Label Profile: A for Atomnation

Posted on September 6th, 2013 by in New Music

Our regular guest-blogger Eero Suojanen opens up about his music listening habits and how he stumbled across the most fascinating label of 2013.

I’m the epitome of an active listener. The more music I listen to, the more music I need to explore. Take Spotify, for instance. At the moment my library has 31294 tracks neatly organised into 369 folders, one for each label: from Basic Channel to Brennnessel, from Captured Tracks to Curle. I don’t create playlists – I listen to entire catalogues of labels, often on repeat, which can be anything between a few of singles and 20-30 albums. Hundreds of hours of music from every single genre you can think of. At this point (if the statistics are anything to go by) around 70% of you will probably be reading this and thinking I should cut down on whatever I’m on. The rest 30%, on the other hand, will be very familiar with this endless, ecstatic cycle caused by a ferocious appetite for new music.

Now, my point is this: when a release, not to mention a label, manages to catch my attention and stand out from the hundreds of others, I know it’s definitely worth checking out. That is what happened back in March on Discogs; I came across an absolutely sublime album called Dreaming In Key by Applescal. It soon turned out to be a fresh release from a brand new Dutch label called Atomnation. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more. So I got in touch with them.

Pascal Terstappen and Guido Hollaers are two childhood friends and ex-roommates in their mid-20s who founded Atomnation in September 2012. Not long after their first release by Yoshiba 87 they signed Utrecht-based producer David Douglas and ‘everything kind of fell into place naturally’, Pascal says. ‘Our approach has been the same from the very beginning: we sign artists who catch our ears and who have something special. The music we’re putting out represents our taste: playful, a bit wide-eyed, always sounding really good’.

Having listened through their catalogue of 11 releases more than once, Atomnation’s core values are distinctively Dutch – innovative and forward-thinking. These values extend to their collaboration as well. ‘We ask our artists to make an EP or a mini album that tells a story. Or just a cool concept’, Pascal explains. It’s easy see the appeal of a concept driven production style: in a same way as a particular key signature provides a tonal structure, every creative mind filled with new ideas to the brim needs a loose framework that can support continuous experimenting – much needed particularly in electronic music.
Royal Horticultural Society, an incredibly ambitious and technically confident debut EP by David Douglas, is a result of all that. Named after the 19th century Scottish botanist and inspired by his fateful expedition, an aptly chosen artwork features a famous painting from the Romantic era, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich. When I keep hearing how one experienced producer after another is making brave attempts to move across the boundaries with varying degrees of success, it’s incredible to hear Douglas doing it with such ease. It is the stylistic richness without a trace of incongruity that makes his EP so exceptional.

And yet this isn’t an isolated incident by any means. One of my favorite releases, a beautifully intoxicating Half Age EP by Weval, brings genre bending to a whole new level. By the time the catchy chorus of an exquisite opening track Out Of The Game kicks in, you will be listening in disbelief, almost convinced this isn’t an original song. But it is. So is The Most, another track with haunting male vocals. The production duo behind all this are Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte who originally met in the film-industry before the music took completely over. Not that it comes as any surprise – apart from the songwriting itself, their ability to conjure up visual imagery through music is nothing short of extraordinary.

To be honest with you, I have no idea where Pascal and Guido are heading next, but one thing I know for sure: I’m going with them.

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