In no particular order, we take you on an explorative journey to find out about the record labels that represent the evolution of Asia's electronic music scene.
Mule Musiq (Japan)
Hailing from Japan, and now running for over a decade, Mule Musiq is highly revered by some of the world's top selectors including Tim Sweeney of Beats in Space, Seth Troxler, Technasia and Prins Thomas. Toshiya Kawasaki launched Mule Musiq only after setting up Mule Electronic (which he has now stopped running), and his main inspiration came from fellow Japanese artist Kuniyuki. Kawasaki's interest in the artist led to him releasing the label's first single and consequently Kuniyuki's album. As quoted by Thailand-based DJ, booker and promoter, Myle: "I love this label, constantly delivering quality music. I discovered so many new acts there like Kuniyuki. It's definitely one of the few most respected Asian imprints. I like the fact that they went towards more organic music which relates much more to the music I'm playing. They support local acts but also they look outside of Japan and collaborate with international artists."
Endless Flight (Japan)
Another music outlet that stems from Toshiya Kawasaki's love for music, Endless Flight is more focused on the disco side of music, where live instrument and wider musicality play a huge roll in the label's A&R and release processes. The imprint is also a top pick of Mixmag Asia's Music Editor, Patrizio Cavaliere. "Endless Flight are my favourite from the list. Part of Japan's Mule Musiq family, they've released all manner of oddities and curios from the worlds of Balearic, cosmic disco and far beyond. Their output has included original music from the likes of Daniele Baldelli, Optimo, Eddie C, KZA, plus diverse re-issues including my favourite from them in recent years — Zouk classic 'Sweet Florence' from Jacob F Desvarieux."
Another stellar label run by a man who needs little or no introduction — DJ Nobu. Bitta is essentially the maestro's personal playground with a mindful focus on artists who offer a unique style, allowing him to intelligently crossover genres. As Taku Hirayama, former Music Director of Hong Kong's infamous underground spot Oma, would describe Bitta's sound output as holding "an exquisite amount of psychedelic feeling… many tunes are stripped down with plenty of space, and that allows me to think about a more experimental approach to mixing."
禁 (JIN) (Taiwan)
Recently launched by Yoshi Nori, the half Taiwanese-Japanese DJ and behind Taiwan’s most prolific underground movements including Bass Kitchen, 禁 (JIN) connects the Taipei scene to the rest of Asia through its releases, and naturally so to the rest of the world. Have a listen to Japanese producer Gonno's remix on the labels recently released first EP, Jin 01.
Souta. (Hong Kong & Bali)
Based between Hong Kong and Bali, with essentially German roots, Souta. might be one of the newcomers to the label market, but it comes with the backing of a well thought out plan spearheaded by label honcho Carsten Martens. We can’t think of many other labels in Asia that have it all one place: an established and professional recording studio with years of composing and engineering experience, a family-based roster of international and regional artists and a fresh sound to the region. Their first release drops at the end of March and comes courtesy of the boss himself.
Fauve Records (Hong Kong)
Another creative gem out of Hong Kong, this time with French roots. Initially launched as a 24/7 radio station coupled with a live streaming platform that featured regular and DJs playing only quality tunes, Fauve Records debuted their first release on vinyl at the start of 2020. Soon after putting out a one-off short-player of Canto disco edits, label founder Romain FX recently delivered the first official four-track EP garnering high appraise from across the globe — have a listen to ‘The Drive’ below.
Palms & Charms (Hong Kong)
It seems like Hong Kong has a shortage of clubs, but an abundance of labels! Palms & Charms is the brainchild of Hong Kong-based Englishman, Barnaby Bruce and his brother Samuel Bruce (Mallorquin), who happen to be brothers of Japan-based artist Max Essa. A family that clearly prides itself on music, the unique label has been delivering quality vinyl and digital releases that accentuate the edgier side of Balearic dance.
Midnight Runners (Indonesia)
Truly dedicated to sourcing, sampling and editing disco and funk from across Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East, Midnight Runners are two guys from Indonesia who have been ‘channelling obscureness without a doubt since 2012’. Malaysian stalwart DJ JonnyVicious rates the duo for their contribution to the regional music scene as “they source really obscure Nusantara-funk, Bollywood-disco and Canto-pop, Tagalog disco and turn them into amazing edits which I play a lot of!”. Technically not a record label, Midnight Runners are an absolutely noteworthy mention in this list for their contribution to rare and unique music coming out of Asia. Have a listen to their Tagalog edit below.
Island Of The Gods (Indonesia)
Founded and curated by Dan Mitchell, Creative Director of Potato Head Bali, Island Of The Gods is an audio gateway to the rich and varied music culture of Indonesia. The label takes a comprehensive approach to uncover and showcase the trance-like hypnotic sounds of indigenous instruments like the gamelan that are accompanied by chanting, gongs and percussive rhythms. From recording in the jungles of North Java to having local artists create hand-crafted album covers and box sets, Island Of The Gods respectfully pays homage to the depth of Indonesian culture. Have a listen to one of our favourites from Young Marco below.
More Rice Records (Thailand & Philippines)
Turning three years old this year, the vinyl-only imprint was created and run by serious music heads Mikail Schemm, DOTT and Jay Sriyuksiri from Manila and Bangkok respectively. With a primary focus on quality underground sounds in the pan-Asia electronic dance sphere, More Rice just put out their third release by Korean artist Mogwaa, which is perfectly seasoned with some proper Chicago house flavours and a Hidden Sphere’s remix. Have a listen to it below.
Spinnin’ Records Asia (Singapore)
Recently launched under the global powerhouse Spinnin’ Records, the Asia-focused sub-label put out its debut release in November 2019 with US-based DJ duo BEAUZ, who come from Indonesian and Taiwanese heritage. Spinnin' Records Asia has nothing but strong aims to grow in the region with a goal of developing on up and coming artists using their network of well-established artists in the EDM world.
Red Light Bangkok (Thailand)
It’s all about house music when it comes to Red Light Bangkok. With roots in Detroit, American-born and Bangkok-based, when planning on launching his own independent label, Scott Hess recently found himself collaborating with Adeen Records who have put out releases with legendary names like Chez Damier, Alton Miller, Kai Alce and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. We've got our ears planted and ready to hear what's next to come from the house-centric imprint.
Absurd Trax (Hong Kong)
Another Hong Kong-based label but this time with a more youthful and edgier soundscape. Founded by Gavin Wong who performs and produces under the alias TOC1S, the label has been a key player in Hong Kong's local underground club scene for the last four years. In early 2020, a few of the leading artists from the label family recently performed at Berlin's art and music festival CTM, as well as the iconic nightclub Berghain. Around the same time, they popped over to Amsterdam to deliver a live stream show on Red Light Radio. The sound of Absurd Trax is typically a variety of electronica including trap and bass, check out the music video to the ambient piece by label co-founder Kelvin T.
Founded by friends who are like family, the Bangkok-based label that started out with wanting to put a fresh spin on their local scene, subtly shuffling event line-ups and giving support to up and coming talent (instead of reigning in international headliners to sell out their events). With transcendental and melodic grooves being haloed as their primary sound, Neverest has put out releases by some of Bangkok’s most notable producers including DOTT, Nakadia and label-boss Dan Buri.
Midnight Shift (Singapore & Germany)
Established in 2011 in Singapore, Midnight Shift can easily be described as one of the region's most active and forward-thinking labels. Their focus is geared towards IDM (intelligent dance music) with releases from the likes of Xhin, Intergalactic Gary, Kirk Degiorgio and Gene Hunt. With the label co-founder, Kavan Spruyt, now directing the label out of his new base in Germany, the progressive diversity of the releases seems to be growing only wider and… and more interesting! Have a listen to the first collaborative effort between Midnight Shift and Voitax released in January 2020 packaged into a triple-vinyl box set.
Jazzy Couscous (Japan)
Another top pick by Mixmag Asia’s Music Editor Patrizio, Jazzy Couscous is undoubtedly a diverse label with jazz planted at its roots. Founded in 2013 by Alixkun and Klodio, the label is a testament to the plethora of genre-based cultures across Japan, including hip hop, deep house and funk. Many of their releases have focused on unearthing diverse Japanese sounds, with their most recent release in January 2020 came from Matthieu Faubourg and included a remix from Byron The Aquarius.
CABARET RECORDINGS (JAPAN)
Founded and run by close friends who live in opposite sides of the world, So Inagawa in Tokyo and DJ Masda in Berlin, the epicurean Cabaret Recordings imprint is approaching its two-decade mark, confidently establishing itself as a label with a history of notable releases. The best way we can describe the unique nuances that remain consistent across releases is the underlying and stripped-back tone of minimalism that rides across big-bodied electro, techno and the more intricate sounds of house. We’re talking about pure hedonistic music here.
Smoke Machine (Taiwan)
Backed by a strong reputation for running international events like Organik Festival and Spectrum Formosus, the label prides itself on a specialised variety of techno, elegantly leaning towards the ambient and atmospheric spectrum. Based out of Taiwan, ten-year-old Smoke Machine also runs an impressive podcast series featuring local, regional and international artists who align closely to their signature sound. Have a listen to Mama Snake’s podcast for the Taiwanese outfit below.
Jazzy Sport (Japan)
One of the more ground-breaking labels to be exported across and out of Japan, Jazzy Sport is an amalgamation of outdoor and extreme sports with the jazzier side of hip hop, broken beat and house music. Initially founded by Polish-born, Japan-raised Masaya Fantasista back in 2001, the label has been responsible for the discovery and output of incredible talents such as DJ Mitsu the Beats, and Cro-Magnon who you can check out performing live below.
ETTF Music / Eyes to the Front (Singapore)
Spawned from an event and marketing business, ETTF Music is the brainchild of Singapore-based Englishman, Oliver Osborne. With a signature that sound crosses over minimal tech-house and afro-tech rhythmics, the label’s artist roster includes Rory Gallagher, Leatherette, Jin Lane and the big guy himself, Oliver Osborne. Global support for the label comes in a list of powerhouse names that include Culoe de Song, &ME and Stefano Ritteri. Have a listen to Osborne’s first mix for the label below.
Bali Praia Records (Indonesia)
A venture that stemmed from the culmination of GO-JEK co-founder Mikey Moran and Bali-based nightlife mogul Fadi Alturk, Bali Praia has established itself as an institute in Bali. The concept is a comfortable union of musical creativity with a successful entrepreneurial track-record, operating out of their two-story hub on Sunset Road in Seminyak, offering a recording studio, record label as well as a functional lounge and event space. The label releases under the subtitles Sol, Luna and IslandTech. Have a listen to Mikey Moran in the mix for Bali Praia Live below.
Under U (Taiwan)
A locally-focused imprint from Taiwan, Under U is a record label and event-based brand that spans across the electronic music spectrum, founded by one of the country’s young electronic pioneers Sonia Calico. The Japanese-born DJ ventured into the record and party label with an outset of bridging local Mandarin pop, with what she would consider the other side of music. Despite struggling to initially find and work with like-minded producers and visionaries, Sonia launched a workshop called Beatmakers Taipei, which gave birth to the first compilation under the label. Have a listen to the most recent one below.
Do Hits (China)
From a party brand created back in 2011 to a visionary label with a goal of bridging community gaps over digital platforms, Howie Lee is no stranger to putting himself out there and encouraging others to do the same. Howie’s vision for Do Hits is stretched by ambition, which complements his approach to music which could not be more diverse, and totally void of politics, despite his goals of harnessing exchange between China and other countries over music. Listen to the glitchy sounds of Alex Wang, one of the label’s core artists, from his album ‘Black Dragon’ below.
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