A list of Melbourne indie record labels to support as the music industry kicks back into gear

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A list of Melbourne indie record labels to support as the music industry kicks back into gear

Surprise Chef
Words by Tom Williams

Support local music.

As Melburnians return to doing the things they love, the support we have for the recovering music industry must be maintained. Live music has begun to resume but the effects will still be felt throughout the industry if we as music lovers don’t continue listening, buying merch and buying records.

The often forgotten but vitally important facilitator of music releases, the record label, especially needs our support. These independent labels give a voice to artists who don’t fall into the mainstream or can’t find a channel for their art. Indies foster the diversity of Melbourne’s music scene.

This diversity is represented in the following list of local labels. Fans of everything from punk to ambient, soul and dance will find a label they can support, right in their own backyard. Labels strive for their own image just as artists do, often maintaining similar sounds across different releases. Your next favourite track could be right around the corner, it just takes a bit of research and adventure.

Note: This article is the follow-up to this piece which we completed during lockdown. Despite the easing of restrictions, the importance of the cause has not lessened.

Research Records

Indie-electronic forays are the delicacy of choice for local legends, Research Records. Despite the difficulties of 2020, they have refused to stop pumping out classy releases from the likes of Melbourne’s Big Yawn, Portland’s Elite Beat and Mouche, the new project from Tim Karmouche (The Murlocs, Crepes). Want something to get the dancefloor grooving that none of your mates have heard? Research should be your first stop.

Beat’s Pick: Mouche’s Live From The Bubble is tantalising. She’s sold out in cassette form but can still be purchased digitally.

Get amongst Research here.

Cool Death Records

Cool Death’s unruly and angry punk sounds are summated perfectly in the label’s mantra: ‘the only rule is cool’. Bands such as Romero, Oily Boys, Tyrannamen, Power and Straightjacket Nation fill out a roster that has provided the soundtracks for eyebrow shaving and DIY tatts since 2012.

Beat’s Pick: Romero, one of Melbourne’s most exciting rock bands, delivered a bonafide earworm with ‘Honey’.

Take the Cool Death journey here.

College of Knowledge Records

The College of Knowledge crew have been educating Melburnians on local underground soul and funk from their Coburg campus since 2018. They may have a small roster made up of Surprise Chef, Karate Boogaloo and The Pro-Teens, but its quality over quantity at College of Knowledge – every single release is straight fire.

Beat’s Pick: Tough choice but the smooth grooves of Surprise Chef’s 2020 album Daylight Savings is difficult to overlook.

Choose your College of Knowledge classes here.

Butter Sessions

Founded by legendary electronic duo Sleep D in Frankston, Butter Sessions has been pumping out plenty of dancefloor fillers and experimental electronica throughout the pandemic. Releases from the past decade of its existence prove that Melbourne techno is in good, buttery hands.

Beat’s Pick: Get your hands on a copy of Polito’s Ultraparallel for humming rave sounds.

Check out Butter Sessions’ new website here.

Our Golden Friend

Named after beloved golden retriever Dusty, Our Golden Friend hosts a sparse offering of Melbourne’s indie sound that’s got all the charm and lovability of a furry friend. RVG, Elizabeth, 808s & Greatest Hits, Chitra, Poppongene and Peak Twins are just a few of the names you’ll find represented by the label.

Beat’s Pick: RVG’s stellar 2020 album Feral is a must.

Get around Our Golden Friend here.

Anti-Fade Records

Hailing from trend-central Abbotsford, Anti-Fade is derived from punk and garage rock, but is not confined to such. Geelong rippers Vintage Crop, Bananagun, Alien Nosejob and Smarts are just some of the names on a musical roster that holds a sound for many ears.

Beat’s Pick: Vintage Crop’s Serve to Serve Again is one of the albums of the year.

Keep up to date with Anti-Fade here.

Left Ear Records

Melbourne label Left Ear Records specialise in the remastering and vinyl reissuing of diamonds in the dance music rough. Music from around the country and the world that’s been lost in obscurity can now find its way into the ears of vinyl lovers thanks to the Left Ear team.

Beat’s Pick: ’80s St Kilda duo Tester Housing’s gritty southside singles are now available again.

Dig through Left Ear’s crate here.

Spunk Records

Where do I start with Spunk? The inimitable tastemakers of music from all across the indie spectrum. Spunk forage for the troubadours and storytellers, with everyone from Bill Callahan to Belle & Sebastian, Julien Baker and Seeker Lover Keeper represented by the label. That’s just the start.

Beat’s pick: Floodlights’ 2020 record, From A View, is just brilliant.

Find out more about Spunk here.

Marthouse Records

Marthouse Records’ catalogue is full of gritty, raw yet charming rock tunes. The roster features artists such as Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Muma Ganoush and Moth, each of whom are carving out their own unique identity in the music space.

Beat’s Pick: WHILE AUS BURNS from Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice is chock full of attitude and political satire.

Dive into the Marthouse stable here.

Heart of the Rat Records

Heart of the Rat is propelling rural Victoria’s indie scene with releases filled with rich guitar riffs and local voices telling classic Aussie stories. Artists Skyscraper Stan, Terrible Signal and Captain Fighting Machine give this Ballarat indie a unique sound that needs to be heard.

Beat’s Pick: Terrible Signal’s new album The Window is the perfect roadtrip soundtrack.

Dissect Heart of the Rat Records here 

Animals Dancing

Dance label Animals Dancing has been at the coalface of Melbourne’s electronic scene ever since its debut release – 2014’s Koobaburra from Cooper Pedy University Band. Featuring releases from everyone from Suzanne Kraft to Tornado Wallace and The Pilotwings, Animals Dancing’s catalogue certainly deserves a browse.

Beat’s Pick: Check out The Pilotwings’ EP Psytube for some intense acid bangers.

Keep up to date with Animals Dancing here.

Aarght Records

The legendary Aarght Records have been a bit quiet of late, but there’s still plenty of killer punk and garage records to get your hands on at their website. If you’re not aware, Aarght proved vital to our city’s punk and garage resurgence in the late noughties, fostering important releases from the likes of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control and the Ooga Boogas. The Aarght legacy continues to stand strong.

Beat’s pick: Why not get your hands on an The UV Race’s Made In China LP?

Keep up to date with Aarght Records at their Facebook page.

Nothin Personal

Nothin Personal’s catalogue may be small but it won’t be long before this local indie finds its place in the Melbourne electronic music dialogue. The first release from Loure showed his versatility, with tracks covering almost all dance genres. This has since been followed by a stellar nu-jazz EP from Don Glori.

Beat’s Pick: Don Glori’s EP Dawn Calling is certainly worth checking out.

Get to know Nothin Personal here.

Reverse Shadow Records

For lovers of ambient electronic and experimental, Reverse Shadow Records fosters music that’s transcendent and far-reaching. With nearly 20 releases in two years of operation, this indie is a bonafide music powerhouse.

Beat’s Pick: Cop a cassette of Balcony’s self-titled EP before they run out.

Browse the Reverse Shadow catalogue here.

Love Above Records

Love Above was founded in 2019 by DJs Dawn Again, Ryan Berkeley and DJ Ingrid, spawning from the namesake club nights. A year on and the label has released four banging house EPs that will hopefully be heard on Melbourne dancefloors very soon.

Beat’s Pick: The label’s debut release LAR001 is a must-have in any house music lover’s library.

Fall in love with Love Above Records here.

Keen on another fun read? Check out our piece on the Melbourne live music venues hosting gigs again.

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