Label Feature: Aniara, A Swedish Awakening
The most prominent of creative projects are usually born of an incessant need to say something; to voice an expression, a manifestation of intent that is driven by genuine, unadulterated purpose – or reason. More often than not, where you can find this manifestation, you will likely find quality. It’s a fairly simple but accurate truism. One recent example of this is a collective hailing from Scandinavia: Aniara Recordings, a label that is assuredly emerging onto the scene, albeit fashionably late, from the seemingly static and uninspired sonic landscape that is Sweden. New kids on the block Aniara (started in 2010) provide a platform for enjoying deep four-to-the-floor in a climate fairly deprived of a quality underground music scene, and exercises a vinyl-only policy (no room for vinyl-elitist arguments here, perhaps a topic for a future post…). Some have hailed it the return of Sweden to European dance music and this sentiment is mirrored in the influential rise of artists such as DJs/producers Skudge (somewhat of a flagship for this movement) and Genius Of Time, as well as other labels such as Studio Barnhus (home to the likes of notable artists Axel Boman and HNNY).
Fabian Bruhn (founder of Aniara alongside Alexander Berg and Nils Krogh aka Genius Of Time) set out to offer an experience that their native Gothenburg (Göteborg) did not provide. After celebrating the label’s first ever release (Aniara001: Genius Of Time – Same Old Place) Bruhn and the Swedish duo went on to host a slew of independent parties over the coming Summer (some may notice it a coincidence that the track title could intentionally or unintentionally allude to the familiar, musically stale period of which Aniara emerged from). What they stumbled upon wasn’t a mere fling with the romance of Summer hedonism, no, it was much more than that. The idea to simply set up a label of quality house music rapidly evolved into a need to share an experience, a vision, one that seemed to shape and permeate the very lives of its followers. Thus, a new love and appreciation for decent clubbing culture was consequently nurtured in this humble city; a love for the new, the abstract, the unknown. Despite how exhausting it was to provide parties week on week, admits Bruhn, the gesture evidently struck a chord with its audience. From what started out as fairly modest beginnings, almost three years later the Aniara collective have put Sweden back on the map and command a voice and influence that reaches far and wide.
Never confined to the past, or to rigid boundaries of style, Aniara’s approach to its output simply corresponds with an open-minded but inherently individual aesthetic of modern deepness and good vibes. I very clearly remember seeing Genius Of Time do a set a year or two ago (Dyed Soundroom also co-headlined) and it really went off; one of the best parties I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in fact. An impressive set-up of a small truck-load of analogue gear provided the tools with which they sculpted out of silence a blinding set. Everyone in the room was feeling it, the atmosphere was larger than life, and it’s those kinds of experiences that really remind me of why I love House music so much.
The EP at the top of the page is the latest offering from Dorisburg (a solo project from one half of Genius Of Time’s Alexander Berg) released on Aniara. The first track Tundra bears a striking resemblance to Scuba‘s Hardbody (which was released just over a year later on his own Hotflush imprint last December, the similarity is almost uncanny actually) and ticks along meditatively, bouncing on a syncopated bass-line and ostinato synths. On the flip is a track called Transform which continues along in meditative contemplation but digs a little deeper, with beautifully crafted drums influenced by 90s breaks and DnB underneath a sound-scape of a distinctly deep, progressive flex and an incredibly catchy electronic hook. The track just above is an earlier release by Dorisburg, definitely a standout track on the Kann imprint for me. The track is entitled Emotion and manages to catch an atmosphere that Tale Of Us have singularly become very well known for, deep and melancholy, pensive with almost a sense of peaceful resignation. The track is very moving, drawing you deeper with it’s subtle, gradual addition of layers, distant vocals, and a focused attention on the mid-lows. The track features on a compilation called Family Horrors (listen here), which is worth checking out (it includes a brilliant track from Efdemin called Plenum. Incidentally Efdemin makes for some very interesting exploration, I’d recommend if you’re partial for a bit of pretty left-field listening, he also recently did a mix for FACT a couple months ago).
Aniara’s latest release, dropped last March (2013), is an EP from Henrik Bergqvist, a prominent player in the rise of underground music in Sweden. Hailing from Stockholm Bergqvist is responsible for successfully running underground nights as part of The Office, as well as being instrumental in the propagation of Swedish stars Skudge. The first track Go For What Hurts immediately harks back to that classic Chicago sound, aided by the familiar instrumentation of rhythmic guitar, funky bass-line, strings, and of course that imperative clap. The B-Side, Spin, is a bit of a stonker, right from the start that off-beat bleep coupled with snares of military demeanour assertively round-up the dance-floor, the kick must be taken seriously as the riding hi-hat ensures we are all attentively present for the break-down. Definitely one to shift the party up another gear.
The end of 2012 saw the release of the Tuffa Trummor EP by Genius Of Time. The A-Side, Med Röst, is an uplifting number, casually perpetuated by playful call-and-response rhythms in the percussion. Suspended synths carry us away into the break-down in true retro style with spacey, futuristic synths and 90s-style breaks (all very early-90s-Goldie-Belearic-pastiche); the overall atmosphere is that of distant dreams and timelessness alternating with the rigid, self-assured marching of the opening drums. The B-side, entitled Med Synt, is an absolute tune and I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with it ever since Homework dropped it a few weeks ago in the middle of their set. The track reeks of attitude, courtesy of that flickering hook; bouncing toms and powerful cadence adds a slightly funky touch to the track. Additionally, hearing it live on a possibly sped up BPM at the peak of their set added an extra feeling of poignant urgency that really got the crowd moving.
Genius Of Time did a BoilerRoom session just last week and can be viewed here, it’s pretty solid. Additionally, if you are in or around London this weekend you can actually see Genius Of Time work their magic at Dance Tunnel on Saturday (E8 2PB). Entry is A FIVER before 23:00. That’s a bloody bargain if you ask me.
(for some reason Med Synt appears first in the window below)
Despite jumping on the bandwagon fashionably late, Aniara have made up for lost time and have closed a huge amount of ground over the past few years. Though the number of releases in their back-catalogue is still fairly conservative one thing that is clear is the consistency in quality that they continue to deliver. The future promises to hold many great things for the Swedish label and the foundations have been laid for the flourishing of an envious underground music scene in Gothenburg. The Swedes are finding their feet, and in the not-so-distant future the country will no-doubt be a hot-bed for quality music. In light of the saturated metropolises of London and Berlin, the fresh and fertile lands of Swedish domain provide the canvas for creation, pregnant with possibility. It’s really no surprise that collectives such as Aniara are creating such movements – the rest of Europe is feeling it too…