Starting a record label today is as difficult of an endeavour as doing anything else in the music industry, what with all the (supposed) crippling evils of the internet. But the guys behind independent Singaporean label SoulMatters Recordings are optimistic about pushing forth electronic music with soul to listeners across the region and beyond through the ubiquitous online platform.
After a few encounters at various events, DJ-producers Shawnn Lai, Gerald Ang, and Amjad Shah aka Notion A came together to discuss and share musical ideas that centred on the soul of electronic music, which then then led up to frequent studio meetings and collaborative efforts with Singaporean and international producers.
“‘Soul’ is a tricky word. Almost mythical. When we set out on our musical journey, we were quite sure we had to make music with soul as we are making it in the digital domain,” says Shawnn. As one can imagine, ‘soul’ is the fundamental focus that the trio will be basing their output on – it is the label’s philosophy, the essential element in every track that the label produces, and a quality that they would look for in the artistes they sign. “Without ‘soul’, it would just be ‘machine music’”, adds Shawnn Lai.
Being three individually seasoned DJs, they understand that making tunes using electronic devices would arguably lack a certain depth. By adding that vague notion of a soul to their music, they separate themselves from the murky pool of a genre that often time sounds repetitive, and mechanical even, especially techno. Though their jobs at the label are separate, they do overlap at times, which include marketing, social media, mastering of their music, and artiste management.
Besides being sonically inclined to electronics and techno, they are however, open-minded on experimenting with other – but not all – genres that are out there. Collaboration is always welcomed and they have already started to do exactly that with some artistes overseas. In fact, they are inviting of anyone to submit their demos for consideration, if it is good enough or in line with their “electronic soul” ideal, then they might just release it.
It has not been a smooth ride when they were setting up SoulMatters Recordings. One of the initial hurdles was caused by their conflicting schedules that resulted in them having problems for early label meetings. Thankfully, they are indebted to acid house legend K’Alexi Shelby, who lent a helping hand to guide them along the trial and tribulation that come with establishing a startup indie label in an industry where recording labels are becoming increasingly sparse, as well as impart them with the finesse of presenting their particular brand of sound to the world.
Still just a hatchling at this moment, SoulMatters is regardless proud to have achieved the most vital part of it all – the successful inception of the label. With their Intro EP released in August 2014 and follow-up EP Myoclonic in November of the same year, the label’s third output Arrival EP was put out just last month. These guys are consistently producing new records with no intentions of slowing down; there is also a sub-label in the works that eschews techno and instead explores “darker and harder” sounds and a compilation album featuring Singaporean, regional, and international acts in the works. There is more to be done, for sure, but their aim to promote and represent undiscovered electronic talents has already found its soul.