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Label spotlight: Hafendisko

We investigate the great tracks and talent coming out through the ascending Hamburg label, exclusively premiering two new music videos.

To say that Germany has a burgeoning reputation in the world of dance music feels ridiculous. This is a country which has consistently found itself at the very forefront of house and techno; a byword for innovation and excellence in electronic music. But the statement also carries an element of truth. Hafendisko is a label in relative infancy, having only been conceived three years ago, and was formed as a means through which HFN Music - responsible for beautiful Darkness Falls and Trentmøller releases amongst many others - could release more club-orientated, groove-tinged records. “Originally in 2011 I wanted to start a more club-orientated outlet, as HFN music shouldn't cover too many musical directions," explains Tobias Lampe, Hafendisko owner, label manager and head of A&R, "and we started with a great release by Lightbluemover aka Francis Harris then. We had a bit of break, as I was too busy with HFN music and other things so the Hamburg electronic releases were the only releases for a while. But as you see we are back on track!” Hafendisko Nummer Eins is the culmination of the label's formative years and, despite the brief timescale, the quality of their first release suggests Germany's new wave has a lot more to offer.

HFN is the standard bearer for electronic music in Hamburg. The harbour city has a solid reputation, producing the likes of Solomun and DJ Koze, though this isn't to say the city is insular. “Although we surely have a focus on Hamburg we are as open minded as a harbour city should be, and actually sign what we love and what we would like to play in our imaginary Hafendisko club night.”

It's a refreshing philosophy. HFN has long been a label which has championed Hamburg's dance scene while accepting that there was much to be learned from elsewhere. The release of Hafendisko Nummer Eins was accompanied by a party which celebrated the best the city had to offer. “Just recently we celebrated Hafendisko Nummer Eins with Deo & Z-Man live and Arsy on the decks and it was again full of these magic moments where it all comes together." This is emblematic of the success of the country's dance scene and German clubbing becoming synonymous with Berlin isn't something which troubles Hafendisko. “Of course quite a bunch of artists moved to Berlin over the years, but some also returned already and a lot simply like to visit Berlin and rather stay in town. From another point of view it surely is a bit more difficult to be heard and recognized out of a less hyped surrounding, but this may is not always a bad thing.

The label's relatively short existence isn't to say that there haven't been highlights. Some releases are always held in a certain affinity and Nummer Eins the epitome of the entirety of the label's hard work so far. The record could also serve as a snapshot of which artists will be the next to blow up out of the harbour town. The first record is always a special one, the two tracks Girn and Ddisco from Brooklyn's finest Francis Harris side project, Lightbluemover, will always stay in my box and I look forward to the follow up to be expected later this year. We don't have that big a roster of releases and artists yet but it is very important for us to help establish great talents, and so we are proud to have released strong debut or early releases by Deo & Z-Man or Brynjolfur. The recent Nummer Eins compilation surely is an important release for us of course, while we are also very happy to welcome Yannick Labbé (ex Trickski) with his fantastic Seilertrack EP into our circle.”

Deo & Z-Man is a name which keeps flashing up on our radar, and their record Penelope is one of Nummer Eins' high spots. A slightly unsettling vocal accompanies their dark disco banger and it's unsurprising the duo has been earmarked for further success. The accompanying video showcases many of Hamburg's most relevant artists...

“Making this little video was absolutely fun. The video set was made by the Hamburg artist Alex Solmann, who is doing a lot of graphic works for the legendary Golden Pudel Club and Fact Magazine UK, and who also made the cover for the forthcoming compilation. Built out of carton, the set had flexible elements of typical Hamburg buildings like Pudel Club or the Michel Church. Together with some friends we just focused the camera on the set and moved all elements to make our hometown dance to some nice beats...”

And it's not just the HFN hierarchy tipping the duo for success, after frequently performing both DJ sets and live shows, MTV have ranked Deo & Z-Man in their top ten leading German DJs. They're a pair whose talents span a number of aliases too, with a rap release under the name Alphamob also in the offing.

Another to file under ones-to-watch may be Arsy, whose juggernaut of a track La Structure Dramatique has made a big impression. “Arsy is a great guy and producer/DJ living in Berlin now; we are actually just discussing his first single on Hafendisko to be released later in the year. I know he also has some roots in hip hop in addition to the usual electronic influences and somehow you can hear that in his music I think. He is surely one to watch closely!”

As well as its reputation as a label which warmly accepts influences from other countries and cities, Hafendisko is keen to expand its horizons. UK shows are already underway as Hafendisko artists Snacks made their London debut last month and it is hoped this is just the beginning “As far as I heard it was received very well and of course we are keen to have artists playing in UK. My roots are pretty UK influenced as I was travelling a lot to London in the eighties and beginning of the nineties and was absorbed from the energy of the acid house movement and all its facets, from crazy warehouse parties, fantastic pirate radios stations over intense atmosphere in record shops or enthusiastic demonstrations against establishment to “Fight For Your Right To Party..”. But besides my personal preference, the UK is a very important market, and actually for all musicians I know it is always a pleasure to play in front of such a passionate and musically well-educated audience.” Snacks' record Easy is one of the album's highlights and the accompanying video is every bit as idyllic as the track itself...

“While we were writing and listening to the song this [video] is what we were imagining. Our good friend Max Preiss, was in LA at that time and shot some footage for us and Florian Röser had the inspiration to forward and reverse the video material while editing. Be ready for a different perspective.

The style of 'Nummer Eins' - visceral and raw - should translate well to an international audience and we'll be hearing a lot more from the fledgling label soon, though specifics remain a mystery... “Of course, I can't say I am already working on Nummer Zwei but it will happen in the near future. But before that we can expect great singles from Yannick Labbé, Brynjolfur and Deo & Z-Man."

Everything looks to be in place for Hafendisko to flourish. A solid musical foundation, while refusing to be constrained to a particular genre or culture of music will surely see HFN go on to rival Germany's big hitters.

View this feature in the weekly Spotlight Magazine, Issue 020.

WORDS | Jonathan Coll

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