Underground techno labels: a Bandcamp guide

It’s not quite the summer of love, but maybe it can be the summer of underground music downloading. Let’s start with techno.

Bandcamp is the undisputed home of a lot of experimental music. With dance genres, it has more competition – and I plan to revisit offerings like Beatport shortly, so stay tuned.

What you get on Bandcamp, then, is a particular character of music – typically stuff that resists easy categorization, and doesn’t show up as much on charts. For some of these labels, there’s a mix of revenue between Bandcamp and a platform like Beatport (or even Apple, if they’re lucky with charts). For others, Bandcamp is not only the main source of income, but even a way of connecting.

Speaking of Beatport – one piece of evidence that it isn’t only about Bandcamp, I kept thinking for example one of my favorites, Tokyo’s Murasame Industrial Records, was on Bandcamp. They’re Beatport only. More on that label soon.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I wanted to pick out stuff I’ve particularly enjoyed following – which usually means non-commercial, stuff that’s jack-y and groovy, stuff that’s space-y and futuristic and dark and weird. And these labels all have a sense of community, even if it’s a small collective of a few friends unlikely to catch larger attention.

A special shout-out goes to the Bandcamp Techno group on Facebook, which is a community itself.

This is trending heavily to Berlin and the midwest, with a smattering of Spain and Japan, and techno is more international than that, so — I will definitely have to do a volume II. Nominations gladly accepted.

Valence
New York, NY US
https://valence3.bandcamp.com

The label of Ambivalent (founded in Berlin, now in NYC), aka LA-4A is the high-grade, thinking person’s techno label. Now Kevin McHugh is back with his first solo music in a couple of years, which is not techno but some chilled ambient music to take your mind off the pandemic. And you can get the whole (very techno) catalog for $15.

FLASH Recordings
Berlin, DE
https://flashrec.bandcamp.com/

FLASH Recordings from Florian Meindl is one of the most prolific techno labels on Bandcamp, with a nonstop firehose of great releases. And they’re 90% off the full catalog today, which means DJs can play a game of “how many FLASH tracks can I play in a row before someone notices.)

Anml Mthr – Anti Time EP (Bandcamp Exclusive) by FLASH Recordings

Wunderblock Records
Moscow, RU
https://wunderblock.bandcamp.com
Code: ‘‘MAYDAY’ [30% off]

I’m on this label mainly because I couldn’t stop listening to all of its releases. Started in 2013, it’s been covering a terrific gamut of productions from Russia, Ukraine, and beyond.

Hereditary [FSFR003] by Duellist

Yes, I have skin in the game:

Avian
Berlin, DE
https://avianstore.bandcamp.com/music

The mighty Avian has an endless, sonically rich catalog.

Edit Select
Glasgow, UK
https://editselect909.bandcamp.com

Some of the best of the Scottish underground.

Snork Enterprises
Hamburg, DE
https://snorkenterprises.bandcamp.com

Little. Yellow. Different. Better. Hamburg’s weird underground imprint I think I convinced (or more like “nagged’) to go on Bandcamp, so now let me urge you to go check out their catalog (not only mine).

Lautverschiebung by MasCon

EarToGround Records
London UK
https://eartoground.bandcamp.com/music

If London’s underground techno had a tourism board, this might be it – at least for us weirdos.

Ostgut Ton
Berlin, DE
https://ostgut.bandcamp.com

The label resident of Berghain has a Bandcamp store. Actually do believe the hype, generally – they’ve still got it, and jumping-off point to the sublabels is also here, so have at it because I think no one is getting back into the club for a while.

Tripalium Corp
Paris, FR
https://tripalium.bandcamp.com/music

“Braindancers United” with acid and rave and more. Proper Paris warehouse dirt.

Fullpanda records & Hunger to Create
Berlin, Germany
https://fullpandarecords.bandcamp.com

Dasha Rush’s label has some of the finest – and most-overlooked – underground techno out there, and her occasional parties at Tresor also count among the most sonically diverse. Music for cosmonautical moods.

Bloody & Soul by Lars Hemmerling

Anode Records
St. Louis, MO US
https://anoderecords1.bandcamp.com

Jack-y, dirty midwest techno, just as you’d expect from Ron S., veteran of that scene, and friends. As thick and delicious as BBQ sauce.

H-Productions
Stockholm, SE
https://h-productions.bandcamp.com

Cari Lekebusch’s label has a deep back catalog from Sweden.

Toktok Records, V-Records
Berlin, DE
https://toktokrecords.bandcamp.com
https://v-records.bandcamp.com

Irreverant, dirty, silly, raunchy – this is the underground side of German techno (and adjacent music) too many people fail to see. Toktok is an outgrowth of the band; V-Records the imprint of band member Nerk (who I’ve gotten to release with). And they’ve found and put out new vinyl on Toktok this week.

Perc Trax
[undisclosed city], UK
https://perctrax.bandcamp.com
Discount code: “may” [20% off]

When Perc runs a label, wonderful things happen. With a full range of techno to experimental and everything in between, this is a heaven for producer nerds.

hyper master recorders
Fuji, Japan
https://hypermasterrecorders.bandcamp.com

Straight out of Shizuoka – every end of the techno spectrum has been on a hyper master release, holding down a chunk of Japan’s best techno since 1998. You might know them from that circle logo, if that jogs your memory.

Semantica Records
Madrid, ES
https://semanticarecords.bandcamp.com

Svreca to Stanislav Tolkachev, gorgeous releases here.

Mona Records
Murcia, ES
https://monarecords.bandcamp.com

I guess Spain is my next destination post-lockdown, but I just love this crew for their lovely rhythms and sounds. And they’re a pan-Spanish indie – “Madrid, Murcia, Gijón, Salamanca, I, Spain”

Planet Euphorique
Montreal, CA
https://planeteuphorique.bandcamp.com

With major releases from people like D. Tiffany and a stream of unexpected delights, this is a Quebecois gem.

Quarantinas by Quarantinas

Nachtstrom Schallplatten
Tübingen, DE
https://nachtstromschallplatten.bandcamp.com

Maria Singer to Dave Tarrida, dark and delicious catalog from the place I know everyone thinks of as a music hub, Tübingen, Germany. Possibly there’s an enchanted forest where this happens.

Credo
Munich, Germany
https://credo-rec.bandcamp.com/

Bavaria is back on Germany’s music scene in a big way – Alex Bau’s label pumping out classics being a good example of that.

Pacou
Berlin, DE
https://pacou.bandcamp.com

The former boss of Tresor Records and other projects, Pacou has now put out his own deep collection and it’s all worth navigating (including the Mike Huckaby collab I wrote about on the weekend).

Chicago Jaxxx
Chicago, IL USA
https://chicagojaxxxtechno.bandcamp.com
discount code: “anniversary” [50% off]

Banging. “Tracky”? “Ghetto flair?” (Their words, not mine.) Whatever it is, take a virtual trip to a Chicago warehouse.

Chi Jax by Lester Fitzpatrick vs Mark Beltrami

47
Berlin, DE
https://47×47.bandcamp.com/

Tommy Four Seven’s label is nothing but the finest production work, when you want compilations and releases that trend very dark and goth-futuristic – but that you’ll still dance to.

ARTS
Rotterdam, NL
https://artsrecordings.bandcamp.com/

Maybe one of the larger labels here, but well worth a mention – Emmanuel’s ARTS is the kind of label that will constantly break you out of the notion that techno is just repeating itself, with consistently forward-looking music.

TH ± Tar Hallow
Rotterdam, NL
https://thtarhallow.bandcamp.com

Rotterdam has so much strange techno laboratory stuff going on, though – it’s not just ARTS. Hard, weird, things that sound like the robots took over… Tar Hallow is inhabited by the likes of Rhyw and Thanos Hana and goes the expected places if you know those names.

ARKVS / Thanos Hana – TAR005 by ARKVS / Thanos Hana

mord
Rotterdam, NL
https://mord.bandcamp.com/music

Seriously, what is in the water/stroopwaffels over there? Maybe it says something that these labels are so superb that they come before the mention of the city and yes, Rotterdam, I’m aware that us Berlin folks like to ride on the brand of our town.

FORMAT-REC
Chicago, IL USA
https://formatrecordings.bandcamp.com/music

Hey, Berlin. You think only you can be dark? Chicago can be dark. Ever been through a Chicago winter? Beautiful stuff from this insanely prolific label and diverse roster.

Hue Helix
[undisclosed city], JP
https://huehelix.bandcamp.com/

Futuristic adventurous outings from Ryuji Takeuchi and Nil and so on live here.

The Bunker New York
New York, NY USA
https://thebunkerny.bandcamp.com

The Bunker is both a classic party and a perfect conduit between Detroit and NYC (and Berlin) – their label is every bit as vital.

Newrhythmic records
León, ES
https://newrhythmic-records.bandcamp.com

There’s always just beautiful stuff on Joton’s imprint, since 2005.

Hessle Audio
London, UK
https://music.hessleaudio.com

Well, did I mention they’re also on Bandcamp?

Modern Cathedrals
Detroit, MI
https://moderncathedrals.bandcamp.com

Uun and Altstadt Echo and friends are putting out some of the most beautiful, dreamy techno productions today, so don’t miss this imprint.

The Lock (Fundraiser for COVID-19 Relief) by Altstadt Echo

Illegal Alien Records
Mexico [by way of Florida and now… Berlin?]
https://illegalalienrecords.bandcamp.com/

Let’s call it a “Mexican” label as its label owner does – this imprint is the creation of Ricardo Garduno. 13 years of great releases. Beautiful stuff that will tickle your ears through headphones but also make your body move all over the place, with big-league collaborators like Takaaki Itoh and Oscar Mulero. (In fact, it’s nice to see a common thread is the underground/emerging artists routinely teaming up with better-known names. Solidarity forever)

SUB tl
Madrid, ES
https://subtl1.bandcamp.com

Futuristic, wonderful, almost needs no introduction – the HD Substance and Leandro Gámez project.

Acacia Label
Detroit, MI
https://acacialabel.bandcamp.com

Kelli Hand (K-Hand) has a label. Attention must be paid. (Who? Oh, you need to go there now. Enjoy! Tell me when you’re done.)

Project 6 EP by K-Hand

Truncate
Los Angeles, CA USA
https://truncate.bandcamp.com/

Truncate is both an alias and a record label – and Truncate (the guy) has really shown the rest of us how to do that. Just a huge back catalog here to mine.

RIOT Radio Records
Edinburgh, Scotland UK
https://riotradiorecords.bandcamp.com/

Each release is one gem, one interesting flipside (remix, etc.). Wonderful, terrifying stuff from Neil Landstrumm to Dave Tarrida and plenty of people you might not know outside Scotland, too.

Transmat Records
Detroit, MI USA
https://transmatdetroit.bandcamp.com/music

Oh yeah – that Transmat. Derrick May Transmat. Also on Bandcamp.

DJ T-1000
Berlin, DE
https://djt1000.bandcamp.com/music

Speaking of Detroit, while I mostly avoided artists for space – Alan Oldham has been everywhere since the Transmat days, and he’s dumping tons of vintage Pure Sonik, etc. stuff alongside his new latest – so, for instance, you get this gem today from 1993’s Generator:

https://djt1000.bandcamp.com/album/20-hours-to-paradise-ep

Okay, so who did I miss? Everyone from Africa to Latin America to the Balkans to southeast Asia, I … kinda know where I’m starting episode II. But shoot!

Bonus round

Adding more here:

Grid Based Beats
Chicago, IL USA
https://gridbasedbeats.bandcamp.com

Another top-notch Chicago project – this one with a fascinating approach to tools (patterns, samples, and more). Plus I really dig the creative approach of Tim Vitek. This sounds a little like what would happen if a sweaty Chicago party started… after breaking into the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Rapid Fire Red by Tim Vitek

Ditekt Records out of Columbus, Ohio is Plural aka James Johnson doing some crazy experimental crossover stuff, like this one out yesterday.

Potential Violence EP by Ditekt Records

Debut release for this Tijuana label infonabeat but – hey, this trio is a good choice, and I’ve had good luck with Tijuana + Baja so shoot, let’s sign up and see what else they’ve got coming!

ISSR A001 by Voca Negra, Luis Flores , Netika

From Philly, here’s an interesting (public) thread:

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