In an ideal world, a record label should be a place for like minds to meet, to spark off new ideas and break through barriers. Erased Tapes certainly does that. Splitting its time between London and Berlin, the label has assembled a roster which stretches around the globe yet retains a community feel. .. ........N'Joy
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Erased Tapes Records is a London-based independent record label focusing on releasing avant-garde music.
The record company was established by Robert Raths in early 2007 in London, with the release of Ryan Lee West's Vemeer EP under the Aparatec moniker. The label is sometimes mentioned for its strong sonic and visual aesthetic with a special focus on packaging and design. Erased Tapes has a tradition of releasing a free bonus compilation every 10 releases.
Perhaps best associated with avant classical soundscapes - think Olafur Arnalds - the imprint has also released bass productions, left field electronics and straight up indie rock. Nils Frahm has long called Erased Tapes home, and he recently said of life on the imprint: "I couldn't be happier in this family. And it is a family. There’s a great sense of freedom on this label."
With Erased Tapes looking to celebrate their fifth anniversary, ClashMusic sat down with label founder Robert Raths to chat about their birth, evolution and future plans.
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What prompted you to start your own label?
There was no real prompt. It was more of a subconscious development driven by this unstoppable curiosity inside of me of how far I could carry the music I had discovered.
Did you have any industry experience?
Not really. My creative roots are in fine art and architecture. In 1999 however, fresh out of school, I got sidetracked by a major music television company who had hired me to design their studio sets. I would show Radiohead the way to the toilet or have Bootsy Collins sit on the star-shaped couch I designed, asking me if he could take it home with him, if that’s what you mean by industry experiences? (laughs).
Did you start out with a specific sound / ethos in mind?
Well, I've always been most interested in a dialogue between two opposite poles, between traditional and contemporary, between digital and analogue. That cliff between electronic and acoustic, the pop and the classical world. In bringing these worlds together or at least start a conversation in how to utilise the best of both sides and make it into something exciting, something current and something that is of our time. In the beginning people might have found it hard to connect these dots between each of our artists, but throughout the years I think it has become more and more evident where the label is heading.
You’ve got an incredibly broad roster, what do you look for in new acts?
Well, I would hope that most people’s musical taste palette is equally broad, if not broader than the mix of musical styles we have on the label. I guess it’s the excitement I look out for the most, this excitement I get when I discover something special that doesn’t let me rest. I somehow trust my instincts there. This trust can have many shapes and forms. Sometimes it’s the restraint an artist brings to the table in comparison to their arsenal of talents. Other times it’s their carefully crafted and thought-through arrangements, their keen ear for unusual production or lyrical explorations. But most of the time it’s their unstoppable and sheer unwarped musicality, and a certain courage they show in leaving space for your own interpretations to unfold.
You make great use of the web, what effect has this had on the label’s growth?
The label was born the same year as SoundCloud, the year when MySpace had its peak and Facebook and Twitter were about to take over millions of people’s lives. It was also the year when Radiohead let their fans decide how much their music is worth… Basically, on one hand forming a label that year with a focus on physical releases was a crazy idea in many people’s eyes, on the other hand I don’t think we would be where we are without the powers of web 2.0. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t exist if we had started back in the 90s. Sure, it would’ve taking a lot longer to reach people all around the world, but I somehow like to think that good things reach good people one way or another.
Do you have a particular love of the physical format?
I grew up with my parents’ vinyl collection and a Walkman around my neck. I loved making mix tapes for friends and for holiday trips. There’s something quite magical about owning records – the smell of them, the feel of them, their age, their story, the memories you share with them. Call me crazy or old-school (or both), but there’s also something really natural about A side and B side and the length of a vinyl record. Maybe it’s just that I’m used to it, but I love the concept of intermissions. The idea of having to get up and flip the record around after about 20 minutes. It’s like a new beginning, the flipside to a coin. Some of the greatest records have amazing B Sides, where thing get real deep. When I listen to a new recording I always think about what song the B Side might start with. Ahhh. I’m a hopeless case, I know. But I also like my music to be flexible. So the iPod replaced the Walkman for when I’m travelling. But no matter how you consume your music and no matter how great the sound, the difference between a great sounding record and an unforgettable record is that the latter is somehow able to put you in a certain mood, because it has this atmosphere. That’s the records you remember most.
Those initial releases must have been a huge voyage of discovery, what were the early days of the label like?
Hehe. Yeah. It was exciting times and somehow that has never changed. And that’s when I realised that I finally found something I can picture myself doing for the rest of my life. Every day I would crawl out of bed with a big smile on my face, the feeling that I had discovered something I can’t wait to tell the whole world about, that I was working on something in my little subterranean flat on the outskirts of London whilst 7 million people are fast at sleep.
Can you point to a particular release as the moment the label found its identity?
It’s not like there is one big album, which changed everything. Every release seems to have a bit of that moment in it. It’s more about the artist and to express their identity. And through that the label got its own identity. And of course our fans and what they are identifying with it. When compiling our label compilations I am basically connecting these dots, the pieces of one big puzzle. The collaborations seem to be the glue that holds the whole thing together. Like when Justin from The B.E.F. added subtle electronics to Ólafur’s sound. Or when Nils creating a whole album as the perfect environment for Anne to unfold her cello skills. Not to mention Ryan’s remix work. He has this gift of taking one element and bringing it into a completely different context with a brand new center and identity.
Nils Frahm has pointed to a real sense of community, is that something you foster? How do you do this?
Erased Tapes has indeed become a home, a family for those who are part of it. We look out for each other, so we don’t get lost. We bounce ideas back and forth, help each other find a new approach whenever we get stuck. I would always encourage them to collaborate, to see how other people work, rather than shutting themselves away and try and force a creative process to happen. Sometimes all you need is a friend. Then, seeing them play together, sometimes with eight hands on the same piano, is worth more than anything else to me.
You are often associated with modern classical music via Ólafur Arnalds and A Winged Victory For The Sullen... is that an area you have a particular fondness for?
I have been fascinated by the sound of the piano and strings from a very young age for sure. But also by the sounds that Stockhausen and Kraftwerk created. Or Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix... But seriously, it’s not like I sat down and thought to myself ‘hm, let’s start a label with lots and lots of contemporary classical composers on it’… That’s just not me. This isn’t a calculated business model. I wouldn’t even try and put it in a box. If anything, it’s about the artists I choose to invest my time and energy in. It’s my way of doing something useful with the time I got. Something meaningful. And if it makes a lot of other people happy, then what more could I ask for?
The acts on Erased Tapes often have quite striking videos, is the label’s visual output something you view as being integral to the music?
Definitely. Cover art, packaging, videos and websites are the artist’s chance of giving their musical work a visual identity, a visual counterpart. This is something I am heavily and happily involved with, mainly due to my background in design. I also think it’s important for the label to have an artistic through-line, so it makes sense. The best video contributions so far came from people simply inspired by the music. Like when Esteban Diacono from Argentina submitted a video for Óli’s song ‘Ljósið’ and it received over a million views in just a few weeks. Or recently, Ho Tak Lam from Hong Kong who won an Adobe award with the video animation he created inspired by Codes In The Clouds’ ‘Don’t Go Awash In This Digital Landscape’. These are the film makers of tomorrow.
Did you ever think you would reach your fifth anniversary?
It wasn’t really something I would think about to be honest. If someone had told me back when I studied architecture, that I would one day run my own record company, I would’ve just laughed. Even though the two actually have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Anyhow, a journalist in Beijing once asked me about how it all began and how I got here. That’s when I realised that I had never even once found the time to think about these things. I actually had to force myself to remember how I had gotten myself into running a label (laughs). Quite sad actually. But also very funny.
What events do you have planned to celebrate?
I’m glad you ask. I’m very excited about this. May will see our very first Erased Tapes 5th Anniversary Night at this year’s Great Escape Festival with A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Nils Frahm and The B.E.F. on the bill, followed by a label night at the AB in Brussels on May 31st and many more events planned for the rest of the year.
Actually, the best event out of all of them wasn’t planned at all – at least not by myself. It was a surprise party on the actual birthday, February 5th, arranged by Sofia, with Nils, Peter and Martyn playing a spontaneous house concert for me and I had NO idea. They totally got me by surprise. These things only happen once in a lifetime. And I will carry that moment in my heart forever.
Looking ahead, do you have any ambitions / acts you would love to work with?
I would have loved to work with Stanley Kubrick if he was still around. I somehow think he would have liked what we do. But if everything we dreamed of came true, there would be nothing left for us to look forward to.
2015 saw BBC 6 Music radio presenter Mary Anne Hobbs stage an Erased Tapes evening featuring Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory For The Sullen at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the prestigious BBC Prom. It was the fastest selling ticket of the entire season. Shortly after Erased Tapes was awarded Best Small Label 2015 at the AIM Awards. On February 5th 2017 Erased Tapes opened the doors to its new East London home, marking the 10th anniversary by introducing fans and the public to the new Erased Tapes Sound Gallery.
“Ten years of one of the most important record labels of the last few years“ — Gilles Peterson
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Erased Tapes Collection 1, released to commemorate its first birthday, collects together 11 songs from the label's back catalogue, including 'Distant Street Lights' by the aforementioned Codes In The Clouds as well as choice cuts by the likes of Olafur Arnalds ('Fok') and Aparatec ('Vemeer').
In a similar vein to well-established contemporaries like Fat Cat and Xtra Mile, what sets Erased Tapes apart from many other DIY labels on the scene is their no-holds-barred approach to providing an almost unparalleled library of eclectic sounds that range from ambient shoegaze courtesy of Kyte's 'Boundaries' through to Aparatec's alter ego Rival Consoles’s orchestral drum and bass ('Kitsch') and Ghostworker's haunting folk ('The Morning').
All in all, there aren't really any duff moments on Erased Tapes Collection 1 and, more importantly, it has actually served its purpose as far as yours truly is concerned having led me towards discovering Olafur Arnalds’ excellent Eulogy For Evolution long-player.
Erased Tapes Collection I (flac 237mb)
01 Kyte - Boundaries 3:51
02 Ólafur Arnalds - Fok 4:29
03 Ghostworker - Autark 3:57
04 The British Expeditionary Force - The Engine 3:20
05 Rival Consoles -Kitsch 3:41
06 Ólafur Arnalds - 3055 4:16
07 Codes In The Clouds - Distant Street Lights 4:41
08 Aparatec - Vemeer 3:26
09 Ghostworker - The Morning (Acousmatic Mix) 3:22
10 The British Expeditionary Force - A Long Way From Home (Rival Consoles RMX) 3:10
11 Canon Blue - Odds & Ends (Rival Consoles RMX) 3:51
Erased Tapes Collection I (ogg 93mb)
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London based independent Erased Tapes may only be entering its third year of existence, but already it's carved out a reputation for discovering innovative new artists from all around the globe. Previously responsible for introducing the ethereal sounds of Kyte, organic post-rock of Codes In The Clouds and icy electronica of Olafur Arnalds, Erased Tapes has slowly built up a roster it can not only be proud of, but also one genuinely envied by many of its contemporaries, both old and new.
Having unleashed its first collection of then (mostly) unknown artists back in the summer of 2008, it's been a rapid ascent for Erased Tapes, something label founder Robert Raths probably never imagined in his wildest dreams. Erased Tapes: Collection II takes up the story from where its predecessor left off. While familiar names such as the aforementioned Codes In The Clouds and Olafur Arnalds both make an appearance - indeed if you haven't already purchased the latter's Found Songs then you really should - it's some of the less established acts on Raths' impressive roster that really stand out.
Rival Consoles – aka London musician Ryan Lee West – feature three times , and deliver forcefully on each. The delightful '1985' from last summer's IO long player remains one of 2009's most engaging pieces of electronic-based music, while 'Helvetica' off the EP of the same name tells the story of an obsession with Warp Records and all its eccentricities through the eyes of a starstruck twenty-something, only with an added dose of wisdom thrown in.
Berlin-based musician Nils Frahm contributes the sombre, neo-classical 'Ambre' from his debut LP Wintermusik, released at the tail end of last year. Fellow label newcomer *Finn – aka Hamburg singer/songwriter Patrick Zimmer – offers the dramatic, lo-fi cinerama of 'Boy-Cott' off his The Low Priced Heartbreakers You Can Own opus that doesn't actually sail far off the mark of those Leonard Cohen and Junior Boys comparisons he's often labelled with.
The undoubted highlight of Erased Tapes: Compilation II however comes in the form of '65', a six minute slab of haunting dance-infused mellow tronica courtesy of Olafur Arnalds and Janus 'Bloodgroup' Rasmussen's recent side project Kiasmos, which weaves exquisite, mesmerising patterns from beginning to end that recall the likes of Photek at his finest. Add the inimitable subtleties of Peter Broderick and Nico Muhly to an already unimpeachable list and you've one of the most essential compilations released in a long, long while. What's more, it's free to download from the label's own website in low res, but with such an array of talent on offer as this, we implore you buy the HD version or each artist's physical release instead. In a nutshell, pure sonic perfection.
Erased Tapes Collection II (flac 414mb)
01 Rival Consoles - 1985 4:07
02 Nils Frahm - Ambre 3:48
03 Codes In The Clouds - Don't Go Awash In This Digital 3:11
04 Ólafur Arnalds - Ljósið 3:30
05 Peter Broderick - Part 3: Pill Induced Slumber 6:02
06 Finn. - Boy-Cott 3:30
07 Ólafur Arnalds - Til Enda 4:09
08 Rival Consoles - Helvetica 4:28
09 Kiasmos - 65 5:53
10 Nico Muhly By Rival Consoles - A Hudson Cycle (Rival Consoles Remix) 3:21
11 Peter Broderick By Nils Frahm - And It's Alright 4:34
Erased Tapes Collection II (ogg 161mb)
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It kicks off with a voyage into the madness of World’s Ends Girlfriend’s Teen Age Ziggy. A frantic construction of choppy guitar, broken beats and unexpected turns. It sounds like what I imagined the future of music to be as I sat dreaming in the 80s. Then the structure of the album begins. We are dropped straight out of the synapse popping madness and into Unter by Nils Frahm. A short, delicate piece of weightless genius. It feels like a small gooseberry sorbet between courses, cleansing the aural pallet before the rest of the feast progresses.
Another side of Frahm’s skills come into play next with 7 fingers by Frahm and Anne Muller from their album by the same name. It is not what you would expect from a track by a pianist and a cellist, being that there is not much of either during the track, but it is a lovely lovely track. The drop and build in the song is subtle, but electrifying. And almost too perfectly to notice, I Left the Party by Rival Consoles comes in. This homage to Chilean House performs one of the greatest rolling hook to buildup sequences that I have experienced in a song. It is a wonderful bit of house, but it is utterly captivating, giving it the emotional tie that can make a song one to keep for life. The house generation get to be wafted with unwritten nostalgia while keeping a firm grip on where music is right now.
Then come Codes in the Clouds and Olafur Arnalds, here on this collection they are given a different space, the aural art gallery has moved them into a spot where they shine with renewed beauty. The rest of the collection follows suit, with the Kate Bush with her Sex on, of British Expeditionary Force followed by the shoegaze blown full of cold air that is Iambics mix of Distant Street Lights. This makes way for Said and Done, you will never hear a solitary note used to such a full potential as you will on this track. Mastery of a craft apparent in just one note. It also beggars the question, how the fuck does he play the rest of the track if he is still playing that one key? Peter Broderick plays us out, allowing us to enter one of his dreams and drift along with its hazy magic. This is a song made of mist and strengthened by its lack of substance and is a perfect way to close out another masterpiece of musical construction.
Erased Tapes Collection III (flac 269mb)
01 World's End Girlfriend - Teen Age Ziggy 4:58
02 Nils Frahm - Unter 1:37
03 Nils Frahm & Anne Müller - 7fingers 4:07
04 Rival Consoles - I Left The Party 5:17
05 Codes In The Clouds - Washington 4:27
06 Ólafur Arnalds - Hægt, Kemur Ljósið 5:25
07 The British Expeditionary Force - Crack In The Clouds 3:35
08 Codes In The Clouds - Distant Street Lights (iambic RMX) 5:37
09 Nils Frahm - Said And Done 3:08
10 Peter Broderick - Part 4: The Dream 4:50
11 Rival Consoles - Jan 4:11
Erased Tapes Collection III (ogg 110b)
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Erased Tapes Records celebrates its fifth birthday in 2012. It was February 5th, 2007 when the company was first registered. To recognise this milestone in the history of one of today’s brightest new labels, founder Robert Raths has set up a number of events and releases, beginning with a label night at this year’s The Great Escape Festival on May 11th and the release of Erased Tapes Collection IV, which will be made available on their fifth birthday, February 5th 2012.
Erased Tapes Collection IV (flac 247mb)
01 A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears 4:25
02 Ólafur Arnalds - Poland 3:31
03 Nils Frahm - Snippet 4:25
04 Codes In The Clouds - You Are Not What You Think You Are (Rival Consoles RMX) 5:31
05 Rival Consoles - Into The Heart I 3:57
06 Peter Broderick - Old Time 3:24
07 Oliveray - Growing Waterwings 4:34
08 The British Expeditionary Force - Where You Go I Will Follow 4:39
09 Ólafur Arnalds - Near Light 3:25
10 Nils Frahm - For 5:52
11 Jon Hopkins - Insides (Rival Consoles RMX) 4:21
Erased Tapes Collection IV (ogg 104mb)
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