Though the past year has been devoid of clubs in their typical states, labels have continued to push scenes forward. The only dance floor you may be visiting is that of your living room and kitchen, but there has been no shortage of tunes to power you through. What follows is a selection of some of the most exciting dance and electronic labels operating today, all of which are run by women. Each of these women is also vibrantly shaping the sounds of the scenes that they operate within — be it jungle, techno, house, electro, industrial, breakbeat, and more — through a myriad of musical avenues.
Helmed by SHERELLE and NAINA
Helmed by Londoners SHERELLE and NAINA, two immense DJs in their own right, Hooversound champions “the weird side of bass and club music.” Focusing on BPMs that are generally well beyond the 140-plus range involves showcasing rhythms that will gleefully singe your eyebrows off. In just over a year, they’ve released seven solid EPs spanning from relatively new artists to established heads.
Case in point, in January 2021, young jungle aficionado Tim Reaper remixed four tracks by the don Special Request. Easily one of the best dance records of the year thus far, the EP combines steppers and euphoria with a deft touch, staying true to Special Request’s originals while putting a fresh spin on each one. The recently released EP with Private Caller is likewise top-tier club fare. If you’re hankering for more, check out SHERELLE’s regular BBC Radio 1 slot, as well as NAINA’s Apple Music 1 show, where you can get your fix of their DJ finesse until you can see them in a club somewhere safely in the — hopefully near — future.
Helmed by Violet
Dance culture is forever rooted in the sociopolitical – a fundamental ethos reflected in all of the projects helmed by Portuguese polymath Violet (aka Inês Coutinho). This spirit incorporated into her own imprint, Naive, as well as its sub-label, Naivety. Focused on house, breakbeat, and techno, Violet’s own productions are some of Naive’s finest cuts, alongside choice records by Photonz, Almaty, and Eris Drew and Octo Octa, to name a few.
Likewise, Naivety features “non-standard-four-to-the-floor music: ambient, deconstructed club tracks, noise, and beyond.” This encompasses digital-only EPs, with a percentage of sales from each release donated to a cause chosen by the artist. Sonically, Elles’ shimmering Emo Ecstasy Everything is a particular Naivety highlight. Tip: The label’s next release is a new EP called Espirito from Violet that will not fail to put pep in even the most hardened of steps. Its tracks feature stomping-ly electric, techno percussives amidst acid flourishes that Coutinho whips into an incantatory flex, complete with an Eris Drew remix on the flip.
Helmed by Carista
Carista’s joy is infectious, whether you’re experiencing it via her DJ sets, radio shows, parties, or her label releases. She maintains this effervescent excitement while also seamlessly crisscrossing sounds, ranging from broken beat and soul to electro and techno and back again. Carista’s label, United Identities, is driven by this genre-spanning feeling, shining a light on talented electronic producers from across the Netherlands.
Its first release? A compilation that felt as close to seeing Carista DJ as you’d get in 2020, showcasing the kind of variety of sounds you’d expect to find in her sets. Meanwhile, the label’s second offering — Thrills +41, a breakbeat-loving three-tracker — honed in on the work of one burgeoning producer. Expect more to come from the imprint later this year, and keep your anticipation at bay by tuning into Carista’s BBC Radio 1 show and United Identities on NTS for more delight.
Helmed by Anz
Though producer and DJ Anz just launched her new label in March 2021, given her previous output on Hessle and Local Action, as well as radio shows and pre-COVID DJ sets, the new imprint is sure to be the start of something special.
Its name, OTMI, stands for Otras Mitades, a shortened version of the Spanish phrase mi otra mitad de naranja (the other half of my orange). “The idea for the label is to find the other halves of loose tracks; their soulmates,” she shares. Anz’s first release on the label explores this idea via two of her own productions. On the A-side of OTMI001, “Unravel in the Designated Zone” sees a zippy, Japanese video game-esque synthesizer wind down around itself. On the flip, she reconstructs similar emotions. As she aptly puts it, the 12-inch is “two halves of the same orange”.
Helmed by Nicole McKenzie
Music Inspires Change, aka MIC, uncovers far-out, experimental rhythms of all shapes and sizes. Founded by illustrious DJ and label head Nicole MacKenzie, its releases have encompassed sounds including: “Minneapolitan funk feng shui,” intergalactic electro, jazz-bubbling Greek rebekito meets German Kosmische, and minimal industrial dub pop. In short, the label is a lovingly curated home for wonderfully weird dance floor denizens, where unlikely scenes come together in perfectly considered harmony.
As MIC’s name suggests, the music will inspire change in how you previously viewed genres, opening your mind up to seemingly unlikely sonic connections along the way. If you’re seeking more in between releases, be sure to check out Nicole’s equally excellent MIC NTS show, too, presented under her Cherrie Flava DJ guise.