As somebody who buys an awful lot of records, it’s always a delight when you find a label you can resolutely trust. You see their logo on an album and simply know it’ll be worth buying. Several years ago, I wrote about how Bella Union had reached that point for me and, after another faultless year, to that lists gets added the quite beautiful work of Erased Tapes.
Always ones to obsess over the presentation of the music, independent label Erased Tapes opted to mark its fifth anniversary with a beautiful, handmade box set containing all new material from its impressive array of artists. Established by self-styled ‘kooky German’ Robert Raths, its catalogue to date has featured modern classical music alongside a little post-rock and minimalist electronica. As I said, buy a record bearing their name and you won’t go far wrong. I’ve previously written about the wondrous music of Nils Frahm in some detail, including a recent piece on the majesty of ‘Spaces’ which made Number 6 in my countdown. Olafur Arnalds and Peter Broderick are the other two artists whose music drew me to the quite remarkable output of this really rather special label. Their delicately packaged CDs and meticulously designed vinyl pressings have always represented the care and belief that is central to how Erased Tapes is run. In 2013 alone, they released a remastered version of Broderick‘s ‘Float’ as ‘Float 2013’, Frahm‘s afore-mentioned ‘Spaces’ along with a reworked version of his ‘Juno EP’, Lubomyr Melnyk‘s exquisitely epic ‘Corollaries’, a stunning EP by Rival Consoles and an EP by upcoming talent Douglas Dare entitled ‘Seven Hours’. All this, plus the must luxurious and ambitious title of their entire existence.
This beguiling box is a truly fitting monument to a label that really views the music as art to be cherished. I initially balked at the price – and I’ll tell you now, it really isn’t cheap – but this is about getting ten tracks you won’t find elsewhere spread across five splendidly presented seven inches in a delicately crafted box. If you price it according to your average shop bought singles, then it’s not a bargain, even taking into account RSD. But that’s not really the point of ‘Collection V’. In a sea of records, this is one item I can lose an afternoon with. The diverse music in this set has become an event, a ceremony, a spectacle thanks to the distinctive and reverential way in which it has been presented. To me at least, several of these artists deserve such a pedestal, and the music held within does not disappoint.
The headline acts here may be new tunes from Arnalds, Broderick and Frahm, but there’s no filler in this fine collection. Anne Muller‘s ‘Walzer Fur Robert’ is a glacial, modern classical merry-go-round, whilst World’s End Girlfriend‘s ‘Bohemian Purgatory Part 2 (NSKG version)‘ is a pounding sound collage that is unlike anything else here, but which sounds ferocious with a gentle crank of the volume. Codes In The Clouds deliver a skittering, spin-dry wash of guitar, whilst the A Winged Victory For The Sullen Chamber Orchestra brings proceedings to a close with a curiously drifting piece, a little like somebody trying to weave music out of the sound of massed musicians warming up. Rival Consoles, whose recent ‘Odyssey EP’ is a must listen, rope in Broderick for an uncharacteristic vocal, beamed in somewhere from soul music of the early Eighties. Broderick is in majestic form for his own piece ‘Give A Smile In 5‘, with Frahm offering up ‘Little Boy In A Space Suit’ which will warm the hearts of ‘Felt’ fans in an instant. Kiasmos were my revelation, with skittering beats and the dramatic sense of slowly building release in ‘Driven’, while The British Expeditionary Force‘s ‘End Of The New End’ is a slinky little piano-driven bit of lo-fi indie. Arnalds’ ‘Happiness Does Not Wait’ aches in the same stirringly lyrical way that so much of his best work can, and it remains a delight to think of how he played such a crucial part in one of the year’s TV highlights with his soundtrack to ‘Broadchurch’.
As much as the exquisite packaging makes this an item to treasure, it is not an elaborate exercise in clearing out the cupboards. These newly recorded songs make for a quite beguiling compilation in their own right and a fitting introduction to a label that has yet to put a foot wrong. The songs were only made available digitally on Christmas Eve, making the box exclusive to vinyl for six months and providing purchasers with a festive gift. If the price rules you out, the £8 master tape download available by clicking the picture above seems an absolute steal for the music found here. However, if you are a vinyl obsessive who has been mulling over this set, I can emphatically assure you that you’ll not regret it. Some items are genuinely unique. Some imprints are truly special. ‘Collection V’ is a bold celebration of magical artists on a magical label which actually warrants the tag ‘deluxe’. A fitting monument to my label of the year.