Dance Sounds From The Underground – Part 1

By Chris Burrell

Untz, untz, untz, untz…

It’s been nearly impossible to ignore the proliferation of dance music in America over the past few years.

For better or worse, the massive commercial success of EDM has elevated the DJ to rock star status and spawned quite a polarizing dialogue about the state of dance music in the US. While some of this success has given America a bad rap in the dance community (re: Paris Hilton, Pauly D, Molly), let us not forget that before EDM was a ubiquitous acronym, Chicago and Detroit birthed house and techno music respectively.

Regardless of your stance on the uptick of neon-clad sunglasses at night fist pumpers, it’s hard to argue that the bright spotlight on dance music has afforded some highly talented artists an avenue to reach a much wider audience than ever before. With now household names such as Fool’s Gold, Mad Decent, Brainfeeder, DFA, and Ghostly having been major innovators in a variety of dance scenes for years, this blog-o-series serves to give a little shine to some lesser-known ‘Merican labels that are seriously holding it down.

From Brooklyn to LA and Detroit to Miami, stay tuned to this space for the 411 on the American dance music underground through the lens of its most excellent labels. The first post in this series highlights two fantastic and extremely diverse vinyl focused labels from the left and right coasts.

Also, check out the Rhythm Method on Thursday nights from 9-11 PM EST to hear some of these releases being spun on the airwaves by yours truly, @CrispyChrisX.

L.I.E.S. (@LIES_News)

L.I.E.S. – Long Island Electrical Systems – is a vinyl only Brooklyn based label that is ‘truly committed to the underground’. Run by Ron Morelli, a former employee at legendary East Village record store A-1 Records, L.I.E.S. has released a wide variety of analog sounds for both club and home listening, with releases ranging from experimental industrial grittiness to throbbing 140 BPM techno.

The label has built its solid reputation the ‘old school’ way, eschewing projections onto buildings and press conferences, and focusing on releasing a high quantity of quality tracks. L.I.E.S. releases have also found their way into some taste-making DJs’ sets, like Ben UFO’s recent BBC Essential Mix, which included two L.I.E.S. tracks.

Heavy hitters on the wide roster of artists include Delroy Edwards (also a one time employee of A-1 Records), Legowelt, and Morelli himself. When commenting on the state of music and his label, Morelli said, “I mean the underground is always going to be the underground; it’s always been that way and it will always stay that way.” Gangster! Be sure to check out A-1 if you haven’t yet, where you can pick up the latest L.I.E.S. wax.

Check out the below audio from the label’s Soundcloud to get up to speed…

Delroy Edwards — Heart and Soul

One of my favorite releases from one of the label’s rising stars, Delroy Edwards. This track was released as a limited edition black label 12” that I managed to snag a copy of.

Hessle Audio Show Rinse FM with Ben UFO and Ron Morelli (4/25/13)

Label boss Ron Morelli and the aforementioned Ben UFO taking over famed London station Rinse FM.

BBC Radio 1 L.I.E.S. Label Focus with Ron Morelli on Benji B Show

Morelli talks shop about L.I.E.S. with BBC radio don Benji B


100% Silk

100% Silk is an expertly curated vinyl focused label (sometimes they release cassettes!) started in 2011 by couple Amanda and Britt Brown. The two had been running the punk-ish Not Not Fun label for several years before starting 100% Silk, which was conceived as a dance-y offshoot that Britt Brown describes as “raw pleasure body music”.

With plenty of releases under their belt in a relatively short span of time, 100% Silk have quickly become synonymous with top shelf output for un-pretentious lo-fi house and techno sleazin’ goodness. I first picked up their vinyl simply on the slick appearance of the record sleeve, and have been hooked ever since. While words always seem to fail excellent music, all of the diverse releases on 100% Silk do in fact seem silky and exist together as a hugely impressive collection of blissful dance music.

Not content to be nailed to any one genre of music or art, 100% Silk also have a 100% crowd-funded documentary that will premier November 8th at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival (check out the trailer here).

The label has a large and varied roster of artists, with some of the bigger releases coming from Ital, Octo Octa, and Shams. Here are two of the many releases from the label that really do it for me. Also be sure to check out the FACT mix that label boss Amanda Brown put together about a year ago for continuous aural pleasure.

JMII — Nueva York 

 Romy — Home (Extended Mix)

Amanda Brown FACT Mix

So that’s it for this week. Next week the spotlight will turn to two more of my favorite American dance labels – may peace be with all of y’all!

Sites referenced: