2013 has been a huge year for Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.). After a seemingly unbeatable run in 2012, the label stormed forward into what has been its most prolific and successful year yet. Over the course of the past twelve months the Brooklyn-based imprint has added an impressive thirty releases to its rapidly growing back-catalogue. As we enter into 2014 proper, it seems fit to have a look at some of the finest music from one of the best labels of last year.
Having been celebrated by a number of recognised musical authorities over the last couple of years (see: Resident Advisor, Juno, FACT, Self-Titled Mag) the label has been making waves throughout the scene as an entity that goes against the grain and plays by its own rules (if indeed there were any in the first place). Though primarily a techno label, L.I.E.S.‘s music policy is fairly open and draws on many of the weird and wonderful echelons of the electronic music domain. Undoubtedly this has divided people into those that get off from the label’s audacity and innovation, and those who can’t tolerate such wanton experimentation.
The label opened 2013 with newcomer Vereker‘s straight-up techno EP ‘Rosite‘. Coming in at LIES019, the EP is a no-gimmicks, excellently formed three track release that ventures across both electro and acid. Just a month later Vereker returned with a harder, vivacious offering on his ‘Fear Eats The Soul’ EP. With the title track, Vereker sets the tone with an electro tip that boasts a heaving bass-line, whilst the hats in particular are exposed and cutting, the mix open and largely unkempt. This isn’t necessarily something to criticise; as we’ll soon come to realise, this is a running trait on the label and characterises the label’s sound as unrestrained and unpredictable.
Vereker – Fear Eats The Soul:
2013 also saw a sophomore release from Terekke with a nightly drive-time soundtrack. Edging between lo-fi/downtempo (Amaze) and deep-house (Bank 3), the EP ticks along contemplatively and draws on a patience often forgotten these days. The track ‘Piano’ is deep house at its purest on the label.
Terekke – Piano:
New arrival Torn Hawk relives the mid-90s with his down-tempo ‘Bad Deadlift’ EP. ‘Put that Crotchless Thing Back On, Then Save My Life‘ is a trip-hop inspired number, powered by filtered distortion and uplifting guitars and synth lines. ‘Money Only Becomes Itself‘ is rhythmically similar, but more euphoric despite the screeches of its intrusive synths. The EP is comparatively mellow compared to Florian Kupfer’s deep-house beauty ‘Feelin’, which appears on his ‘Lifetrax’ EP (released last March). Interestingly the flip, ‘Lifetrax’, is a quiet footwork number that demonstrates the label’s stylistic diversity.
Florian Kupfer – Feelin:
Florian Kupfer – Lifetrax:
True mavericks of the industry, L.I.E.S. operate wholly on their own terms, an allegorical sticking up of two fingers at the current industry conventions and studio norms – nothing personal, just honesty with an underlying irreverence. It’s in label founder Ron Morelli‘s nature to go against the grain, and having been involved in the scene for well over a decade he’s seen enough to make a stand.
The raw, organic style the label embodies is also fluid and impulsive. Morelli is keen to get tracks out as soon as possible and this impromptu attitude is both refreshing and engaging: “my job is to put out new music now. No artist wants to wait nine months or a year, you know?” (from his interview with FACT). Though, as he himself admits, this is partly born of a fear. The fear of falling behind, the fear of going unnoticed, the fear of extinction. In such a fast-paced environment, one slip could mean fading into the background, possibly never to return: “that’s why I’m cranking out records and doing as much as I can […] it could just end at any moment. You lose your place and you’re fucked”. Though as with most things, this appears to be both a blessing and a curse. Choosing to shy away from fads and promotional and marketing gimmicks is always difficult, especially when your standards begin to change as you get a taste for success. Yet Morelli has championed the ‘unknown artist’, and his label is establishing itself as a platform for debut label releases of previously unsigned artists. It is nothing short of astounding that Morelli has been able to run the label like he does.
Taking a closer look at these artists will explain why, after only four years in the business, the label has raced to the forefront of underground electronic music. Delroy Edwards blazed onto the scene via L.I.E.S. just a year and a half ago and returned in 2013 with his ‘White Owl’ EP. Having debuted on the label with his excellent ‘4 Club Use Only‘ EP (LIES015), unequivocally Detroit, the ‘White Owl’ EP sees Edwards‘ style develop further, producing something much more aggressive and unremitting than his previous release.
Delroy Edwards – The Fast Lane:
Bookworms is a similarly exciting producer, who made heads turn and dance floors explode back in 2012 with his ‘Love Triangles‘ EP.The title track is innovative, powerful and stirring. Bookworms came back with another strong EP, entitled ‘Japanese Zelkova’, which dropped last Summer. The Los Angeles native presented to us here some of the harder facets of deep house, with simple, distorted bass-lines and probing synth hooks. The A1 ‘Malfunction‘, is an ambient 808 acid flex that undulates menacingly. The title track (featured below) is more transparent and hypnotic, with a L.I.E.S. trademark kick and transmutating synths; subtleties can be heard throughout, though perhaps the track doesn’t hold enough integrity to keep interest for the full seven and a half minutes. The EP is well-rounded and perhaps one of the finer short-plays to come out of the L.I.E.S. camp last year.
Bookworms – Materials:
Calming things down is a release from KWC 92 (a collaboration between Sam Forsberg and Max Stenerudh). ‘Dream Of The Walled City’ OST (released last November) is a beautiful thirty minute long soundscape that is vividly descriptive and emotionally engaged. The LP transports us to the Walled City of Kowloon, an unregulated, Triad-controlled micro-city in Hong Kong that was demolished in 1994. The tracklisting is as follows: ‘Dreaming Of You‘, ‘Night Drive‘, ‘Missing‘, ‘Macau Ferry Terminal‘, ‘KWC 92‘, and ‘Tai Tam Tuk‘. The album expresses another dimension of the label that is often overshadowed by the strange, disorienting strands of techno that tend to dominate its discography.
KWC 92 – Night Drive:
Through and through, the label’s life source is the underground. Stylistically the music is void of any formulaic or mainstream convention, priding itself on nonconformism and a rawness and organic vitality that is uncommon in today’s scene. The label’s ethos runs intrinsic to Morelli‘s personal values, cutting through the superficial ornaments of marketing, promotion and, to a large extent, brand. The vinyl covers are uniformly dis-interesting, and the label doesn’t even have a website. Originally his desire was to release on a nameless label, though on further contemplation realised that this wasn’t possible. Despite the attempted ambiguity and elusiveness, a “reliable distributor” and the unfaltering Morelli aesthetic has resulted in vinyl releases selling out almost immediately, and fans persistently knocking at the door for more.