The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Label Lookout – Spring ’24

Welcome back to Label Lookout, a semi-regular series at KRUI highlighting a few exciting contemporary record labels and what they have to offer. This is a series to encourage new musical discovery. Each respective label listed has their website linked. Hopefully, you find something here you enjoy! 

Image via Exploding in Sound

1. Exploding In Sound Records

By John Glab

Since 2011, Exploding In Sound records has been putting out releases from many of the best indie rock bands in the Northeastern United States. The label was created by Dan Goldin and Dave Spak who wanted to support some of the great acts that they were seeing at shows around the area. As a label, EIS helped spur the eclectic indie scenes in cities like Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, at venues like Great Scott and Shea Stadium. Many acclaimed acts have been on the label, like Pile, Ovlov, Speedy Ortiz, Disco Doom and LVL UP. All these bands interacted, helped, and collaborated with one another, and EIS acted as a platform for them to do so and grow. 

Exploding In Sound is still prolific in their work and haven’t slowed down in the decade plus they’ve been active, even as a smaller indie label. Its reach and influence has continued to expand, bringing in more artists, and becoming much loved by many all over the world. Along with many of the artists that have been around since the beginning, artists like Mandy, Jobber, Sour Widows, and Prewn have been continuing the label’s excellence.  

Here’s how Dan Goldin, who still runs the label, summarized Exploding In Sound Records to KRUI: 

“For the past twelve years Exploding In Sound Records has been chugging along, doing our best to release music that we think is interesting, and music that adds new ideas to familiar sounds. We’ve been lucky to work with so many phenomenal artists that have used music as an outlet for their creativity out of necessity as opposed to chasing fame and fortune. EIS has always had an element of community, a kinship that runs beyond the label to both our artists and fans. We put our heart into it, no matter how unlikely the record, and I think it shows in the music we’ve released.” 

Exploding In Sound is one of the most well represented labels in the KRUI library. Tuning into the broadcast at anytime, you’ll likely hear a track from something that the label has put out.

Starter Pack: Tru by OvlovLucky Leaves by KrillAll Aboard by WasherHell in a Cell by JobberCrucial by GnarwhalVoyage Out by Floatie

2. Asian Man Records

By Casper Bakker

Image via Asian Man Records

“We have no phone line, no fax machine, and just recently purchased a second computer. Depending on how you look at life, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. For me, it’s the only thing (or in other words: ‘I LIKE BEING A LITTLE LABEL’). This is how the label will remain. ”

Asian Man records is the brainchild of activist, musician, and active Bay Area DIY scene member Mike Park. Created in 1989 to release Park’s and his friends’ music, he began to package, ship, and promote records from his parents basement, and the label slowly began to grow. Now boasting over 100 bands, from the bombastic and berating, to the grimy and gut wrenching, the label has it all. Its still all lovingly hand packaged from Park’s childhood home in Monte Sereno.

Starter Pack: SRAMBLES by Bomb the Music Industry!Of All the Things I’ll Soon Grow Tired by Joyce ManorPeople Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World by AJJBruce Lee Band by Bruce Lee BandNEU by POLYSICS

Image via Glitterbox Recordings

3. Glitterbox Recordings

By Glenn Houlihan

Established in 2014 by Simon Dunmore, the founder of legendary UK house label Defected Records, Glitterbox is widely recognized as the home of 21st century disco. The label is best known for its exuberant club nights, which feature iconic nu-disco, house DJs, drag queens, acrobats, and go-go dancers. These parties, which started on the Spanish island of Ibiza and have since spread to cities such as London, Sydney, and New York, are designed to unite all ages, persuasions, and walks of life on the dancefloor.

This emphatic embrace of disco’s queer roots is reflected in the music released on Glitterbox Recordings, which often carries a euphoric, emancipatory, theme. Fiorious’ 2021 collaboration with Dimitri From Paris, Music Saved My Life, celebrates music’s power to unify, while The Shapeshifters’ 2020 song “Finally Ready” features inspired vocals from American actor and singer Billy Porter. It’s a powerful declaration of love and community. Glitterbox Radio, a weekly show hosted by the label’s director of music Melvo Baptiste, reminds listeners of disco’s vibrant past while underlining its flourishing presence today. As Baptiste declares, “Glitterbox is not just a label; it’s a legacy.” 

Starter pack: Music Saved My Life by Fiorious and Dimitri From ParisFinally Ready by The Shapeshifters and Billy PorterGroovejet (If This Ain’t Love) by Spiller and Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Harvey Sutherland Extended Remix), – Rock The Mic by Mousse T. featuring TAZ & Inaya Day

Image via My Pet Flamingo

4. My Pet Flamingo

By John Glab

Cousins Jay Sabourin and Enzo Van Baelen originally started out making synthwave music. They created the label My Pet Flamingo in the late 2010’s to explore what they could do in the vaporwave genre, working first with the artist waterfront dining. Since then, the label has put out over a hundred records. Most of the new records released on the label are from smaller artists located all around the world. A label operating mostly on Bandcamp, it collaborates with them and highlights releases they don’t want to go unnoticed. 

Much of the label’s ethos relies on not letting music be lost or forgotten. Throughout the labels catalogue are many rereleases of classic vaporwave albums from artists like Saint Pepsi or Dan Mason. One of the main goals of My Pet Flamingo is to give albums that in the past that have only been put out on digital platforms releases on physical media like vinyl or cassettes. It’s a way to semi-permanently archive these vaporwave records. When I talked with Van Baelen, he said that, “We’ve always wanted to archive this music. One day the internet will be full of dead links, where important cultural artifacts used to exist. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to think this way, but we wanted to archive the most important albums on vinyl and cassette, or MiniDisc.”  

Connecting vaporwave from its online presence to a real-world presence is something My Pet Flamingo is looking to achieve. In October of 2023, they hosted the first Flamingo Fest which brought people together in a physical space to enjoy vaporwave music with one another. Sabourin describes how this, along with helping vaporwave artists make music as a career, has built a strong community for people in the scene to rely on. The connection between online and physical interactions will help keep vaporwave alive and prospering long into the future. 

Starter Pack: Groot in België by Timeshare’94Late Night Delight by Luxury Elite and Saint Pepsi (Reissue)Love by BarbWalters喚起 by g h 0 s tThe Great Escape by slowerpace 音楽Digital Despair by Tupperware

Image via 100% Electronica

5. 100% Electronica

By Evan Raefield

Perhaps the leading vaporwave label in terms of mainstream awareness, 100% Electronica was founded in 2015 by genre pioneer George Clanton. It has since amassed a plethora of giants within and adjacent to the vaporwave genre. Whereas labels such as My Pet Flamingo and Geometric Lullaby (as featured in the previous Label Lookout) opt for a largely online-based approach, giving international and occasionally anonymous artists a chance to release their work, 100% Electronica is more traditional in the sense that it holds a set roster of generally recognizable names. The label puts their full support behind each one. It also goes as far as to host festivals in its name with Electronicon.

Over time, following the meteoric rise of such artists as Neggy Gemmy and Windows 96, as well as the steady incline in recognition for such longtime cult acts such as death’s dynamic shroud, Equip, and Clanton himself, 100% Electronica has paved the way for a set of exciting new artists and electronica as a whole. 

Starter pack: Ooh Rap I Yah by George ClantonCBD Reiki Moonbeam by Neggy GemmyOne Hundred Mornings by Windows 96Faith in Persona by death’s dynamic shroudI Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky by Equip

Image via Voam

6. Voam

By Andrés Mora Mata

UK-based artists Pariah and Blawan have been at the forefront of sound design in electronic music for over a decade. The British duo have been able to push the envelope within their own projects while exploring the forefront of sound design in collaboration through Karenn on the electronic music front, and Persher on the hardcore music front. It was only sensical that they were to look for the same ethos in other artists. That’s what I think about Voam, a product of a career-long collaboration, that actively looks to set a new standard in sound design with each release.

Last year, three EPs came from the label: Karenn’s Everything Is Curly, which offers your often-heard 4-on-the-floor techno, along with sparks and crashes that aren’t often associated with the dance floor. Verraco’s Escándaloo followed with exceptional meddling of sounds that take inspiration from Latin music, UK bass, and techno. The EP includes my favorite track of 2023. The label finalized the year with Peder Mannerfelt’s The Benefits of Living in a Hole, which uses esoteric sounds with unlikely chord arrangements to build tension throughout the track. I wouldn’t be surprised if Voam, as a label and collaboration project, continues building from its strong and well-established foundation in 2024.

Starter pack: Escándaloo by VerracoCaterpillar by PariahMusic Sounds Better With Shoe by KarennHoney Badger by RhywThe Benefits of Living in a Hole by Peter Mannerfelt