Having had Red Bull Music Academy alumni to call their own, it’s not a stretch to claim that Singapore, despite being smaller by a great measure, has a better beat scene than Kuala Lumpur (which is frankly non-existent). Whether their DJ-producers and electronic acts are more talented than ours is a moot point, but one thing is certain; they have an actual crowd for the kind of music you’d expect from Los Angeles’ Low End Theory – hell, multiple acts from that scene had performed at Singapore’s now defunct Home Club before. At the forefront of this scene is the Red Bull Mr. X and Mrs. X-run label-cum-collective, Syndicate, of which Order Records’ labelhead Gema is part of.
Those attentive of the regional scene would know, Gema is something of a Singaporean poster boy of the electronic-dance ilk. Enough cred that he was one of the first Singaporean acts given stage time at Laneway Festival Singapore, in which he unintentionally Xeroxed James Blake’s setup and gave the man a run for his money (up until the equipment blunder, at least). Imagine the elation of local fans when Kuala Lumpur producer Adam Kasturi had his debut full-length Mitos released via the young’un’s own label – a fact at the time was unannounced.
It’d be a mistake to think Order Records’ unexpected formation came from chaos within Syndicate though, there wasn’t any inner turmoil between the two at all. Order Records, as it turned out, was born of leisure time. “It wasn’t pre-planned or anything,” says Gema, “I was messing around with some 3D software and made a really nice mountain, which I thought could be used for something personal.” And that topographical graphic creation was the start of a new label by a prodigious talent. When asked if there were an ethos behind it, Gema’s seemingly automated response is a monosyllabic “nope!” Instead, he relays to us that he simply wanted something more “free and casual to put out my friend’s and my own beats.”
Cursorily browsing the label’s lineup – DV, SWTLKR, Adam Kasturi, Night Dives, Darren Dubwise, and Gema himself – you could glean a constant among the six acts; they are all indebted to the UK and electronic genres that branched off dub (even if Gema refuses to call it ‘bass music’). Think a smaller, more Asian Hyperdub – with Fatima’s ‘sinogrime’ replaced by Adam’s ‘Malayagrime’. However, even curating a roster of likeminded peers wasn’t something pre-planned. “The truth is we don’t go around recruiting or looking for a certain sound,” he tells us, informing that if anything, it was Darren that prowls the Internet for new music (incidentally, he introduced Adam to Gema).
That’s not to say everything is incidental with Order Records and Gema. The more obvious reason why everything clicks is simple; the label is essentially “a nice group of mates who are comfortable with sharing one another’s music and have the same mindset.” It’s easy to see why these talents gravitate to him too – Gema is a multihyphenate talent of the best kind. A labelhead that is borderline auteurist in his work ethos, the man is involved in every aspect of the label; music videos, jacket artwork, mixing, master, and distribution. “Not that I’m a control freak,” he clarifies to us, “I started this out alone and it has become a habit… I enjoy these aspects of maintaining a label – it’s actually fun!”
To date, Order Records has released quite a number of records; the latest being label compilation Order Vol. 1, the aforementioned Adam Kasturi full-length debut, and two split singles by Gema & Night Dives and Echo Prince & SWTLKR respectively. However, none were physical releases. It was simply more comfortable and convenient for the label to have their current releases distributed digitally (“[it’s] easily accessible and real time”). Not that they have given up on tangible media, that is: “There are plans for records but right now music is so saturated that pressing records is a big risk.” Adding on that they would rather put money into merchandising – jokingly or not is left ambiguous.
In the label’s current incarnation, Gema plans to scour the regional scene farther, saying that there are tonnes of talents that he might have missed in 2014 and promising that this year would be a busy year of Order Records releases. Further down the line, ‘Order Apparel’ is in order (okay, it wasn’t ambiguous). In the meantime, Gema is simply contented to be where he’s at now: “I would like to thank everyone who has been listening to Order.”