Thursday, 11 February 2016

The best record label you've (probably) never heard of: Umor Rex.

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It’s hard keeping track of record labels in these times we’re living in, especially when you are a fan of a specific niche genre, like drone, ambient, or other more abstract forms of music. Keeping up with what’s hot can be troublesome. Others, on the other hand, seem to not have trouble moving their music and building a strong following.
Umor Rex is a Mexico City based label founded by Daniel Castrejón in the summer of 2006 based on the premise of free downloadable albums by original, exclusive artists. Its parameters were then and there set as wide and as flexible as is possible within the grasslands of experimental music. There is not a single dominant genre in the catalogue and even though a high percentage of the catalog is nearer to the ambient/synthesiser side of music; things as diverse as rock, misty folk sounds, lo-fi and electronica meet and mingle in a casual, natural way.
Umor Rex is a weird record label in a weird situation: it’s both well-known and obscure. You see, I'm assured that not many people in Mexico, where the label is based, know about its existence, even many who would enjoy the sounds they put out. At the same time, Umor Rex is a household name in the international 'experimental' scene, boasting a formidable catalog of talent hailing from the U.S, Canada and Europe that sell out quickly, get rave reviews in respectable publications and newspapers and are sought after by collectors. Among the artists that make up the Umor Rex family are Berlin duo Driftmachine, L.A. analog synth explorer M. Geddes Gengras, Chicago abstractionists Good Willsmith and French sound collage practitioner Félicia Atkinson.

Not merely another label making homemade noise recordings available to the indefatigable completist weirdo, Umor Rex put quality over quantity on all fronts. The label usually puts out vinyl and cassettes in exquisitely designed packages that make for eye-catching objects; labelhead Daniel designs the bulk of the graphic material (he also keeps a print branch focused on photography books).
Furthermore, a typical release by the label is made up of sounds that you mostly likely won’t find anywhere else; they range from soundscapes conjured from carefully built electronic instruments that push the boundaries of timbre and texture, to explorations that defy form, rhythm, and even 'rules' of established avant-garde schools. Simply put, Umor Rex are presenting some of the most advanced sound artists in the world.
This was evident in the recent Boiler Room Upfront mix which Umor Rex founder, Castrajón headed up. A set that etches the label's forthcoming anthology through 44 minutes of 100% in-house releases. Pure aural hypnosis instigated.

Started initially as a netlabel by Castrejón, the original inspiration was to put out music made by local artists without an outlet, like bedroom folk hero Molloy and His Bike, noise miscreants The New Parallelogramers, downtempo tweaker Drugs Made Me Smarter, and experimental flautist Wilfrido Terrazas. After taking a break of sorts in 2008, the label was relaunched to do physical releases, starting with White Thunder by German post-folk pop exponents The Human Elephant. Since then, the focus has shifted to an international roster (with exceptions like Cian, featuring former Parallelogramer Kevin Altamirano) that provides unique music for those tired of the same old.
With a distribution deal with cult Chicago label Thrill Jockey and praise from selected and influential voices, Umor Rex is a label that deserves recognition everywhere, and will probably become the stuff of legends if it keeps delivering this level of quality in vanguard music.


Till next time.
Big Love. Mark. X

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