MUSIC: TRI ANGLE RECORDS (SUPERSUPER! VOL 1 #24)
With London/New York-based frontman Robin Carolan at the helm, 2010 saw emerging label Tri Angle Records rise from relative online obscurity to much-discussed prominence. Pioneering acts like oOoOO and Balam Acab, it’s clear that Tri Angle is much more than just a three-sided flash in the pan…
Mystery! Intrigue! A… Lindsay Lohan mixtape? It has to be the one and only Tri Angle Records, a label that has sparked as much interest for its secretive artists as it has critical acclaim for every record released to date. Formed a little over a year ago, Tri Angle has already exploded into cult distinction, with names like How To Dress Well and Nowa Huta bending ears with their mix of experimental and mainstream sounds. For that is what is arguably the most novel aspect to Tri Angle’s appeal – the innovative approach of fusing the decidedly alternative with pop and R&B influences into original, genre-defying gold. With no less than seven artists already under the label’s belt, and more upcoming releases than you can shake a stick at, we couldn’t help but want to know more…
The man behind it all is one Robin Carolan, previously known for his scribblings on underground music blog 20jazzfunkgreats. In early 2010, electronic label Kompakt offered him a production/distribution deal to start his own label, and Tri Angle Records was born. Before long, word of the promising new venture soon spread through the omniscient channels of the Internet, and presently a considerable furore surrounded the then-releaseless label…
“The attention was overwhelming in the beginning,” says Robin. “Hype can be death, if there’s nothing to justify it. I didn’t start out with a massive agenda of what sort of label it was going to be – it was very much, ‘I’m just going to do what I want to do with it, and hope that people are interested’. It’s crazy how much attention the label’s attracted in such a small space of time.”
Tri Angle’s debut release did little to silence those wagging tongues. Tri Angle Records Presents: Let Me Shine For You offered listeners a downloadable Lindsay Lohan tribute mixtape, with LiLo classics being remixed by artists from the label roster, such as oOoOO and Stalker, as well as names like Babe Rainbow and Oneohtrix Point Never. Partly influenced by Robin’s fascination with Lohan’s self-destructive “breakdown in the public eye” (she was doin’ time at the time), the result was an eerie, otherworldly ensemble of low-fi manipulation. Take it from us – you haven’t lived until you’ve heard LiLo’s dulcet tones buried under a slew of slow-burning distortion in Stalker’s ‘Disconnection (Disconnected)’.
This alt/pop thread had continued as Tri Angle has grown, with many of the label’s acts continuing to incorporate mainstream elements into their own work. Holy Other, for example, has done a BoysIIMen edit, and How To Dress Well has remixed a track by The Black Eyes Peas, as well as covering R Kelly’s ‘I Wish’.
As Robin says, “I’m really interested in the idea of blending the underground with the commercial – it’s become a bit of a thing for me. In a sense, I’m trying to merge the overground and the underground”.
Don’t you ever worry that this underground fetish for the mainstream – which is already prevalent on Tumblr and in the variety of drag remixes that accompany every Willow Smith and Justin Bieber song has become, well, normalised now?
“Yeah, there’s been more of an embrace recently, it’s almost become the trendy thing to say, ‘I like Rihanna AND Lightning Bolt’, but I’m slightly skeptical as to whether these people are being legit. But I’ve always been open to the fact that I like left-field culture as much as I like commercial culture. Tri Angle artists like Stalker and oOoOO do their thing inspired by the fact that they don’t really believe in this whole underground/overground divide that some people claim exists.”
It certainly seems that the label are serious about the underground/mainstream consolidation vibe – Tri Angle’s own Balam Acab’s ethereal single ‘See Birds’ featured in a L’Oreal advert (starring Beyonce, no less), thus taking the amalgamation of the two worlds to a whole new – very public – platform…
“I knew that a lot of people would be horrified by (the advert) and say, ‘Oh my God, that’s the worst sell-out move you could make’”, says Robin, “but in my mind, it was perfect – it summed up everything; it shows that I’m not afraid to go there. Blending avant-garde with the commercial has always been my attitude”.
All of the acts are keeping lips firmly zipped about upcoming Tri Angle collaborations, with Robin too remaining almost infuriatingly vague, only dropping hints that, “there is a whole load of things going on this year that I can’t really talk about… I want Tri Angle to be as eclectic as possible, but for there to be a thread that runs throughout all the releases. I want to keep that pretty vague. It’s something in my head that I can’t really explain in a conversation, something… I want to be quite vague about.” Well, it’s always good to keep them guessing… “I would love to see Tri Angle being a classic label in a few years. The key thing is to almost ignore trends, and do the right thing for the label. As soon as you’re very self-consciously aware of what’s fashionable, you end up fucking up. I just want to keep doing things that are as honest and pure as possible.”
Watch. This. Space…
Manchester-born Holy Other is back in the UK after a stint in Germany and Sweden, and has recently released his debut EP With U. His sound forces evocative female vocals and unexpectedly catchy beats through a distorted mesh – and we love it.
SS: In addition to the name ‘Holy Other’, a lot of your songs (e.g. ‘Blissters’, ‘SunShrine’) seem to evoke an eminently mystical quality. Was this an intentional thing?
HO: I’d stolen the mysticism theme from my love of drone and tingz. ‘Sunshrine’ was this James Blackshaw nu-raga album that I loved a few years back. Sometimes it’s intentional mysticism, direct reference, or just liking how something sounds.
SS: Do you reckon that there’s a discernible aesthetic behind Tri Angle?
HO: Elusive, primarily… but totally contextual and self-aware. It’s that combined appreciation of pop and underground, the awareness of everything. Robin seems to have some insanely perfect ear for signings – every artist has some idea about vocal manipulation, unique to each of them.
London-based pair Nowa Huta are already catching attention for their electronic, ‘dark dance’ music, with tracks like ‘stilfeelu’ and ‘Gang Waves’ seeing their melodic vocal samples shimmer against echoing dance beats, to produce something weirdly beautiful.
SS: What’s the deal with your ‘dark dance’ approach?
NH: We’re interested in creating music that feels isolated, or evokes a sense of longing. UK dance music beats and the sense of space in music are things that continually fascinate us. We want to make music that is like a spatial representation of walking around London at night on your own, with these voices floating through trying to get something across, but you can’t quite work out what it is – except that whatever it is sounds like it’s torturing the voices…
SS: As a label, what does Tri Angle represent to listeners? Do you think it embodies a certain time and place in music today?
NH: Tri Angle embodies now, in the sense that one week, people who take pop music seriously – and are deeply inspired by it – can make weird music in their bedrooms, and it gets heard by hundreds of hip kids the next week.
Stalker is music journalist-turned-Salem-manager-turned-artist/producer Brendan Telzrow, hailing from Chicago. A natural shy-guy, Brendan has remixed tracks for the likes of These New Puritans and Kreayshawn, bringing to the mix his organic, low-fi sound that wavers between brooding, lonely and downright ominous.
SS: Like a lot of the other Tri Angle acts, your music seems to defy being associated with any specific ‘genre’ around at the moment… would you say that’s a good thing?
BZ: Whatever my environment is dictates my immediate influences… absorbing other ideas have made my output kind of hard to define. I think of (my sound) as adaptive, unconscious music – I have to feel like I am imparting a ‘transparent’ projection of my own perception within the music. I’d never see my music being widely popular, but as much as I like the abrasive, heavier sounds, I like pop music too. I’d like to produce for someone like Rihanna and Ke$ha…
SS: What’s it like working with such an up-and-coming label?
BZ: It’s rare to have a new label that’s become a kind of icon… it’s fun to help build that, because it’s so young in so many ways, and there are so many ways that you could use it.
HOW TO DRESS WELL
Following up on his critically acclaimed 2010 single ‘Ready For The World’, 2011 has already seen Chicago-based act How To Dress Well (otherwise known as Tom Krell) release his full-length debut album Love Remains, which has built on his trademark sound by layering soulful, otherworldly textures with vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on any number of hit R&B records.
Having produced remixes for the likes of Matthew Dear and R Kelly, and with a How To Dress Well remix 12” currently in the works at the Tri Angle factory, (which will include xxxy’s recent remix of ‘Ready For The World’), we predict big things for HTDW’s future.
Balam Acab is Pennsylvania-based Alec Koone, an artist fast rising to distinction with his bewitching, diaphanous music. In August 2010, EP See Birds made an impact not only as Balam Acab’s debut EP, but also as Tri Angle’s first record release, and was received with great enthusiasm by pretty much everyone – the title track has even appeared on a L’Oreal advert featuring Beyonce! Famously shy (having yet to appear live), he has since released his first full-length full-length LP on the label, Wander/Wonder. In the mean time check out his single ‘See Birds’ from his debut EP of the same name…
oOoOO (alias of one Chris Dexter Greenspan, hailing from San Francisco) has already cemented his reputation for melancholy, tripped-out sounds. However, like many of the other Tri Angle acts, it seems that oOoOO is a bit of a pop fan too, having remixed Lindsay Lohan’s ‘I Live For The Day’ for the label’s LiLo mixtape, as well as the likes of Marina and the Diamonds.
Newest Tri Angle signing, Ayshay, is the project of one Sengal-born, Brooklyn-based artist Fatima Al-Qadiri (check out SuperSuper #23 for our interview with her!), pioneer of the ‘Muslim Trance’ genre. Ayshay takes samples from Islamic religious anthem songs, such as Shi-ite and Sunni acapella, and combines with distorted trance beats to create mystical waves of sound.
Words: Charlotte McManus
Posted on 09/03/2012, in Music and tagged ayshay, balam acab, charlotte mcmanus, holy other, how to dress well, music, nowa huta, oOoOO, record label, robin carolan, stalker, supersuper, supersuper magazine, tri angle records. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.