Weird things have been happening in London this week – large areas previously pervaded by the frigid whiteness of snow have been transposed with verdant greens and bright floral tones; cold, dead looking tree branches are beginning to sprout thousands of tiny nodes, and that dismal view-scape just above the horizon – the one that’s been perennially saturnine grey – has taken on a strange, yellow glow. A new season has finally arrived, and what better way to welcome it in than with a fresh new record label straight out of Sweden.
Karlovak Records, from Stockholm-based dynamic duo Art Alfie and Mr Tophat, is the latest in club-oriented sounds from the roof of Europe and it promises to put a spring in your step and warmth in your toes with its dancefloor-driven mission to “keep things stomping”.
If you’ve come across the pair before it’s probably been in the context of Junk Yard Connections (Mr Tophat’s other label), which has put out a number of nice EPs since 2010. Conceived a year later, Karlovak would serve as the outlet for a new sound inspired by a track that was originally written for Junk Yard. ‘Marlboro Light‘ (below) was eventually released as the first EP on the new label in Jan this year.
Although they began with a circa two-year false start, the ball is now rolling and it’s picking up some speed, with KVK300 dropped this week and two more releases planned until summer.
RA describes Karlovak as “somewhat run” by the duo, probably in reference to the notion that they’re less hot on all that admin that comes with… well… running a record label, and more hot on the vibe that they’re engineering. The label is a necessary and sufficient platform, a soap box for a sound that’s heavily influenced by the dance-floors themselves, built on relentless drum kicks for endless club kicks.
The pair discuss their inspiration in the context of “that feeling of standing on a dance-floor in a club that’s not going to close in the foreseeable future, with beats that just keep going and going”. This certainly translates to a functional / raw sound, but notably with all the wholesomeness of groovy melodies, organic drums and soulful samples.
An in-a-nut-shell summary should probably feature words like “real” and “characterful” to complement more obvious candidates like “clubby” or “pumping”. Hence, EP artwork features Rudolph’s (Mr Tophat’s) meandering handwritten script, and the KVK200 studio photo looks like it was shot on a Logitech webcam at the height of the MSN Messenger heyday. These are the idiosyncrasies of a grassroots label whose name was picked based on it sounding a bit like a strong Finnish beer, (“with 7.2% alcohol, sweet, strong and a bit harsh, I guess you could say stomping“,) and whose logo graphic features a grungy font stylized with some sweet-ass lightening bolts.
More character emerges with the little lines of prose accompanying each release, written by an amateur storyteller “in exile in Paris” – they shoot him the music and he writes something like: “Though without the anxious feeling of forever loneliness I might have never approached her“. Luckily, you won’t be needing anxious feelings of loneliness to get your feet moving with tracks like ‘I Want To See‘, out now on KVK300.
The label’s string pullers are sometimes found playing Stockholm’s Under Bron, though generally the club scene in Sweden is said to be somewhat hampered by government regulations. The Karlovak boys are tackling this problem like any self respecting dance-floor emissary: by indulging in the delights of the unlicensed party scene, with Art Alfie purportedly making good use of his law school training for permits and placating den polisen.
The duo have plans to start a sub-line for the label in the autumn, which will focus on a much darker, murkier sound, “stuff for the really twisted hours of the party”. Serious business + Karlovak charm should certainly be something to look out for. In the mean time we look forward to more feel good steamrollers as the Swedes keep stomping into 2013.