SCOTLAND’s music scene is in great health – you need look no further than these ten labels for evidence, writes Chris McCall
Looking to release their first single in 1994, Motherwell group The Delgados decided to do it for themselves and founded Chemikal Underground. Following a critically acclaimed career, the Delgados called it a day in 2004 but continued the label that had by then broken several Scottish bands who went on to achieve considerable success. Early releases by Mogwai and Arab Strap were given national exposure by the likes of John Peel and gave the label considerable clout. Today, it continues to release records by the likes of The Phantom Band, as well as operating its Chem 19 recording studio in Blantyre.
Key release: The Week Never Starts Round Here - Arab Strap
The apparent demise of Fence Records, the East Neuk label ran by the collective of the same name, in 2013 was mourned by many music fans. Its co-founders, Kenny Anderson and Johnny Lynch, went their separate ways, with the latter establishing Lost Map from the unlikely base of Eigg - an island in the Inner Hebrides. The label now looks after many of the artists previously signed to Fence, and has introduced the world to the hotly-tipped Glasgow trio Tuff Love.
Key release: Junk EP - Tuff Love
The in-house record label of a Glasgow college of further education might not sound like a vehicle for some of Scotland’s biggest artists. But Electric Honey boasts an admirable strike rate. Originally based at Stow College - today known as Glasgow Kelvin - the label was founded in 1992 and is ran by students undertaking the HNC/D Music Business course, with support from lecturers who know a thing or two about the industry. It generally supports one new artist each year, and famously produced Belle and Sebastian’s 1996 debut album Tigermilk. It has also released singles by Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro.
Key release: Tigermilk - Belle and Sebastian
Starting life as a club night of the same name in 2003, Numbers is now a successful Glasgow-based dance music label that continues to throw parties in Scotland and further afield. The current label took form in 2010 when three separate imprints - Wireblock, Dress 2 Sweat and Stuff - were merged. Since then, they’ve put out everything from classic Chicago house reissues to futuristic dance-pop from enigmatic artist SOPHIE and The xx’s Jamie xx.
Key release: Far Nearer - Jamie xx
Fans of upbeat four-chord fuzz pop should look no further. The spiritual successors to the likes Fugazi and The Television Personalities are alive and well – and mostly living in Glasgow. From the punk excitement of the now-split Deathcats, to the more polished Sparks-like pop of Catholic Action, this label has been on fire over the past 18 months.
Key release: All Hail Deathcats - Deathcats
SONG, BY TOAD
Founded in 2008 by Matthew Young, this Edinburgh-based label grew from a blog of the same name and has amassed an impressive discography in a relatively short space of time. From pop-punk trio PAWS, to the lo-fi folk of Eagleowl, SBT covers a broad range of styles. The story goes Young’s wife drunkenly promised to release Broken Records’ debut album if the band failed to win a deal elsewhere. Broken Records subsequently signed with 4AD, but Young opted to found a label anyway.
Key release: Imaginary Walls Collapse - Adam Stafford
Run by Lindsay Todd - the man behind Edinburgh-based record store The Living Mountain - Firecracker specialises in “oddball house, techno and electronics”. Todd, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate, is also known for the unique screenprinted artworks adorning each release. A recent album, Mac-Talla Nan Creag, was the result of several Edinburgh-based artists, including Wounded Knee, Other Lands, Lord Of The Isles and Todd himself, spending time in the Highlands to craft an album that interprets Scottish traditional music through Firecracker’s electronic music sensibility.
Key release: Mac-Talla Nan Creag - Various Artists
Taking its name from a pseudonym used by Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, Rock Action is Glasgow-based label founded and maintained by post-rock titans Mogwai. As well as releasing the group’s own music, it has supported a growing number of other musicians, including post-electro masters Errors and Blanck Mass, the dark electronica solo project by Benjamin John Power.
Key release: Have Some Faith In Magic - Errors
The legendary Glasgow club night now has two labels: Optimo Trax, a dancefloor-focused operation, and Optimo Music, the label that houses a more eclectic selection of artists. Recent releases on the label include several records by Golden Teacher – a barbed fusion of punk-funk, Arthur Russell-era disco and acid house – and a compilation of little-known post-punk curated by JD Twitch, aka Keith McIvor, released earlier this month.
Key release: Bells From The Deep End - Golden Teacher
GERRY LOVES RECORDS
A self-proclaimed “tiny DIY label” based in Edinburgh, GLR have won a reputation for their carefully packaged vinyl releases and the small but impressive roster of artists they work with. When investigating new music in Scotland, you know a band is worth checking out if they carry the Gerry Loves Records stamp of approval.
Key release: Giant - Conquering Animal Sound