Label Profiles: Four independents under the spotlight

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The Independent Culture

MELODIC

David Cooper

Early signings ear-marked this young Manchester-based label as a home for eclectic electronica and challenging instrumentals. But in recent years, as artists ditched the laptop and embraced the guitar, the label has widened its scope to encompass genre-defying acts with an emphasis on originality.

HISTORY: In 1999, after years harbouring romantic notions of starting a label, Melodic founder and In House PR boss, David Cooper, was finally forced into action upon hearing some demos by James Rutledge - aka Pedro. Cooper was so inspired by what he heard, the label was born the next morning. Since then, Cooper's finely-tuned ear has uncovered acts like the now Domino-signed Psapp and major label alt-rockers, Nine Black Alps.

WHAT THEY SAY: "As our name suggests, melody is really important. When we started nearly all the music we released was instrumental so without a vocal hook-line, I felt melody was the key - and I still do. Even if the music might be uncompromising and left-field, there has to be a hook in there." Melodic founder, David Cooper.

NOTABLE ACTS: Department Of Eagles, Harrisons, The Isles, Working For A Nuclear Free City, L Pierre.

TOP TIPS 2006/2007: Windmill.

PUB FACT: The Harrison's video for their track "Blue Note" was based on the film Kes. Ken Loach has seen it and thinks it's great.

MOSHI MOSHI

McClatchey, Bass, Pike

Imbued with a sense of fun, this adventurous eight-year-old has established itself as a home for forward-thinking independently-minded musicians.

HISTORY: Disillusioned by their major label day jobs, Michael McClatchey (right), Stephen Bass (left) and Adrian Pike hankered for the chance to work with bands they actually liked. So in 1998, theyfounded Moshi Moshi. Driven by a desire to "be nice, not take ourselves too seriously, find music we like and do the best job we can to get it heard," what started as a labour of love has now evolved into a much cherished, open-minded independent with proven talent-sniffing skills.

WHAT THEY SAY: "Truth and beauty - that's what we're after. A Moshi Moshi band has creativity, charisma and character written right through them. We're after bands who are serious about what they do however seemingly left-field it might seem on the surface," says McClatchey.

NOTABLE ACTS: Tilly And The Wall, Architecture In Helsinki, Mates of State, Hot Club de Paris, Au Revoir Simone, Lo Fi Fnk, Matt Harding.

TOP TIPS 2006/2007: Hot Club De Paris, Los Campensinos! and Beirut.

PUB FACT: Named after the Japanese telephone greeting "Moshi moshi".

BELLA UNION

Simon Raymonde

With new signings The Dears, Fionn Regan and Midlake on the receiving end of some recent industry buzz, this respected boutique independent remains a home for eclectic, off-centre acts.

HISTORY: Bella Union was founded in 1997 by Cocteau Twins, Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie, through which to release their own music. But shortly after establishing the label, the band split. Determined to put out at least one record, Raymonde and Guthrie persevered with Bella Union. After a slow start following the band mates' self-confessed clumsy transition from artists to label bosses, Bella Union now has over 130 cross-genre releases to its name.

WHAT THEY SAY: "Dirty Three are Bella Union's definitive band; they have everything. They're wonderful people, they put on a phenomenal live show. They're unconventional yet their music is beautiful and impressionistic; they're self-sufficient and they even do all their own artwork. Quite simply we're after something exceptional that thrills and delights," Bella Union founder Simon Raymonde.

NOTABLE ACTS: Howling Bells, Fionn Regan, Midlake, The Dears, My Latest Novel, The Czars, Laura Veirs, Dirty Three.

TOP TIPS 2006/2007: Stephanie Dosen

PUB FACT: Pete Townshend used to be the label's landlord.

DROWNED IN SOUND

Sean Adams

Just three years after releasing The Kaiser Chiefs' debut single, the webzine spin-off has established itself a solid reputation for visceral, forward-thinking pop. Despite a lapse in concentration which meant the label missed out on signing Bloc Party, Drowned In Sound are now on the cusp of receiving their first gold disc courtesy of Martha Wainwright's 2005 eponymous debut.

HISTORY: Raised on a diet of Bowie, The Cure, The Clash and Echo & The Bunnymen, label founder Sean Adams launched his Drowned In Sound webzine in October 2000 as an outlet for his music obsession. But in 2003, tired of just writing about the bands he loved and inspired by the success of cult independents like Fierce Panda and Sub Pop, Adams took his musical enterprise a step further and started releasing singles in the Fierce Panda tradition. By 2005, Drowned In Sound had become a fully fledged label - signing artists for album deals. The label continues to evolve and next year launches a digital singles subscription service.

WHAT THEY SAY: "We're the first label that grew out of a website. This may seem like a backward extension in the digital age but Alan McGee started with fanzines and Richard Branson had his magazine, so I guess we're the first modern twist of that. I'd heard too many brilliant, but slightly clueless bands who needed a hand," Drowned In Sound boss, Sean Adams.

NOTABLE ACTS: Martha Wainwright, Jeniferever, Metric, Redjetson, thisGIRL.

TOP TIPS 2006/2007: Blood Red Shoes.

PUB FACT: Founder Sean Adams is still just 24.

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