This week’s edition of Editor's Picks goes back to March of 2017, for a label spotlight of the month. In the era where playlists rule supreme, the album left trailing in its wake, let’s take a moment to marvel at that beauty of a limited-edition pressing, from Shimmering Moods.
When was the last time you truly appreciated a record? When did you last gaze on the artwork, take it out of the hand-made sleeve or package, press play and then fully devote yourself to the listening? Shimmering Moods is a record label for these situations. It prefers quality over quantity, a personal approach over mass-manufactured records and a focus on the music itself rather than name-dropping and self-promotion. The music explores the quieter, mostly beat-less genres like ambient, acoustic, experimental, drone, field recordings, electronica and slow techno. It provides you a soundtrack for daydreaming, walks around the city or in nature, a creative activity, meditation, or invites you to a fully concentrated listen.
Paul, the founder of Shimmering Moods, resides in the Netherlands and had always desired to start a record label since the age of fourteen. Due to a lack of time his dream didn’t come true until about three years ago, when he finally decided to find an outlet reflecting his favourite music. His love for ambient sounds didn’t come through electronica or the independent scene of bedroom production, but through club music instead. “I used to buy a lot of house and techno music, but I was always searching for the more ambient, calm and beat-less side to that music, like B-sides.” Neverthess, finding ambient or experimental music in those record shops was difficult, so Paul turned to Bandcamp and started digging the virtual crates. “A whole new world opened to me, with DIY labels and people making the releases at home, painting them, hand numbering them, and distributing them around the world by themselves. And this idea of doing everything on your own and not having the layers of people between you and your customers attracted me.”
Up to now Shimmering Moods is pretty much the definition of a one-man do-it-yourself operation. It works with a personal approach; creating cover artwork, hand numbering each release and using special envelopes rather than manufactured plastic digi packs. “The music is personal, so the cover also has to be made by somebody, it has to be something special. And that can be only achieved if you make the artwork or the package yourself,” Paul highlights. When you buy a physical release from Shimmering Mood, you have to take the CD, vinyl or cassette with handmade artwork out of its carefully assembled envelope, appreciate the conscientiousness, effort and love put to the release, and only then press play and let the music get to you.
The cover artworks are often photography by Paul himself: “I do a lot of photography in my free time, when I’m traveling or on the street, it could be anything that attracts me”, reveals Paul that he always has his eyes open for a potential next album artwork. Not all the album artworks are made by Paul, though – the part of giving artists an absolute freedom is asking about their desired artwork idea first. “Most of the ambient and experimental artists are into graphics and some of them are even graphic designers themselves, so they have a lot of ideas and they sometimes help me with other releases and with Photoshop,” emphasizes Paul.
It’s not only how the records are created and packaged; it’s also about how are they released: Shimmering Moods is about a personal connection to a record and its exclusivity. That’s why there’s never more than hundred physical copies of the release, the usual number being around fifty. And there’s no way Paul would do a re-issue of any of the albums. Why is there so little copies and only a limited chance to get them? “I see each release as a little project of mine. And I have to close one project in order to move to the next one and do it 200%,” Paul explains. “Some of my releases were sold out in a couple of days, so it would make sense from the financial perspective; but it makes the whole thing less attractive for me. The limited amount of records is in line with the ethos of the label – keep it small and exclusive. Once it’s sold out, it’s sold out – of course you can download it, but the physical copies are gone. When I was buying a lot of vinyl, I was always looking for white labels and records with numbers, knowing only hundred or two hundred were repressed and that you will probably never find the record again,” describes Paul on embracing the idea of an exclusive ownership.
But can a small and independent label releasing two to three physical releases in thirty to a hundred copies each be sustainable? In this case, it can! “In the beginning, it was very hard. The first year of having a label is so hard, there’s so much disappointment, before you create a network of people.” But after a few years of developing a network, the label is self-sustainable and sometimes even gains a small profit. After one release is sold out, there’s money to finance the next one, and the sales are good thanks to Bandcamp and few specialized shops in Europe and America which also sell Shimmering Moods albums. “But this kind of music isn’t going to make you rich. It’s purely a thing of passion and you must really like doing this, sitting in the middle of the night and cutting the paper and numbering. Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but it’s an addiction. I can’t live without it. It’s what drives me in life,” confesses Paul, and I have to admire the craziness.
Many of albums from Shimmering Moods work well as a whole, usually within one genre, or more precisely, one mood, one kind of soundscape. If you’re a sound explorer like me, you will definitely enjoy their curated monthly radio shows on Red Light Radio (live) and Resonance Extra Radio (pre-recorded), which provide more of a diverse mixture of tracks, blending together various shades of what shimmering moods is about – pure electronic expeditions through miscellaneous sonic landscapes, hypnagogic synth melodies shrouded in a fog of soft analog noise, monotonic drones slowly evolving in time, minimalist instrumental compositions and playful songs on the guitar or a piano, hazy vocal pieces, field recordings and so on. Their casts include well-known record labels focusing on experimental electronica and avant garde music (Kompakt, Ninja Tune, Erased Tapes Records), prominent ambient labels (12k, Kranky, Type, Experimedia), small, niche and soon-to-be-discovered outlets (Whitelabrecs, Bezirk Tapes) and sometimes also techno (Berceuse Heroique, Northen Electronics, Donato Dozzy).
With two or three releases and two radio shows a month, keeping an eye on new music and discovering new artists is essential for Paul. “This grows every day. Before I started the label, I was already in touch with a couple of artists. Now demos come every day, and I have a network of artists, most of them are my friends and I often chat with them about life, family and of course about music. I also find lots of new artists on SoundCloud, because I like working with new artists who have never done anything before.” Paul highlights that this scene is small, interconnected and supportive within its structure, so getting to know new people is often a matter of mutual connection or recommendation.
Taking a closer look at the 50 releases up to date, it’s hard for Paul to pick personal favourites. “I love Paralellism from Angular Geometry, because it combines a bit of dub, a bit of techno, it has so many layers and I think it’s timeless. Also, the Islands of Mind release by Arkadelphia is a memorable one. It was a USB release, my first and probably my last one. But the music is great, it goes from ambient and techno exactly how I like it and the way I also approach my radio shows.
There are also several records released on Shimmering Moods which are made by well-known artists who changed their names for these albums, particularly Unidentified’s Haunting “001” and Between Two Worlds by Cynthia. The artists approached Paul themselves with the idea of doing something completely different from their usual work under a pseudonym no one would recognize, keeping the whole thing a mystery. Paul liked the idea and two otherworldly records were created, although it wasn’t picked up by a lot of media. “If I would reveal the name, people be very surprised. But for me, it’s not about name dropping. It’s purely the music what it’s about, and the emotion it brings. That’s also one of the reasons I hardly do any advertisement. It’s comes back to the philosophy of the label, it’s very low profile and DIY,”confirms Paul.
The newest project of Paul’s is Analogue Chat, a temporary cassette record label started with Richard Cunliffe from It's Just Music Baby!, which will release ten releases from ten artists. Maintaining the personal approach, all the packaging will be handmade, including artwork and photography, and the artists are invited to record sounds that surround them in order to “tell their personal narrative”. Each year, there will be three to four releases, starting with Se Vende by The Laborer, which was mastered by Miles Whittaker. “We hope to keep him for the other releases as well because he does magical things,” highlights Paul, adding that he “can’t reveal more names yet because it’s still in the discussion process.”
But there are many releases lined up on Shimmering Moods which we can look forward to. The label just dropped several albums on March 17th by Rime Trails, Gallery Sic and Snufmumriko from Scandinavia. “There is a pretty well-known group in the scene called Hotel Neon. Andrew Tasselmyer is part of it and he’s bringing out his debut album on Shimmering Moods in April.” Other releases planned for April include naar vi vaagner by øjeRum, which will be a CD reissue from a tape. The April releases will be followed by two limited edition cassette releases by Aleks and Post Global Trio in May. “The Aleks cassette release will be very special because he's gonna draw and make all the covers himself,”adds Paul enthusiastically, proving that the label isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
Browse the Shimmering Moods Catalogue here.