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Hailing from the autonomous Galicia region of Northwest Spain, Arkestra Discos is one of those tiny record labels that you cannot help but be captivated by. It’s a fairly familiar story; a group of close friends who decided to form a collective that would allow them to release records and generally have a great time without the trials and tribulations of the music industry at large. Although Arkestra Discos have grown within this model, their efforts as a label stand out in that their productions are some of the most eccentric, inventive and fun-loving experimental pop music to have come from mainland Europe in the past five years.
The all-Spanish Arkestra family started off as party hosts – hooking up with the Desparrame crew and the alternative dance band Delorean to put on the CALOR parties in Madrid and Barcelona – but it was when they began to use the parties as a platform for their own live shows that they began to blossom as producers. Having hosted off-Sonar Festival parties with the LuckyMe crew in recent years and released records on All City, Kindred Spirits and Nod Navigators, it’s time for Arkestra Discos to shine in their own right.
In anticipation of BFlecha’s long-awaited and as-yet-titled debut LP, we caught up with Mwëslee of Arkestra Discos to discuss the evolution of the label and, most importantly, to announce his mix of old and forthcoming Arkestra Discos productions exclusively for us here at Dummy.
Can you introduce the Arkestra Discos family, and tell us what you do?
I’m Mwëslee. I’m a producer but I mainly executively produce the releases and take care of the artwork. BFlecha is the one that kick-started the label. Her music is the main reference for our aesthetic overall. She’s been making music forever under different monikers, but BFlecha is her main focus now and the one that really reflects her as an individual. I can’t think of many acts right now that blend the past and the future like her without sounding like a cheap pastiche. She’s working on her debut album right now and there are touches of 70s psych synth, 80s sophistipop, 90s dance classics, end-of-the-millennium R&B and the latest electronica in her music – but she still sounds unique and sincere.
Noaipre is from A Coruña, the northern city with a historic rivalry with Vigo where BFlecha and I are from. He’s the hard edge of Arkestra. I think he takes the classic garage sound to a different level because he’s not from the UK. TiMOTi is basically like our brother for real. He was a professional drummer for mainstream rock bands for years, but one day he showed us some really raw stuff he has been recording at home – drumming on the MPC, no programming at all, vocals recorded on a built-in mic – and from that moment we decided that we needed to work with him. Besides, working with your friends is always dope too. Alizzz is from Barcelona and the first person on the label that we weren’t friends with beforehand, but we’ve been in touch about releasing something together for more than a year or so now. His music has this strange, melancholic g-funk atmosphere to it; like how Boards of Canada might sound if they were from Cardo.
How would you describe the Arkestra sound to someone who had never heard of you before?
Even after all these years I still think it’s too soon to say what the “Arkestra sound” is. Of course each artist on the roster has their own approach, but it’s beyond genres or buzzwords. It’s more of a feeling that we have in common, and it’s hard to say what that feeling is. I think there’s definitely characteristics of Galicia and our culture though that comes through in the mood of our music. Arkestra music is very emotional. We’re big on melodies and even though it can be weird and experimental we still like traditional song-writing elements; bridges and choruses and all that. There’s a retro-futuristic sound to us too. We all love to take elements from past decades – both mainstream and underground – and use them in a contemporary way.
When did Arkestra Discos start and why?
It all started in 2005. As a group of old friends that were into a lot of different music we were always moaning about the lack of good stuff in Vigo, so we decided to start playing records and throwing parties at the now defunct Vademecwm club. We brought people that were pretty much unknown back then to Spain, like Aloe Blacc, J*Davey, Waajeed, Dimlite and Pavan. After a few years most of the original members took other paths in life, but BFlecha and myself focused on our own music, releasing records and touring.
After BFlecha had a bad experience with a major label we decided to put her work out ourselves. We took advantage of the Arkestra platform we’d built through parties but we’d never planned be to a label per se – it was just a way to release our own music – but then Noaipre sent us his productions and we thought we had to put that out too and, here we are! The plan is just to put out music from people who are close to us. We’d rather do small projects and take the time and dedication necessary until everything is just right, rather than put out stuff every two weeks for free download on a website.
What has Arkestra achieved over the years that you’re proud of?
Still being around after all the ups and downs! Seriously though, I think we can be proud of pioneering some types of music in Spain – I think we were the first people in Europe outside Scandinavia to host a Skweee show, for example. I guess we broke a few boundaries between genres in the Spanish scene too. Today it’s cool to mix commercial hip hop and R&B with underground electronica, but not that many people here agreed back then, and still don’t. Mostly, I hope that our music can help to overcome some people’s prejudices with music made in Spain and sung in Spanish. Our goal is to find an avant-garde sound inspired by the rich Spanish heritage from past decades and all the stuff happening nowadays worldwide, both mainstream and underground.
Do you feel there are distinctly Spanish elements to the Arkestra project?
Definitely. We’re really influenced by 80s bands like Golpes Bajos, Ciudad Jardin, Tino Casal and Mecano. That’s the music we grew up with and I like to see it as a good foundation for building a new Spanish sound. There was a time when every band in Spain sang in English, and it took a while until people got back to Spanish. I like to think our offering would be like an electronic version of that. I’ve been working on melodies and rhythm patterns taken from traditional music from Galicia like bagpipes and panderetas. There’s a certain feeling in our harmonies that are conditioned by Galicia. It’s not the typical sunny and warm postcard place people would paint when they think of Spain, the weather’s a lot like the UK.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2012, and in the near future?
Our friend Mike is finishing his edit of the TiMOTi video that should be ready in a couple of weeks. We’re putting the final touches to the Alizzz release and to the first single from BFlecha’s debut album, which features additional production from myself, Noaipre and Ho$oi from the band Delorean. I’m also working with TiMOTi on some tracks and a collaborative EP with Noaipre for Dublin’s All City Records, so, slowly but surely!