A lot of things have changed since early January, when we first introduced the imprint devoted to "45 rpm 12 inch singles of diamond-life dance & bliss-disco & basement luxury grooves by friends and lovers from all over the world" (thus the original mission statement), Amanda Brown's Not Not Fun offshoot 100% SILK. Back then in the cold beginning of 2011, the label that would become this year's probably most lauded venture in popular culture was nothing more than the private passion of one of the underground's pre-eminent personae, and we're pretty sure that virtually no one was talking about the resurrection of classic house music, at any rate about that relentlessly danceable something that some like to call "hipster house" nowadays.
But as we've said, a lot has changed since January 12. Today, there's more or less no one left in the concerned part of the blogosphere who will not happily jump on anything that heralds the latest 100% SILK 12 inch. Therefore, with the first official tour ahead in a few weeks time (see the poster at the end of this post for dates), we thought it's about time for a little fall-induced reflection and retrospection, so we've had this brief interview via email with Amanda Brown shortly after her recent return from Unsound Festival in Krakow. Read about Amanda's deliberations concerning her label, Retromania, and the internet below, and while you're at it, enjoy some blissful tracks from recent and forthcoming SILK releases as well as a wonderful little mixtape kindly assembled by Amanda showcasing some of her inspirations and personal favorites.
Malvoeaux - Sunsets (from SILK015: Broken Anthem)
NFOP: When we first featured 100% SILK back in January, you had just started the label and it appeared as a tiny side project, a secret obsession. A few months later, and it’s all over the place, widely acclaimed and even considered one of the defining ventures of this year. Are you surprised?
Amanda: Of course I’m surprised. I never have anything but complete faith in the music I’m releasing, but it can be hard to gauge how open to different styles the music world will be. It’s been an honor and a thrill that people are being as invigorated by these records as I am.
NFOP: Considering the more general house revival that’s going on right now, would you see yourself as some kind of vanguard, or was that mere coincidence?
Amanda: My radar doesn’t pick up on abstract global trends too often - I’m more inner-connected with small networks of people. So when, in my community, I felt a quiet tectonic shift towards hybrid styles informed/inspired by dance tropes, I knew it was the right time to highlight and support these friends/artists, of whom I’m also a huge fan. I do like to think of them as being the vanguard though – they’re an impressive, eclectic group of people with sideways aesthetics, outsider visions, and avant tastes.
Octo Octa - I'm Trying (from SILK011: Let Me See You)
NFOP: After all those 80s and 90s revivals, was the resurrection of house music simply inevitable?
Amanda: I don’t look at music in that kind of a straightforward way. Things come back when they feel right, when they’re needed… When they’re not, I don’t believe that history just regurgitates every style that’s ever flourished for a moment. Questions like this are so context-dependent. I think there’s hoards of forward thinking DIY dance producers whose names I may not even know for whom house music NEVER went away. It’s just that a different/new community of music lovers is enjoying the genre who haven’t before.
NFOP: Ever since Simon Reynold’s “Retromania”, there’s been a lot of talk about the whole retro tendency in contemporary music and how it corrupts creative progress. What is your view on this regarding 100% SILK, is it mere retro or is there something distinctly 2011 about it?
Amanda: I think the Simon Reynolds perspective is the least modern attitude one could have toward art. And it’s a little unfortunate that it’s infected so many people’s way of thinking. There’s been almost no era when art hasn’t been hugely about the past – whether reacting to it, recreating it, destroying it. Once in a while, a new piece of actual music technology is invented and for the small window of time after that there is a fresh, truly “new” style. But that’s not the norm, that’s the fluke. I don’t find purely retro things engaging at all, but I do think there’s an infinity of ways to re-imagine past artforms and make them alive/vibrant/different/warped. Even deepen the tradition and legacy of that artform. Rockabilly was retromania, Morrissey was retromania. This phase of underground music is really just a step sideways – not backwards – where artists are re-contextualizing and sampling the past. Like Hip Hop’s been doing since 1980. SILK is absolutely about 2011. Of course I’m inspired by the past, but I’m not trying to re-live it. Styles don’t die; house music isn’t just about the era of its “golden years.” The history of it is still being written.
Innergaze - Shadow Disco (from SILK008: Shadow Disco)
NFOP: For you, how much NNF is in 100% SILK?
Amanda: In that NNF is us and we run SILK, there’s a similar appreciation for weirdness/strange fidelities/unusual creative decisions for both labels. There’s a more specific curatorial agenda with SILK, obviously, but there’s the same philosophy behind it. I want to mess with these genres. I want to promote hybrid/avant sensibilities. And I believe that’s what people are responding to.
NFOP: Your attitude towards the internet is, at best, ambivalent: In your recent essay in The Wire #331 you blame the blogosphere for basically ruining the underground. Still, when there’s new NNF or 100% SILK stuff you make sure certain blogs will put it up first, and I’d argue that a big part of your labels’ success is due to blog admiration and acclaim - isn’t that in a way inconsistent?
Amanda: We all live with the fact of the internet. No one’s denying that. Millions of people have strange, even negative feelings toward the internet – that doesn’t mean they don’t write emails or have a business online. I don’t go to web mags or blogs to discover music myself, so it’s not something I’m connected to. That said, it’s an important thing to a lot of people. And there are intelligent people who love accessing culture digitally. I don’t want to deny those possibilities to my artists and their fans. That’s the last thing I want to do. I wish more people found out about bands and art from friends/shows/buying from record shops – that’s my age and my desire to keep life a bit more organic. But I’m alive right now, I see that tradition is fading fast and I can live with that. Amanda the person on the internet is not Amanda the businesswoman on the internet.
Polonaise - Trocadero (forthcoming)
NFOP: Apart from the stuff you’re responsible for, what’s musically exciting in 2011?
Amanda: Everything at Future Times. Heatsick. New Bjork. There’s never been a bad year for music – some years it’s just more hidden and harder to slog through. Totally exciting: Any label that attempts to continue transforming and the ones that go the extra mile to make the physical product something kind of special. And above all, those labels who take chances on completely unknown artists.
NFOP: Tell me about your recent experiences in Europe, at Krakow’s Unsound Festival.
Amanda: I thought it was amazing. I wish I’d been able to see more of the music. The organizers did an incredible job; there was a really inspired diversity. I think too often festivals seem to be just a collection of whatever the 20 most popular, hyped-up bands happen to be, and Unsound had a much higher percentage of lesser-known artists who don’t get asked to do things like this often. Also, seeing Ital and Maria Minerva play live for the first time was a dream come true for me.
NFOP: In another interview you’ve lamented the lack of open-mindedness towards dance music in the US. I’d say that Europe is the complete opposite, at any rate Berlin. Any plans on a 100% SILK tour over here?
Amanda: Yes actually. Working on it. Wish I could bring more acts over, but right now it’s looking like LA VAMPIRES, MARIA MINERVA, ITAL, MAGIC TOUCH with hopefully a show or two with INNERGAZE.
Maria Minerva - Gloria (from SILK013: Sacred & Profane Love, forthcoming)
NFOP: Last, how is that collaboration with Maria Minerva proceeding?
Amanda: We’ll be working on it through the rest of the year. Most of the songs' skeletons are done, we just decided we wanted to maybe record it in a different way than we’d originally imagined. And neither of us wants to rush it. Gotta get it good.
Amanda Brown's No Fear Of Silk Mixtape by nofearofpop.net
If you happen to live in North America and consider yourself sufficiently open-minded, make sure you're gonna be present at one of the shows of the upcoming 100% SILK tour, the dates of which are listed below. With a premium selection of the label's roster (plus Amanda's own LA Vampires), this sounds like something you sure can't afford to miss.