Ten Records I Wish I'd Released by Bella Union's Simon Raymonde...
To celebrate their 15th birthday this year, the label are set to curate a day’s worth of superb music at End of the Road festival in Dorset. Expect sets from John Grant, The Low Anthem, Beach House and Midlake among others. This is a label with a famously eclectic approach to artists and genres – from Wavves to Van Dyke Parks (whose back catalogue is being reissued by the label this June). We were rather excited, therefore, when they gave us this poignant insight to their most inspirational records, and the ones that got away, as Simon Raymonde lists his top 10 dream signings (including the one record he listens to every day)…
Words: Simon Raymonde
1. Television - Marquee Moon (1977)
Who wouldn't have wanted to release this? An instant classic album, from the first seconds of the grab-you intro of ‘See No Evil' through to the final drama of 'Torn Curtain', I cannot see any list of mine without this on it. Elektra were also such an iconic label/logo, introducing the world to artists like Tim Buckley, Judy Collins, The Doors, Bread etc. Bob Harris recently paid us the ultimate compliment by saying "Bella Union is the Elektra of the 21st Century".
2. Patti Smith - Horses (1975)
Along with Marquee Moon, here is another album with a stunning sleeve and image, to accompany the brilliant music inside. I have always loved Patti Smith - her attitude, her beliefs, her strength, her unwillingness to compromise - and I have always harboured a hope to work with her one day. Produced by John Cale, and also featuring Tom Verlaine of Television, this remains a classic almost 40 years on. If we release one record with as much longevity I will be happy.
3. Arvo Part - Tabula Rasa (1984)
It may be a surprise to some that Bella Union has released two classical solo piano albums. The greatest influence on those records, and on me wishing to release them, was probably this album by Estonian composer Arvo Part. I went to see him conduct a performance of this at the Almeida in the 80s and it had a profound effect on me.
4. The Slits - Cut (1979)
I often cite 1979 as the last year that I was truly inspired by British music. That is not to say I have not loved anything made here since then, but it was like we found oil here for a short while, and until it ran dry, we couldn't stop hitting it rich. Whether by accident or design, that spirit of '79 seems to be returning to UK music. My favourite writer Paul Morley wrote a brilliant review of this album in the NME (if I remember correctly), that marvels at the development of the Slits from their previous chaos of sessions and gigs to this; no one saw it coming. And what remains is a record I still find as exciting as when I first heard it. And what is exciting is that I know a band out there right now, who are capable of making a record as good as this. That's what keeps me falling out of bed in the morning.
5. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
Did this record break through and become beloved by all classes, colours and creeds because of its lack of profanity - fairly unusual for a hip hop /rap artist of that time? Maybe, but what made it so special was its humour, intellect, and lyrical genius while still being a record you could dance to. I signed Nova Scotia rapper Josh Martinez around 2003 and released his brilliant debut Buck Up Princess, but it didn't quite register like De La Soul! Josh later formed the Chicharones with fellow rapper Sleep, and when I released the debut LP When Pigs Fly, again I was sure global superstardom was imminent. I think you know where this story is going...
6. St Vincent - Marry Me (2007)
If things had gone a little differently in 2006/7, I maybe could have signed St Vincent. A small window of opportunity was there but circumstances conspired so that I couldn't make it happen then. Every two years since, Annie Clark has returned with a record better than her last, a sign of a truly great artist. Had I signed Annie back in 2007, I would be in dreamland right now. Quite why the European public haven't embraced St Vincent to the level they should have is slighty irritating and bewildering, as I believe she is one of the most amazing artists of my lifetime.
7. Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose (2012)
Had a chance, shoulda signed them. Again, timing wasn't quite right, yet now, only a few months later, I probably could have sorted something out. This is the world we live in at small independent labels: never enough time, never enough weeks in the year, never enough resources. Unless you are Beggars with 150+ staff around the world, it is getting harder and harder to compete. We do fine, mostly, but with only three staff, we cannot sign everything we want to. Thing is, with the great artists, it doesn't really matter what labels they are on.
8. DJ Shadow - Entroducing (1996)
One of the most important records of the past 20 years. Listen to new tracks this week on sites like Best New Music or RCRDLBL and this album's influence can still be heard. What is remarkable, for the incredible musicianship that the record seems to boast, is that it was made only with an akai mpc60 12bit sampler, two turntables and a borrowed copy of an early version of Pro Tools. It is atmospheric, brooding, and utterly original, despite the fact that nothing apart from the programming on the record is truly original. To find a pioneer like this is a dream for a label. (His latest track with Little Dragon is also wonderful and not appreciated enough.)
9. Promise and The Monster - Red Tide (2012)
Quite how this slipped by I don't know. Truly one of the best records of the last few years. Billie Lindahl is no one's fool, and is brave and compelling to watch and to listen to. I hope I get to work with her one day. I listen to Red Tide every day.
10. Helgi Jonsson - Big Spring (2011)
The perfect illustration of the predicament mentioned earlier. If I could have found time and space, who knows... I could have released this record. As it was, I have to remain his biggest fan outside of Iceland, and hope that one day the stars align for us to work together. Beautiful arrangements and that melancholy delivery that I am just a sucker for most days!
Bella Union release Bloom by Beach House this week, listen to opening track 'Myth' below.
For more information on upcoming releases and shows visit the Bella Union website.
For more information on End of the Road and the specially curated Bella Union day click here.
Sorry no reviews have been returned.
- Opera & Dance