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Free Celebration

img  Tobias

Everybody loves a party, especially when drinks are for free. In this particular case, you will have to pay for your Perrier, but walk home with a fantastic set of music: French label taalem are celebrating their fourth anniversary and they've got something wonderful in store for you.

It all started in 1993 with a tape label named Harmonie. And all Harmonie wanted to do, at first, was release a compilation entitled "Les Pres Fleuris" (meaning: "Blooming meadows"). Wrapped in a plastic envelope, this sampler included a sixteen page booklet and featured an array of New Wave and Neo-Classical artists. Of the thirteen acts involved, hardly a single one enjoyed (or enjoys for that matter) fame outside a very restricted circle of fans. But the mix was - err - harmonious and hit the spot. All but a few copies were sold out in no time. Which provided a strong motivation to continue the journey. Still, noone, including Jean-Marc Boucher, the driving force behind the project, would probably have thought that this smallish outfit would one day turn into one of Europe's leading and most colourful underground electronic labels. But one thing lead to another and then, all of a sudden, Harmonie developed almost by itself. A year after the release of "Les Pres Fleuris", the first volumes of "Ellipse", a new magazine written and organised by the Harmonie-team, are pressed and distributed on a small-scale initially. The magazine has a very simple aim: Spread the message about the music its editors like. Which translates to reviews on wild beat manipulations by beefcake, an article on electroacoustic music and interviews with upcoming artists and labels. From its early days, the 20-pages turn into a fully-fledged magazine with 50 pages and a wide distribution net.

Until May 1998, Harmonie releases eleven tapes. The focus has by then become much broader, allowing for Dark Ambient, obscure piano music, Ritual Ambient and Ethno elements. The artist roster has widened and the growing appeal of the label as well as its magazine start attracting bigger names: Peter Andersson, for example, the man behind Raison d'etre, entrusts Boucher with the release of "Semblance", a collection of his early music. Still, Boucher wants something different. In his eyes, the future of the scene lies in CD-Rs and not in tapes - a medium associated with decay and the old analogue days. He had collected his first experience with a CD-compilation entitled "ahimsa" and felt the time was right to switch completely. Which is why he decides to go digital and founds taalem, at first a sublabel of Harmonie. "kdi dctb 93" by Toy Bizarre is released and immediately changes the situation. Is grows into an instant success and convinces Harmonie, that its days are numbered. Taalem is quickly crowned as the new brainchild number one and the old Harmonie homepage is left behind unchanged. It can still be visited and offers a fascinating insight into the first years of an idea turned into reality.

If you visit the taalem website, looking for that Toy Bizarre record, you will be surprised not to find it. Instead, the first entry in the taalem discography is by Andrea Marutti, of "Amon" and "Never Known". The reason for this is that Boucher changed the premise of the label, thereby turning it into the unique and remarkable entity it is now. Instead of offering full length albums, taalem decided to publish only 3'' CD-Rs, with a maximum of about 25 minutes of music. There were no limitations, so everything could be ordered indefinitely. And stylistic limitations were restricted to what the folks at taalem liked. In four years, 30 releases saw the light of day and they have included drones, ambient, experimental electronics, sound scapes and even some rhythmical stuff. The appeal of EPs instead of the usual full-lenght efforts was obvious: It forced artists to search for new structures and different forms of expression and allowed listeners to get a quick and uncomplicated look at what a specific musician was all about. These were not just "short albums", this was something entirely of its own. And in the wake of the success of taalem, a new subsidiary was born: Kokeshidisk has made it its task to re-release great works of the past, which have unfortunately become unavailable, on CD-R. The first three discs have been more than worth the pain and should appeal anyone with a keen interest in the diverse facets of electronic music.

Last year marked the fourth birthday of the label and it seemed like an ideal moment to get back to the beginnings and to "give back to the fans". So, almost unanimously, the 22 first acts from taalem have contributed a track to a free download-sampler with equally free art work. Almost two hours of music are waiting for you to collect them, including nameful acts such as Chaos for Shelter, Japanese pioneer Aube, Field Music hero Dronaement, ambient gurus Wilt and, of course, the man whom it all started with: Andrea Marutti. If we understand things correctly, these pieces will not linger on that server for ever, so be quick to get your hands on them!

Without a doubt, this is one of the nicest presents we belatedly received for christmas this year. And if you want to return the favour, browse the taalem catalogue for some inexpensive and highly attractive discs for your personal pleasure: Aalfang mit Pferdekopf's split with Emerge has just been released and continues the saga in style.

Homepage: taalem
Homepage: kokeshidisk
Homepage: the old harmonie site

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