Label Maker One: Leaving Records
Any given episode of 20kUnderDC is bound to features multiple tracks culled from the same label. Sometimes this is intentional to achieve a specific sound and sometimes it happens by chance because our internet-driven music consumption is dictated by what Tim Berners-Lee would call an echo-chamber-like “closed silo of content.” Either way, it happens, and we end up drawing numerous songs from the same well week after week. It’s about time we started giving credit to those metaphorical holes in the ground. Today we debut a new feature on 20kUnderDC: the Label Maker, in which we say “hey” and “we like you” to a label that’s been cropping up a lot on the show. This week, the frustratingly hard-to-google Leaving Records.
What They’ve Got: We found Leaving Records through Ssaliva, whose wonderfully warbley Thought Has Wings tape grabbed us right from warm synth oscillations of its opening track, “Best Lose the Dream.” Digging through the label’s small catalog proved there was a lot more head-nodding psychedelica where that came from. While LA-based releases music from variety of artists around globe, most of the output shares a similar affection for lo-fi textures, bricolage beats, and an overall otherworldly feel that arcs toward retro haze.
Emblematic of this tendency is label mainstay Matthewdavid, whose released include Disk Collection as hand-crafted 5¼” floppy disk loaded with more than 20 tracks of drifting synthesizer compositions. Far from aimless washes, these cuts play looser takes on the Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi—snippets of beats come through the ambiance; textures vary and morph; and distorted vocals and electronic burblings keep the listener more than engaged. Matthewdavid’s other offerings, such as Jewelry, build on the sound, pushing the beats more to the center to create a sound reminiscent of early Anticon productions. It makes sense, then, that this producer also released Swedish Fish, a 19-minute ambient collaboration with Anticon’s Odd Nosdam.
As far as beats go, the real star of the label is Dak. Each off this producer’s multiple cassette releases on the label show nothing but Madlib-esque mastery of blending samples to create a cohesive sound. His first release on Leaving, This One, is a 20 minute cut that ebbs and flows between high-energy moments of piled-up maximalism to slow and syncopated stretches where chopped bits guitar, strings, and keys lock into rhythmic grooves.
Other highlights: Oscar McClure's Compost, a series of beats that use samples of bodily sounds, everyday objects, field recordings, to create an organic, earthy texture. Davis, a collaboration between Matthewdavid and rapper Serengeti. And Julia Holter’s Tragedy, an expansive and vaguely operatic record. Based on the Greek play “Hippolytus,” the album features Holter’s classically trained vocals, a fair amount of menacing atmospheres, and a sort of rhythmic and melodic inventiveness that reminds us of the compositions of Harry Partch.
For still being young—the label put out its first cassette in 2009—Leaving Records provides a lot to dig through (and generously, the site is loaded with free downloads). While tape-hiss and VHS-quality sound began it’s heyday a few years ago with the success of acts like Ariel Pink and the entire chillwave phenomenon, this label isn’t merely capitalizing on a trend. Aside from one or two items, nothing on the roster sounds stale and many of the releases push the established sound into new and exciting territories and contexts. Additionally, the label does a fantastic job balancing making its music accessible with digital downloads with creating quality physical releases. Nothing adds the the experience of music like nicely hand-crafted cassette packaging—just check out the printed faux-tarot cards that come with Ras G’s El-Aylien Pt. 1.