Portals: Energostatic (For Ukraine)
To help continue the much-needed support for the people of Ukraine, we have produced a compilation from one of our favorite Ukrainian-based netlabels, Energostatic Records. Released as part of our Portals deep dive series, the feature includes a remaster of specifically curated tracks, in both individual and mix form. These tracks are available on the ASIP Bandcamp page as Name Your Price, with all proceeds going to Save The Children and their specific activities supporting Ukraine at this time. A big thank you to label owner Marian for allowing this project to happen as he deals with life in Kyiv right now, the artists for their participation, and Rafael Anton Irisarri for kindly providing his mastering services. Also, an advanced thank you to all those who listen and support at this very important time.
‘Netlabels’ are essentially extinct in today’s music landscape by definition. Of course, there are still labels that just focus on digital releases, but Netlabels came about during a time when there were little to no platforms monetizing digital releases. Digital distributors were reserved for big or established labels as the streaming era ramped up. And Bandcamp didn’t exist.
Netlabels were the next logical step after the file-sharing era (Soulseek et al), where instead of P2P servers and software, artists and label began to push their own agendas online, making files available freely on the internet, often under a Creative Commons license and many through a myriad of MP3 blogs that powered this exciting period. It was also, somewhere at this point in time, coincidentally, that the very first iteration of ASIP was also born, diving deep into MP3 blogs and following various Netlabels religiously. Finding a Netlabel’s basic website or archive.org page was the Bandcamp profile of its day.
Energostatic was pretty late to the ‘Netlabel game’. Their first release didn’t arrive until 2010 when many Netlabels were either fizzing out already or converting to more modern release methods. But Energostatic’s ethos and approach to providing music against a strict aesthetic, for free, made them a torchbearer for the dying art of sharing music online through small yet beloved corners of the internet. As ASIP began in 2008, Energostatic was one of the many Netlabels I followed, and as curators of dub techno in various forms, they operated within another small yet burgeoning scene it seems, given dub-techno as a genre also seems to have dwindled in popularity in recent years.
The writing was perhaps, on the cards for Energostatic, as Marian ceased operations of the label in 2017. But with 49 releases, there was (and still is) a big chunk of music to dig into, which for anybody new to the label, could become a little overwhelming to discover, especially since that number includes several compilations with 20+ tracks each, and many of the artists don’t seem to be very active anymore.
To help support the people of Ukraine during this time in a small way, I reached out to label founder Marian to see if he would like to raise money through a compilation that spotlighted some of my favorite music from the label’s era. Marian had previously released as part of our early Places Series, as Marc Atmost, where he created a track based on some of his early memories in Ukraine (an unsettling and poignant listen under today’s circumstances). Today, Marian is on the ground in Kyiv, doing what he can to survive and support his community.
The majority of the Energostatic catalog is still available for free on Bandcamp, should you wish to explore it yourself. Ranging from Space Ambient to drone; dub-techno and DnB; it became a bittersweet task to sift through the hundreds of tracks and pull together this compilation for a good cause. With the owner and label based in Ukraine (if Netlabels were to even have a ‘base’ of course), the majority of the artists on the label were friends of Marian, so a good majority were Ukraine and Russia-based and a part of local music scenes in each country.
The compilation begins with one of the most gentle tracks you will find across the entire Energostatic catalog. Russian artist KaLGaN made a few appearances over the years, but was better known for his work as 110ml – responsible for the very first artist release on the label (Scratch me / Scratch you) and also included further on in the compilation with his 110ml track, Lights In Window.
Stellardrone (Lithuania), is one of the more well-known artists to be supported by Energostatic, and even made an appearance on the ASIP Full Circle compilation/LP a few years back, highlighting his importance in the evolution of my own musical journey. Edgaras’ music has always remained free on the internet and encaptures some of the finest Space ambient music in recent years. The piece included in the compilation, ‘Light Years’ is perhaps one of his darker, more sincere pieces amongst a stand-out catalog which has unfortunately not seen much activity in recent years
Textural Being (USA) is another artist who I have admired for a long time, and related to the above compilation was in my shortlist for inclusion on Full Circle. The track I had in mind at the. time, however, didn’t quite fit the rest of the compilation. Serendipitously, Sept is my all-time favorite track by Sage Taylor / Textural Being, (amongst yet another expansive artist output) so it feels great to present this to a wider audience today.
Marc Atmost (Ukraine), as mentioned above, is the founder of Energostatic, and appears consistently across the label over the years through various guises and musical styles ranging from straight-up dub techno to DnB. This track, Deity is one of my favorites from his consistent output, capturing the very essence of spacious, melodic dub techno.
Olexa, (Ukraine) was a less prolific artist over the years with just one EP and several compilation appearances on Energostatic, but captured the deep dub techno sound aesthetic of the label to perfection.
Gapfield (USA), is a project from US-based Devin Underwood and Jacob Newman. Devin creates some amazing music across a variety of styles and aliases (such as Drexon Field – another fun project I love) and has made several appearances on the Energostatic label, most notably with a solid, straight-up dub-techno album as Specta Ciera. Between Devin and Jacob, they can be found on some amazing ambient labels over the years, such as Carpe Sonum, Neotantra, dataObscura and Bludhoney Records. Their Gapfield project, is definitely one that may have flown under the radar amongst their solid output.
Technicolour’s (UK) ‘Permafrost’, has always been a stand-out track for me on Energostatic and his only appearance on the label. I included it in many of my DJ mixes years ago, and it broke the mold in the label’s beginnings with its Autonomic sound and rampant amen breaks, whilst remaining true to the deep and introspective atmosphere the label ended up pushing. But it wasn’t until seeking permission to include this track did I come to realize that Technicolour, aka Peter Rogers, was in fact, Wardown, who released one of my favorite Drum’n bass albums of 2020 on Blu Mar Ten’s label.
Permafrost could be the apex of compilation, but the journey needed a minute to breathe after that kind of energy, which is where Ayqix’s (Argentina) Raymi (Coldest Version) came into play. The Buenos Aires musician provides an airy respite towards the end of the compilation before the energetic finale, very much reminiscent of the early minimal techno days of Traum Schallplatten.
Closing out the compilation, Enformig, was a Ukrainian Techno producer based in Kharkov who unfortunately died in 2019. His appearances on the label were always met with such high praise and support on social media from Marc, especially for his hardware-driven live sets. This track is perhaps, one of his finest moments from the Energostatic catalog and provides a momentous, energetic and liberating closing chapter to the compilation.
Energostatic’s label motto was “Reach, resist, research”. Label owner Marian didn’t have the time or capacity to answer any of my questions related to its meaning on top of his urgent life on the ground in Kyiv, but I couldn’t help relate this motto to a higher meaning and reminder as I thought about his and many other people’s lives in Ukraine.
Thank you for reading, listening and reflecting.