Irish labels: the crews and collectives currently killing it

Header image by Mich Behan

Ireland may be a small nation, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in sonic quality. Of course, this will come as no surprise to the reader, given the number of massive names that have launched from our emerald shores; your Biceps, your Mano Le Toughs, your Krystal Klears… You get the picture.

Peek beyond the glamour of the superstar DJ and you will find a sea of do-it-yourself labels to explore. Ireland has diversified, massively, in the last few years; with more and more artists from rural landscapes and bustling cities beginning to put their stamp on the Irish soundscape.

Irish electronic enthusiasts: feast your eardrums on our choosing of Irish labels that we feel are absolutely killing it; not just in terms of output, but in terms of aesthetic, sound, art and passion. These are in no particular order, as ranked lists are for dickheads (how can you compare a hip-hop label with a techno label?) and, quite frankly, we adore them all.

Although each little clip of media relates to only one release from each, we encourage you to take the time to fully explore the back catalogue of each of these wonderful labels. Happy digging.

Patrúin

“Take your broken heart, and make art!” Dublin record label Patrúin are yet to put out a poor release; with an aesthetic floating somewhere between heart-string tugging ambient, traditional Irish music and melodic-laced, left field leaning breaks and rave.

Their latest release, For MASI, dropped alongside a killer t-shirt design in September this year, with all profits going to MASI; a fundraiser that seeks to end the inhumane Direct Provision system in Ireland. These guys deserve your support.

Flood

Industrial club and hard-drum label Flood have been flying the flag for the harder aesthetic in Cork, and have been behind many of the tracks that you have probably heard in our sets.

Founded by Syn, Doubt and Tension in 2016, the imprint has welcomed local artists such as Ozwald, and international artists such as Ovid, to share their own distinctive takes on the UK funky tinged energy. A quality label doing great things.

Woozy

We interviewed Woozy founders EMA and Sputnik One earlier in the year about their huge debut various artists compilation, which featured some incredible artists (Yushh, Glimmerman, Jurango and more).

With a strong focus on dub-heavy vibes and wicked basslines, we cannot wait to see what else the crew have in store next year.

Nocturne

The first Belfast label to make it into our list: Jordan Nocturne’s label has been a home for his own infamous disco edits series and slow, chugging psychedelia. With a strong focus on the connection between art and sound, Jordan has carefully curated a real passion project, showcasing what he truly loves about Belfast and beyond.

Be sure to check out his From Belfast With Love compilation, which shone a light on some of the most exciting producers emerging from within the North’s capital.

Touch Sensitive

Another Belfast label next; Touch Sensitive’s experimental approach is an inspiration. Ai Messiah’s Sentience & Sapience is something of a contemporary classic, and Brian Irvine and Belfast modern-master David Holmes’ score to Ordinary Love is nothing short of stunning.

Always highly personal and incredibly captivating; Touch Sensitive must be protected at all costs.

wherethetimegoes

The sound of Dublin cassette label wherethetimegoes is hard to describe. On one hand you have the punk-laced sound of Rising Damp and the beatless experimentation of All Times Now Nothing, then on the other the emo-tinged rhyhms of Lee Kelly and the left-of-centre techno of Waterford’s Cailín.

It’s label that continues to delight and surprise, and one that we come back to time and time again.

First Second Label

Dublin’s FSL are behind some of the most exciting releases to ever come out of Ireland; from recent projects such as Sputnik One’s Kerosene and ELLL’s Febreeze, to early Lumigraph and DJ OK.

With a focus weird and wonderful, and with its finger on the pulse of future-facing sound, it’s a label that we always get excited about upon hearing a new release is on its way.

Duality Trax

Holly Lester’s Duality Trax imprint launched back in March with a killer release from Dublin and Pear co-founder Fio Fa, and a distinctive remix from naïve label head Violet.

We already know who she has lined up for the next release, and it’s set to be an absolute corker. Be sure to keep tabs on this young label.

Pear

Speaking of Pear… The Dublin party-turned-label has been behind some incredible releases from Regularfantasy, New Members and George Ernest.

Carrying an authentic, feel-good atmosphere that really shines through in their sound (no matter who is producing for them), they too have their fingers on the pulse of what is great about contemporary dance. A friend of the label is a friend for life.

Extended Play

Timmy Stewart’s Belfast label Extended Play was formed to create a base for Irish electronics. The label has been home to some of the first releases for many artists in the North, providing a platform for them to grow and develop into the artists they are today.

Recent favourites from the label include Seti’s Seventy Six and Cartin’s Eighty; a sign that the imprint shows no slowing down in its passion for unearthing and nurturing up and coming breakthrough artists.

Bitten Twice

Experimental rave collective Bitten Twice kicked off their release schedule with a heavy metal-soaked, experimental-rap/jungle hybrid from Julia Louise KnifeFist, and it really set the tone for just how left field the imprint was determined to go.

Their first various artists compilation was released as a way of working towards getting unconventional artists booked into Dublin’s clubs when the lockdown ends. Creatively free and with a passion for all things raw and independent, Bitten Twice are one of the most exciting labels to emerge from Ireland in recent memory.

PX Music (header photo)

Limerick’s PX Music are a breath of fresh air. As the free spirit of rap makes its way through Ireland; Hazey Haze, Citrus Fresh, DJ Replay and more are re-imagining hip hop through their own Celtic lens.

A DIY attitude with its roots in dark hip hop and traditional Irish music, PX Music is of vital importance to Ireland, illustrating an unstoppable energy and fuck-the-system attitude that is as an essential outlet for so many mentally tortured young people in the country.

Label mainstay Citrus Fresh has his debut album on the way, and if the first track is anything to go by it’s going to be killer. Check it out below.

Class Craic Records

Headed up by hip hop instrumentalist Cbakl, Class Craic Records back catalogue spills into all the corners of contemporary hip hop; whether it’s the 808-driven trap of numbertheory, the Earl-styled flow of Lacuna or the jazzy boom-bap of GAPTOOF.

Cbakl’s Wisdom is Misery record from 2019 is an essential listen for any self-confessed Irish hip hop head. If you didn’t know, then get to know.

Soft Boy Records

Kojaque’s Soft Boy Records has always been more than a hip-hop label. Yes, the Deli Daydreams is certainly a hip-hop record (a very good one at that), and the album that shot the artist and label to fame, but dig a little deeper and you will find there is room for all sorts of style and personalities.

Bangor artist Brien dropped DIY Vol.1 back in July, exhibiting his enormous pool of influences on a project dripping in colour, and Kean Kavanagh is quickly becoming Ireland’s version of Frank Ocean with his emotional six-string pop and r&b.

Glacial Industries

Power-ambient, grime and wave labels are few and far between in Ireland. Dublin’s Glacial Industries cater for all of that in a blend of darkness, sadness and futuristic creativity. Each release is a composition; an artistic coming together of Blade Runner-styled atmospherics, rumbling bass and trance-like ambience, wrapped up in the experimental grime aesthetic championed by artists such as Rabit, Dark0 and Visionist.

Yin Yang

Night-turned-label Yin Yang got their back catalogue underway with a whopper twenty-five track various artist compilation highlighting the diversity of rave in Ireland; from the industrial techno of imnotyourmate, to the ragga-jungle of Dylan Forbes and the glitched-out, bassline heavy electro of Hank LW.

With a mega genesis, we’re so stoked about what the label has in store next.

Spilt Milk Records

An in-house imprint of Belfast’s Korova crew, Spilt Milk Records have been putting out music for a little over a year now and consistently deliver with shape-shifting sounds and experiences with each release.

From emo-electronics to the rhythms that represent the golden era of tech house, this young label is making a name for themselves in the North. Be sure to peek the UKG flip of Roker’s Lovin’ You by Kessler. Dutty, acid goodness.

Born Sleepy

Headed by Bangor artist Optmst, Born Sleepy seek to showcase the individuality of the artists of Ireland whilst uniting under a mutual theme of dreamy, ethereal influence. It’s first release – Waves in Motion – showcased some of Ireland’s best (R.Kitt, Kessler, Brien) whilst also shining a light on emerging artists that are aligned with the label heads visionary aesthetic.

Home to some of the first productions by auto-tune aficionado Spireview, this label is consistently evolving in terms of sound and aesthetic.

Sim Simma Records

A fusion of dancehall, hip-hop, grime and afrobeats produced in Dublin by a diverse collective of DJs, producers and MCs; there truly is nothing else like Sim Simma in Ireland.

Exploring themes of immigration, inequality, gender and sexuality to the backdrop of vibrant and high energy rhythms, the crew are passionate about creating an environment where artists can come together and express their identity through their music.

Rua Sound

Operating out of Galway and Belgium, Rua Sound have released music from many of contemporary hardcore and jungles finest, from Tim Reaper to Sully.

With a strong focus on 160+ rhythms, and exploring the sounds of footwork, drum & bass and grime, the crew’s deep subs and wicked breaks have set fire to many a rave throughout the world.

Rudimentary Records

Flying the flag for diverse, UK influenced zest in Belfast; Rudimentary Records output is nothing short of brilliant. With releases ranging from the forward-thinking electronics of Bass Clef to the UK Funky, carnival-tinged energy of G3, the label has been hard at work showing that there is more to Belfast than just house and techno.

Body Fusion

Last, but certainly not least; Bobby Analog’s Body Fusion label has gone through something of an evolution in the last number of years. The imprint now carries with it a deeper identity, stretching its creative limbs into the realms of glorious disco, subterranean electro and early-morning house – best played when the sun is coming up – like some sort of emotional octopus.

Image by Michael Behan

26th October 2020