Sunday, January 02, 2005

An Introduction To Voltage Music

“Dub For The Dancefloor”

Voltage Music is a label co-founded by yours truly (a.k.a. Double Identity and Dub I.D.) and XLR8R Publisher Andrew Smith (a.k.a. Professor Smith and Jackie’s Army) in the summer of 2002. We’d both been making tracks (Smith-electro, myself-broken beat) and decided to pool our resources and create a label with the motto “Dub For The Dancefloor.” The imprint reflects our mutual interest in all things dubwise and our obsession with music software programs such as Reason, Live, Logic and Peak.

My work with Smith goes back to the late-90s collaborations we did for the Sunburn and Ubiquity record labels under the production alias Live & Direkt. Smith also had solo releases on his own XLR8R Tracks and I remixed indie band IQU’s "Teenage Dream" (K Records) in 2000.

Voltage Music launched in January 2002 with two 10" single releases, the first being Double Identity’s broken beat number "Eastern Voice" backed with the bata drum nuanced "On The Move,” featuring Berkeley’s Chris Houston on keys. The second was Professor Smith’s electro-dub track "Be There,” backed with the echo-laden "Pleasure Leisure", two jams with serious bass drops and a British techno flair.

Two more 10"'s followed: one was Double Identity’s 2-step garage track "You Requested It," which included a remix by SF UK garage/drum & bass producer DJ Abstract (Phunckateck, Rat Records, The Invisibles), and the other single was Professor Smith’s techdub hybrid "Subting," with a techno-breaks remix by Norway’s Polar (Certificate 18, Moving Shadow).

Our fifth and final 10” single was issued on February 18, 2003–Double Identity’s "We Play The Music," which showcased a rework by Isoul8 (the production alias of Volcov of Neroli Records, Italy). The original mix is a 126bpm broken beat track, while the moody, soulful 4/4 Isoul8 version sounds like early-‘90s Detroit techno in the vein of Metroplex Records, Model 500 or Derrick May.

In 2004, Voltage switched to the 12” format with three new releases. The first was one of my personal favorites, a superb dub ‘n’ breaks synthesis from Jackie's Army (Professor Smith with DJ Shockman of SF’s Stellar Trax), and their tune “Murther,” with Chicago’s Iris Soundsystem crew tapped for remix duties. Iris Soundsystem’s rub is a fantastic realization of King Tubby’s dub aesthetic tempered by ill, Horsepower Productions-style beats. Rewind dat, selecta!

this is an audio post - click to play
(Iris Soundsystem mix, lo-fi audio post)

February saw the release of heavy “Murther” remixes by Tino Corp’s Ben Stokes and Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Dangers. These veterans took things back to the days of their acidic DHS (“House of God”) days, while keeping the breaks fresh and clean.

(Deep Alpha)

this is an audio post - click to play
(Deep Alpha, lo-fi audio post)

Spring 2004 saw the debut breaks/2-step garage single from LA’s prolific Deep Alpha (a.k.a. DJ Subcode) titled “All Think” with London’s Kode 9 (Tempa Records/Hyperdub) providing a dirty sublow update. Kode 9 is no slouch, in addition to keeping us informed on Britain’s viral dub scene through his portal, he’s produced a slew of interesting singles for Tempa, and his own Hyperdub Recordings imprint. His remix of Deep Alpha features what sounds like the ambient noise of a tower block lift–taking you up to a rooftop flat where a grimey pirate broadcasts in to the London abyss.

(Douglas Pagan)

this is an audio post - click to play
(Douglas Pagan, lo-fi audio post)

With 2005 finally here, Voltage Music soldiers along to our own riddim. We’ll release our next two singles shortly, with some of the biggest remixer names we’ve had the pleasure of working with yet. Our ninth release is Double Identity’s “Can’t Explain” backed with an altered version by Ohio’s Titonton Duvante (Residual Records, Neroli), while the tenth single is San Francisco jazz multi-instrumentalist Douglas Pagan (who also records as Afrocubist), whose “Kara Walker Variation 32” features the production magic of Domu. Dominic “Domu” Stanton has become one of England’s most in demand producers, and he recently completed a new solo album as Umod (Sonar Kollektiv).

For Voltage and many other small labels, the previous year was not kind sales-wise, unless you were flogging hip-hop, drum & bass or ‘80s influenced house. Most other subgenres, including broken beat, grime, garage and downtempo didn’t fare as well, as distributors in the US and abroad only bet on sure sellers. The popularity of digital formats, rising costs of vinyl production and bankruptcy of several key distributors in the past few years have all taken their toll.

Notice, I didn’t mention peer-to-peer file-sharing. I’m convinced that allowing listeners to listen to and trade music actually helps vinyl sales, because there are still a significant number of DJs who have no interest in Final Scratch, or doing only MP3 or CD sets at clubs, and want to listen first, then buy vinyl to play out.

Whatever the case, a small record label like Voltage is a hard business to run. Low quantity record pressings cost more and are less profitable. Friends at now-established indie dance labels like Om and Ubiquity needed ten years in business before they're books were in the black. But despite the odds, it’s important to continue to support the independent arts in variety of ways, including unprofitable boutique record imprints. The music has always been worth it.

Voltage Music Catalog (see more at

Double Identity–Eastern Voice VLT-001 10”*
Professor Smith–Be There VLT-002 10”
Double Identity–You Requested It (DJ Abstract Remix) VLT-003 10”
Professor Smith–Subting (Polar Remix) VLT-004 10”
Double Identity–We Play The Music (Isoul8 Remix) VLT-005 10”*
Jackie's Army–Murther (Iris Remix) VLT-006 12”
Jackie's Army–Murther (Jack Dangers Remixes) VLT-007 12”
Deep Alpha–All Think (Kode 9 Remix) VLT-008 12”
Double Identity –Can’t Explain (Titonton Duvante Remix) VLT-009 12”**
Douglas Pagan–Kara Walker Var.32 (Domu Remix) VLT-010 12”**
*=sold out
**=Feb 2005

Voltage Music is distributed by Groove Distribution, Chicago, Il, USA.