Labeling: Stroboscopic Artefacts

Lucy - Luca Mortellaro“I wanted to start a platform that would really respect the artist’s integrity and
authenticity and creativity in order to produce amazing music. It was also key for me to sign not just hit-singles or hot EPs, but to sign artists and to start something enduring and fruitful, something experimental and deep.”- Luca Mortellaro.

Though based in Berlin, Stroboscopic Artefacts represent the increasingly global outlook for techno/electronic music. Founded by Luca Mortellaro (aka, Lucy) in 2009, SA specialises in quality over quantity, without being so esoteric as to be alienating. The two albums released by the imprint demonstrate a willingness to push up against the self imposed boundaries of the label. Though few in number, each release is a crucial step in the self definition of the artist, and not to be taken lightly, think of it as a techno R&D lab. LPs are the most important, definitive output of a label, but SA made a conscious decision not to release too many, too fast. Albums need time to breath and develop in the listener’s ear, to grow and resist the current tendency to fetishise the new. The only two LPs released to date, the wildly divergent Wordplay for Working Bees and Xhin’s Sword are perfect examples of this. Wordplay drones, and buzzes over fidgety rhythms and half heard conversation while Sword draws from a palette that swings between delicate analogue compositon and the harsher end of 90s IDM trailblazer Jega. Both are cracking listens.

But SA is keen to disassociate itself from the idea that they the label could be summed up as such, to them this risks ‘closes the circle,’ limiting the directions in which the label could head. Techno is just a label, and like all labels it is applied ultimately by the listener. Crystallising a definition, and sticking within that definition is not something that artists/musicians should do, the evolution of [all] music, and especially the bleeding edge of electronic music has been predicated on this.

As such SA is painted as a ‘community of creative minds,’ not just a record label. First signings Xhin and Dadub have formed the sonic bedrock of the label, beyond the sound SA also pioneers a strong visual aesthetic courtesy of Oblivious Artefacts and Dadub also double up as ‘mastering masterminds.’ The result is a label that maintains an identity that manages to be striking and singular, while not overshadowing its constituent parts. That they have achieved an enviable reputation for putting out great idiosyncratic records as well as putting on a great show, is all the more impressive given that they are only just, very nearly three years old, doubly so given that in Berlin they are surrounded by a plethora of other bleeding edge electronic/techno labels.

The Monad series, high-concept releases that take the producers out of their comfort zones, perhaps best encapsulate what fuels SA. Whether it is Aoki Takamasa’s glitched up Hip Hop* on Mnd-sng02 or Donor’s eerie haunted house atmospherics, not only do they take techno in to new and unexpected directions for the listener, but can each track can be seen as a mental work out for those who take part. The artists are challenged to create something within confines of a very specific structure (two 4/4-direction tracks, one broken beat track and one completely free of any restraint) The results as Mortellaro says “speak for themselves.” Monad is a series that has no end, and is the more regular ‘continuum’ of output for the label especially when compared to the painstaking midwifery that accompanies and LP.

The two driving concepts at SA, of not wanting to close the circle, of pushing artists outside of the comfort zones via the ‘continuum’ of the Monad series, provide the perfect framework for musical and creative progression. For Mortellaro it is a two way process, SA delivers fully formed musical concepts in to the world and beyond that the world pushes back, when I press for him to pick a high point for SA, I expect something about the swift rise, the recognition, the first pressing of the first Lucy album on his own imprint, instead he says simple “The day I can think about a hypothetical highest point, I’ll shut down the label.”

*to these  ears at any rate!

This post originally appeared on The What Where When on 6 December 2011.


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