imprint got started. The first EP from Lewski, ‘Mariachi Guadalajara’ , offered tough, forward-thinking electro cuts, while the follow-up from Blu Terra presented twisted acid and rave sounds. “Putting out music from up and coming producers excites me most,” Or:la continues. “Enabling undiscovered music to surface and find its place within the industry is really important for me personally.”

With a compilation and a “percussive bass-heavy EP from a talented young producer from Scotland” in the works, we expect this won’t be the last time Céad graces our pages this year. Ben Hindle

Key release

Blu Terra 'Marymont'

“About six months ago Blu Terra sent me a private SoundCloud folder of like 10 tracks just asking for feedback. I was like, ‘Wow, every one of these tracks is great, please let me release three of these as the next EP on my label!’” 

SZNS7N

London-based DJ/producer L U C Y started her SZNS7N in 2019 with a primary aim to be “a platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration in music and art”. Launching with a seven-track compilation that saw each cut land fortnightly over a three month period, ‘Szn001’ introduced some of the most exciting new artists in forward-thinking club music, including Kyri Michaels, Yazzus and Raheim.

“I wanted a place that I could release my music without the visual/sonic control of others,” L U C Y explains. “I realised there were other artists that weren't getting the platform they needed for their music so thought SZNS7N could be that place; not just for music but multidisciplinary arts and collaborations. When choosing music it's that knife edge between danceable and highly interesting. I'm a big fan of hybrid genres and how much they can excite listeners.”

Her debut label party in December saw Pinch headline, alongside Jetsss, Bunny and the 6 Figure Gang collective L U C Y is a part of alongside SHERELLE, Yazzus, Jossy Mitsu, FAUZIA and Dobby. Taking place at intimate Shoreditch club, Colours, it perfectly summed up the ethos behind the label. “It’s DIY,” she explains. “Feeding off a drive that artists have to create even with little to no money and resources — that same stress can break you, but it can also make some of the most forward thinking and innovative work almost by means of survival.” Rob McCallum

Key release

Various artists 'Szn001'

“'SZN001' was a compilation project that I interviewed and photographed all the participating producers about the songs to get a deeper understanding of their creative process. Muhla 'Portland' was the first track. The producer is a good friend of mine and a really great human. I rang him up to take pictures and he happened to be in Portland Square, even though he had moved to Cornwall. It felt like it was universal alignment. His song has now been played on the national radio, was number one in the leftfield Beatport charts and he's finally getting some of the respect he actually deserves. That makes me the happiest.” 

Worst Behavior Recs

Worst Behaviour Recs is a label and event series founded by Anna Morgan and Bell Curve, dedicated to “promoting producers that excite us”. The pair curate events in New York City showcasing their "love of soundsystem music, deep rave, and, of course, fast bpms.” The label launched in June 2018 with the 'Worst Behavior Vol. 1' compilation, before its follow up landed in February last year, presenting hybrid bass sounds from producers including A. Fruit, A-0 and DJ Madd.

Speaking about the launch of the label, Morgan tells DJ Mag, “It came about quite organically, through our friendship and shared love of music that transcends genre boundaries. We wanted to create a platform for those sounds in NYC and beyond by curating events and sharing music from our community.” Curve adds, “We are excited by music influenced by sound system culture, international club music, and the hardcore continuum, but we aren’t bound by that. We don’t care that much about genres or BPM’s, we are most interested in: “Does it bang?!!” she laughs.

The last release from the label was Homesick’s 160bpm club tool ‘1800AREYOUSLAPPIN’, which landed in July, but the third Worst Behavior compilation is due out “soon”. “We have some exciting EPs in the pipeline, including one by Toronto’s Stranjah, featuring collabs with Manchester’s MC Fox and Baltimore’s TT the Artist.  We’re also about to drop another remix of Homesick’s banger ‘1800AREYOUSLAPPIN’ by Bristol’s Kiki D.” Hold tight for those. Rob McCallum

Key release

Homesick ‘1800AREYOUSLAPPIN’

“Homesick’s ‘1800AREYOUSLAPPIN’ and the remix by Sinistarr have ended up becoming an anthem and meme. 1800-HAVE-YOU-BOUGHT-IT? The release has received international support from multiple scenes. We even recently heard it was played at Berghain!” 

River Rapid

“I have the whole year pretty much ready and planned, loads of exciting stuff and hopefully some of my own stuff sprinkled in there somewhere,” enthuses Eclair Fifi . She’s talking about plans for her River Rapid label, which launched in 2019 with four moody, sub-heavy tracks from Best Of British nominee Afrodeutsche. Fifi, otherwise known as Clair Stirling, says she’d always dreamt of running a label but “didn’t really have the confidence or know-how”. With a bit of help from the crew at LuckyMe, River Rapid kicked off in July and recently dropped its second release: US producer Santiago Salazar’s jaunty ‘Piano Adjacent’ and rolling ‘Cosmic Powwow’.

Stirling says there’s no particular concept behind signings yet; ”I’m sure after the first few releases an ethos and certain sound will grow around the label but right now it’s purely organic. If I fall in love with it or it hits me in a certain way, I will want to release it.” Ben Hindle

Key release

Santiago Salazar ‘Piano Adjacent’/‘Cosmic Powwow’

“The most recent release’s two tracks first caught my attention (in a huge folder of demos) from being so fl oaty, ethereal and Detroit-sounding, yet kinda dirty at the same time.” 

KNTXT

Following Charlotte de Witte’s meteoric rise to fame since being on the cover of DJ Mag UK in September 2017, the Belgian launched her KNTXT label late last year with ‘Liquid Slow’, a collaborative EP with Chris Liebing. “The idea to start a label has been around for a while,” de Witte says of KNTXT. “But I didn’t want to rush things. Eventually, I felt confident enough to judge my own productions, as well as selecting tracks from other artists.”

At three releases deep, KNTXT has established itself as one of big room techno’s most vital new imprints, whilst her label parties have toured around Europe. “I deeply enjoy hosting the KNTXT parties with people we love, so naturally some of these artists go on to release on the label,” she continues. “We want to be a save haven and offer a family structure for our artists.”

Two EPs are slated for early 2020 release, with the first of the year confirmed to come from German DJ/producer, Monoloc. “KNTXT004 and KNTXT005 are ready and they will be killer EPs from two artists we admire a lot and proud to count them among our ‘family’,” de Witte explains. “After that, more Charlotte de Witte music is coming and we have something special in store still.” Rob McCallum

Key release

Charlotte De Witte & Chris Liebing ‘Liquid Slow’

“That would definitely be ‘Liquid Slow’, the collab track with Chris Liebing that appeared on the very first KNTXT release. A first release will always be something special. The fact that it’s a collab track with an artist i’ve been admiring since the start of everything ten years ago, makes it extra unique. I honestly don’t think I could have wished for a better start.” 

Looking For Trouble

 
Jordon Alexander, better known by his alias Mall Grab, first came to the forefront with gritty lo-fi house back in 2016. That same year, he started his first label with two friends, Jackson and Jarred, called Steel City Dance Discs. Now well into his career, and continually developing his sound, Alexander has started up a brand new label: Looking For Trouble.

 
“I just had too much great music coming out [on SSDC] for there to be time to release any of my own stuff,” Alexander says. “So I decided to start a new project for collaborations and solo material just to break it up.” With the label title taken from his parties and tours of the same name, where the Australian native says he brings “friends along for a big family affair”, the ethos from the events, where he mostly plays his own released music, has been translated into physical releases. As well as his own productions as both Jordan Alexander and Mall Grab, there’s collaborative releases with Nite Fleit and Skin On Skin. “It’s an evolving mood board, a representation of what I'm creating at the time — where my head is at presently,” Alexander says on the releases, sharing that he has around 80-90 tracks ready to go. “There’s also a couple of outlier singles for summertime, another Loods n' Grab record in the works, and I just started my LP for about the 40th time.” Amy Fielding
 
Key release
 
Mall Grab & Skin On Skin ‘Strangers’
 
“This track is very personal, it exemplifies the emotional importance of every track involved with the label, that it's a family, and is also a good indicator of things to come in the future!” 
Genome 6.66 Mbp

Emerging from Shanghai’s mysterious underground in 2016, electronic imprint and collective, Genome 6.66 Mbp, was founded by Tavi Lee, who also creates the majority of the album artwork and posters for events, and Kilo Vee, who runs the Genome party. 

Lee also runs most of the label logistics, in what Genome describe as being done in “still a quite ragtag manner.” The Chinese label’s first compilation featured productions from the likes of Bleach, Diego Navarro, Hyph11e, and RVE, and since its first release, has played host to productions from artists such as Astrosuka and Yikii.

The label’s ethos when releasing music, they say, is “strange and moving”, with the phrase itself is as mysterious as the label. Exporting boundary-breaking, warped and beautifully twisted sounds across the globe, the aforementioned parties hold the same sentiments with label affiliates and the likes of DJ Heroin, KΣITO, Golin, and Prison Religion peforming at their home – Shanghai’s All club.

Moving into 2020, Genome remain elusive as ever, with the only mention of incoming releases being that of “music from old and new friends alike.” Amy Fielding

Key release

Genome 6.66 Mbp Compilation Vol​.​2 ‘Self Salvation’

The label’s second compilation featuring Charity, Hyph11e and Organ Tapes, embodying the imprint’s “tendency to lean towards forward-thinking weirdo club music.” 

Circadian Rhythms

Borne from Last Japan and Blackwax’s NTS show of the same name, London multidisciplinary label Circadian Rhythms’ approach admirably emphasises quality over quantity. With just five releases in its catalogue since launching in 2015, each EP and compilation on the label has felt like an event, boasting inventive, conceptual formats and forward-thinking sounds. 

For example, Spanish producer Plata’s ‘Last Dayz’ EP, a four-track collection of glitchy electronic tapestries and fizzing club sounds, was released via USB flash drive. A recent 16-track compilation tape, ‘Partisan’, featuring cuts from the likes of Sully, Hyph11E, Flora Yin-Wong and Thugwidow, was packaged using recycled materials. Crafted from military surplus, and doubling up as a sewing kit, cassettes rest in a fabric case alongside a scissors, needle, thread and thimble, with the label encouraging owners to “repair and repurpose”. 

“There is no fixed ethos,” say the label’s founders of its release tactic. “[It is] rather a common understanding that we’d rather pursue a different idea each time over than try and reproduce something we’ve done before. Over time [the label] has become a space to prototype our ideas and express them in collaboration with artists, designers, technologists and local manufacturers.”

Looking into 2020, Circadian Rhythms simply promises “less of the same”. With sounds and ideas as inventive as these, we can’t wait to hear what comes next. Eoin Murray

Key Release

CR004 'Partisan'

“Partisan is our most ambitious project to date, featuring a multi-artist album tracing the lineage of jungle and rave, with physical products and clothing, produced locally with used and upcycled materials”

DEMENT3D XXX

 “The label started has a need for me to do things on my own, to really have a space to shape my own vision on a long term basis,” says Parisian techno innovator François X of his recently launched DEMENT3D XXX imprint. 

A sister label of his revered DEMENT3D label, which he runs alongside HBT, DEMENT3D XXX’s three releases since launching last March have presented a singular, personal vision from the artist. So far, two EP’s has come from François himself, with ‘Irregular Passion Reshape’ and ‘Murky Dreams’ showcasing a more experimental, emotive side to his production chops as he veers into dark house, bass and atmospheric rhythm experiments. 

Opuswerk’s ‘Mémoire du Présent’ EP, his first under his given name Hendrik van Boetzelaer, is similarly personal, exploring his “Egyptian and Dutch origins and my passion for Russia. Moreover, it is a way for me to take stock of how I juggle family responsibilities with the work of an artist”.

XXX is a platform where I will try my best to put the artists in a condition where  their artistic spirit will be freed from any lind of restraints,” explains François X “[The] XXX ethos will be about edgy, forward-thinking music. The artists will have to push themselves to the maximum. My goal is to present music from these artists that the audience will not expect!”

With a lot on the cards for 2020, and with an emphasis on releasing meaningful techno, it’s an exciting time for François X and the artist’s he’s championing. “In a way XXX was born out of this desire to test myself,” he says. “To really see what I am made of. I am born again.” Eoin Murray

Want more? Check out our artists to watch in 2020.