Based in East London’s Shoreditch district, Lo Recordings has spent the last two decades since its foundation in 1996 by Jon Tye amassing a reputation as one of the UK’s most eclectic independent record labels. While their main specialisation has been in leftfield electronic music, a quick glance at their artist roster past and present soon reveals just how broad their application of this label has been, something that’s been key to them continuing to thrive. Indeed, the likes of Susumu Yokota, The Chap, Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Jean-Jacques Perry and Grimes are just some of the artists who’ve called Lo Recordings home at some point over the last twenty years.
This unmixed two CD collection ‘It’s Been Hell’ celebrates Lo Recordings’ twentieth anniversary, and collects together twenty tracks drawn from the label’s backcatalogue, the first disc featuring ten original tracks and the second being devoted to ten classic remixes. What’s particularly striking is just how much stylistic ground is covered here, ranging from cosmic disco and shoegazer indie through to contorted IDM / breakbeat, lounge exotica and synth-pop. Rothko and Susumu Yokota’s collaboration ‘Lit By Moonlight’ takes things out into post-rock territory as burnished steel guitar rings out over a cinematic backdrop of shimmering ambience and distant creaking tones, before bright percussion tones rise into focus, providing melodic rhythmic propulsion to the track that adds a jaunty undertone to the forlorn, bluesy guitar bends.
Hatchback’s ‘Midnight Jogger’ meanwhile manages to live up to its title, fusing soft-rock overtones with a crisply gliding sense of house momentum as bright blipping sequences cycle against dewy guitar elements and soft-focus analogue synths, the resulting blend calling to mind a warmer take on M83’s retro-gazing explorations. ‘The Ocean Is Teacher’ sees The Horror’s Tom Furse conjuring deep immersive textures as showers of bell-like tones rolling against richly swelling bass synths and massed chorale-style backing harmonies, the entire track ebbing with a sense of effortless ambient flow, before NZCA Lines’ ‘Okinawa Channels’ shifts gears with a wander out into icy synth-pop that sees orchestral flourishes adding a sense of opulence to the otherwise stripped-down drum machines and synths.
The remixes here easily manage to be just as impressive and eclectic in nature. DJ Godfather gives Hairy Butter’s ‘I Came When I Heard’ a flexing Detroit ghettotech reworking that’s easily one of the biggest dancefloor weapons here, while elsewhere Aphex Twin’s remix of The Mike Flowers Pops’ ‘Debase’ sends their lounge-pop stylings out into zero gravity as metalic breakbeats and woozy delays weave in amongst the horns and backing harmonies, to swooning effect. As an overview of Lo Recordings’ backcatalogue over the past two decades, ‘It’s Been Hell’ more than does justice to what continues to be one of the UK’s most consistently eclectic and inspired electronic music labels.