So it’s a new year. It’s that time when people decide to change things, make things better in their lives. This ranges from cutting out alcohol and getting more exercise to simply setting goals and targets for the year ahead. I have never been one for the former approach but with the label and music I am most definitely about setting targets and having aims. When I started mini50 in 2011, I guess the aim was simply to help artists I loved, that I thought maybe not enough people loved, get their music out there and heard. I have to say, it’s been a lovely thing watching artists like Conquering Animal Sound and Caught in the Wake Forever grow over the years and whilst I cannot take credit for that I feel an immense satisfaction in knowing I believed in them at the beginning. Much like Trampoline, for me, it has always been about finding new, exciting acts to share with others. That was what it was about then and it’s, mostly, what it’s about now. However, when I started the label, I never expected to be entering the 5th year of existence with such excitement and relish about the artists we are working with and going to work with. A great deal of this is due to the fact I am not alone on this adventure anymore. Stephen from Hiva Oa joined the label well over a year ago and since then the label has gone from strength to strength.
Sketches for Albinos started 2014 with the brilliant, and sadly overlooked, record ‘Fireworks and the Dead City Radio. SfA is of course an alias for Matthew Collings. In 2014, Collings released 3 new records and re-released 1 other. 2 under his own name, 1 as one half of Graveyard (his project with me) and one as Sketches for Albinos. It was a hugely successful year for him and his album was our first ever release on vinyl. A beautiful photograph book accompanies this record, with photos from Collings girlfriend Elin Svennberg. It’s a truly beautiful thing.
Sketches for Albinos is the lighter side of Collings work. Whilst his solo stuff mixes tension and aggression, SfA is something lighter and distilled but equally as compelling. It was a pleasure to work with a man who is clearly on the way to bigger things and recognition within his field. End of year lists, such as Headphone Commute’s suggest that this year was the mere beginning for him and we hope that this means that his work as SfA will also get the attention that it clearly deserves in the future.
Next up was Now Wakes the Sea. How ‘Bildungsroman’ did not receive critical acclaim I will never know. By far and away the best record released by a Scottish artist in 2014 the press just didn’t seem to want to know about it. Well, Song, by Toad did. But other than that the attention this brilliant, wonky pop gem received was massively down heartening. Our hopes for that record were high, so to sit here and look back it was massively disappointing to see such a luke warm reception for one of Scotland’s most talented song writers. It’s not too late of course for it to get the attention it deserves but it seems like such a shame to me as I sit here writing this. Perhaps, of course, I am wrong about that record. But I do believe I know enough about music to know what is good and what is not. Bildungsroman would make my top 5 albums of 2014 if I were allowed to include my own releases in such lists.
Finally in 2014 we released our first long player by Old Earth. Again, ‘A Wake in the Wells’ failed to receive the attention that we felt the album merited. Todd Umhoefer’s output is actually quite incredible. It seems endless and the speed with which it is produced should suggest a drop in quality from time to time. However, this is not the case. ‘A Wake…’ very much picked on from where Small Hours left off, and actually upped the game, but the baffling part for us was where Small Hours sold well on CD, ‘A Wake’ failed to shift as many and was on 12″ vinyl. It’s a really odd thing the selling of music. At times it makes no sense and anyone who says that there is a logic to it is lying. Sometimes, the way music sells and the format it sells on best is quite, quite baffling.
Anyways, 2014 has been a learning curve. Great music released and many lessons learned. Which leads us in to 2015 with optimism, excitement and a great deal of great new music.
Up first on 23 February we have the quite amazing record ‘R U Person or Not’ by Milwaukee’s Group of the Altos (or just altos). This is a very exciting record for a number of reasons. Firstly, we think it’s an ambitious record that transcends genres and will appeal to a great deal of people. Secondly, for us, it’s a big step up in terms of the people we are working with. One member of altos is also a member of Volcano Choir – for those who don’t know Justin Vernon’s project having finished (?) with Bon Iver. Secondly, there are 12 brilliant musicians within altos, one of whom performed on the amazing Death Blues record ‘Non-Fiction’ by Volcano Choir’s Jon Mueller – voted 6th best avant record of 2014 by none other than Rolling Stone magazine. So we are dealing with people who know their shit and expect a certain level of professionalism. As such, we need to up our game and hopefully the lessons learned in 2014 are allowing us to do just that. Anyways, keep your eyes and ears out for altos record because I genuinely believe it’s the best thing we’ve released to date and that is a massive compliment given the records we’ve released in the past that I absolutely love.
Up after altos are Swedish act The Silence Set. Again, the expectations are high. Both Dag Rosenqvist and Johan G Winther are no newbies in the world of music. Dag has been featured in Pitchfork, has huge repsect in the field he works in and raises the level of artist we have worked with to a new level again. Johan himself is no spring chicken either having worked with the likes of Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm and indeed, Frahm appears on the album, along with Heather Broderick. So you see, the expectation levels are immediately raised. The Silence Set’s album is simply beautiful and one I cannot wait to share with the world. It’s deserving of great acclaim – but whether it will get it is a mystery. If there is any justice in the world, then it will. And we will be working our backsides off to make sure that it does.
The remainder of the year is dedicated to two albums. One by New York based artist Bastardgeist and the other the second album by our very own Hiva Oa. Both these records are nearing completion so timescales are kind of up in the air but to say we are excited about them both would be an understatement. Bastardgeist’s music is simply phenomenal. The first time we heard it we knew we had to have him on the label/work with him. So it is truly exciting to be working with him towards a physical release. As for Hiva Oa. Well, they are our number one act. The act that pushed us forward as a label and really changed the playing field for us. The act I believe in completely. And the album I am probably most excited about. I have heard nothing of it as yet other than some tracks they played live a while back. The addition of Matthew Collings to the line up has definitely been a big addition to their sound. So I wait with great anticipation for their record to hit my inbox and I am excited about it getting out to the world.
It’s a busy year ahead for sure but we are excited about what is in store. We hope you will join us for the ride because without people buying the records and supporting the artists their would be no point or future for the label. We wish everyone the best for the year ahead and look forward to reporting back on the ups and downs of 2015. Hopefully more ups but that, like everything else in music, is the mystery we are trying to unravel.