Whitelabrecs (Label Feature)

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This year saw the launch of a new label called Whitelabrecs, a project helmed by Harry Towell who also runs occasional imprint Tessellate Recordings and the long standing netlabel Audio Gourmet. We’ve been meaning to post up the releases but due to general laziness, haven’t got round to it so here in one big post, we have a label feature.

Whitelabrecs began from Harry’s love for vinyl records and memories from his DJing days, when some new releases would be made available on white labels, bootlegs or test pressings. There was no set artwork as such, just a rubber stamped ink print on the label somewhere, sometimes missing some letters or accidentally pressed twice. Harry had begun to amass quite a few quality demos with Tessellate Recordings and due to slow sales he was struggling to justify releasing 100 copies. So he decided to take his vinyl theme and make everything hand-made in tiny runs of 50 CDrs. The CDrs themselves always look just like vinyl and are rubber stamped with the label name and the artist/album title. These are housed inside a coloured sleeve and transparent plastic outer sleeve, with a polaroid image of the cover artwork included inside the packaging.

The label has already knocked out 13 releases since January so that alone is a testament to how things are running! The label is curated with Harry’s own eclectic taste in music in mind, with no set rules other than the packaging. So far we’ve had work released from familiar names such as Tsone, Spheruleus and Guy Gelem, as well as lesser known or emerging artists with genres covering pure Ambient drone, modern classical and folk. Below we caught up with Harry as well as provide a run down of our thoughts on each record so far…

IC: Hi Harry, how have you felt the label has gone in its first year? Everything running to plan?
HT: I’ve been very pleased with the success of the label – I’ve had overwhelming interest from artists which has gone beyond my expectations, as I wondered whether such a low run would put people off. Each release has been received well with nearly everything having sold out which is just brilliant, as things can just keep on going as I have so much planned for the future. I’ve not (touch wood) had any hiccups so far – I think this is mainly down to the fact that I tell the artists, I can’t work to deadlines. Each release happens when it happens and so far despite being very busy outside of music, I’ve been able to keep things moving at pace.

IC: What are your plans for the coming months?
HT: I can’t be certain of the timescales, but we’ve got lots lined up – I don’t like to reveal too much as I kind of like our releases to emerge suddenly. We don’t do a lot of work building a buzz – there’s only 50 copies each time and thankfully, they sell each time. One thing I am excited to announce is that we’ll be doing our first compilation album soon – hopefully by the end of the year. Most tracks are in and I’ve drafted in a couple of friends to bolster the line-up – all will be revealed soon. The packaging may adopt a slightly different style and it may also be made more widely available (i.e, more copies!)

IC:  Each album is hand-made – how long does it take to make a run of releases?
HT: This is the most time consuming aspect of running Whitelabrecs – I have to hand-burn each CDr and then rubber stamp it, allow the ink time to dry and then assemble the packaging. It takes a while but burning discs gives me chance to work on other things, listen to some music as I do it – so it is enjoyable still, if repetitive! I tend to split the burning of the discs between 2-3 evenings and do the rubber stamping after each night.

IC: What about the artwork on the label/site – what can you tell us about this?
HT: On the website there are currently three images – these have all been taken when on holiday and are of landscapes. So at the moment, we have the Atlas mountains from my trip to Marrakesh, Morocco, a photo taken in a boat off the Island of Capri, Italy and then a shot of Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples. I want to keep this theme going on the website – every time I go on holiday, I’ll come back with an image or two from my travels that can be another backdrop on the website. Each of the images randomises every time you visit so in time (if I’m lucky enough to keep travelling) you’ll have a sort of postcard collection, which would be quite cool.
As for release artwork, I work with a couple of photographers from Slovakia – Peter Nejedly and Milan Ocenas – both have been very helpful and forthcoming with working with the label, and it is their work that has helped build the image and feel to the label. Otherwise, some of the cover artwork has been provided by the artists themselves which is fine as long as it fits in with the general aesthetic of the label. We’ve got plans to work with other visual artists in the future, so watch this space…

IC: Is there anyone else that you work with behind the scenes?
HT: Not as such as it is mainly a one man band putting all of this together. My wife deserves a mention as she puts up with it all and then also, I’m very lucky to be in touch with Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams) who lives down the road to me – he has helped wherever needed with mastering, as that is something I’m unable to do.

IC: Are you finding that the catalog is becoming collectable? How do people stand the best chance to grab a copy before they sell out?
HT: Yes on the whole – there are quite a few loyal followers that more or less buy everything we put out. This means a lot to me to see that people want to get every copy – thankfully I have not had any squabbling from people who have missed out yet! What we do is have a mailing list and then when an album goes live, I send an email out to these people. So to stand the best chance of reserving a copy, you can head to our subscriber page and you’ll hear before it’s announced officially (on the website, social media etc). The other way is to follow Whitelabrecs’ Bandcamp page and Bandcamp will notify you when the release goes live.

IC: Where do you see the future of the label heading?
HT: I’m certainly open to change, but right now we’ve got a formula that is working which means I’m able to keep going. I’d love to diversify the genres of music released even further – anyone that knows me is aware of my diverse taste in music that can incorporate anything from the obvious Ambient/Drone/Electro Acoustic, onto Modern Classical and Folk but I’m also very much into Deep House, Jazz, Funk, Trip Hop and experimental electronica. So who knows, we could look more to these styles in the future too. As for other ideas, I don’t have too many at the moment as we’ve got something that works right now and the label hasn’t been going for that long. I guess it’s a case of making some friends, building an identity and letting things grow from there. The next big change will likely be the compilation album…

IC: You don’t seem to be hitting the digital market hard – why’s that?
HT: When I started, I wanted to set the price for a digital copy quite high – almost as much as the CD. I want the CDs to go first as otherwise the label would start to lose money and I’d have to stop. The other thing is that I also want this to be an area where the artist can start to promote their work themselves and hopefully make a little money too. I want to keep each release pretty small and to go under the radar from the label’s point of view. Artists are always welcome to re-release their work on a bigger label, so I don’t want to really push the digital market which could put a bigger label off doing a repress.

IC: Lastly, tell us about the most recent release by Jazzdefector?
HT: I’ve been talking to Sebastian for ages now and we were originally going to put out some of his work on Tessellate Recordings. We also had in mind an Audio Gourmet EP and we got back in touch this year and made that happen in the form of ‘Miniatures’. Sebastian tends to improvise and record his guitar compositions and so has rather a lot of material – so we agreed to assemble an album of some of these. So I worked with him to select the tracks and we feel they flow beautifully as an album. I really like his sound and I hope our listeners will too.

IC: Onto the releases then – check out below where you can listen to a preview of each of the 13 releases on Whitelabrecs so far…

WLR001: The Restless Fields – The Restless Fields

WLR002: Dave Kirby – Contrails

WLR003: Guy Gelem – Entirety

WLR004: José Soberanes – The Rising Tide

WLR005: Ondrej Zajac – Monolith

WLR006: Andrew Lang – Burnt Shades

WLR007: Tsone – Dovetail

WLR008: Russell Glynn – Examples Of

WLR009: Frank Baker – Silence Of The North

WLR010: Ben McElroy – Bird-stone

WLR011: Spheruleus – Obsolarium

WLR012: Colbets – Come To The Surface

WLR013: Jazzdefector – Solo

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