"Not chasing it" means eschewing tried-and-true channels of promotion like PR one-sheets and email blasts. Instead, Dissident relies on word of mouth and its dynamically-shaped logo to convey its identity, retaining the quasi-cultic aura that so often pervades underground music. "If you can get someone to know it's your party or one of your records just from a black and white triangle, that's quite a cool thing to pull off I reckon. I guess we are just having fun subverting the idea of strong corporate branding and re-doing it for a little record label to see what happens," Blake admits. "I love the idea of using simple bold shapes instead of words to communicate. There can definitely be a huge creative element to it and there's also something hugely powerful and perhaps quite sinister about good logos and branding that I have always found fascinating."
The strength of that black and white triangle is in part why Dissident doesn't need a neatly codified production style to communicate its label identity—it's been free to cultivate a diverse, largely analog sensibility that incorporates strains of electro and disco, as well as the bristling energy of first-wave house and techno.
Blake's omnivorous approach to dance music is undergirded by his passion for cultural production in general, instilled in him early on via British popular music. "The ska revival really got me. At that time 2-tone was the best thing ever, really cool songs that were actually about something and that you could dance to as well, great bands and fantastic clothes and black and white, boys and girls all doing it together was brilliant. England was a nasty, racist, sexist shithole in the '70s and kids of all colors getting together and saying bollocks to the old guard was exactly what was needed. It would be nice to get some of that spirit these days, maybe as the global recession starts to bite, personal politics may become more of a factor again as everyone starts to realize how badly they have all been treated by the system."
In this light, the label name doesn't appear to be an accident: "Dissident" seems to be a pretty clear indicator of Blake's broadly leftist-populist sympathies. The creation of Dissident acknowledges the fact that the ability of underground music to act as a stage for political protest and cultural resistance isn't genre-specific: dance music and punk both share the same "independence and energy. When you do your own thing and ignore the rules and the systems, then you are free to do whatever you want. That was the original spirit of punk and of the house scene in Chicago and then acid house in the UK, techno in Germany and the global explosion in dance music that followed, and I think it's something that has been missing in most underground music for a while." Blake will allow that "it's kind of cool that everyone's a lot more sussed about the business side of things these days," but Dissident reflects his belief that "there's definitely something to be said for getting on and doing your thing without a big plan, just enjoying it for what it is and the moment itself."
Gatto Fritto – Clem's Bounce
One of Dissident's breakout stars serves up effervescent electronic disco that sizzles and bristles with analog electricity.
Binary Chaffinch – False Energy
A stunning 11-minute epic that traverses the expanse between first-wave house and Patrick Cowley-style outer-space disco.
Photonz – Shaboo
Swirling, cheery Balearic house from this Portuguese duo, another of Dissident's high-profile acts.
Ali Renault – Zombie Raffle
One-half of synth pop duo Heartbreak, Renault flexes his dancefloor muscle on his solo Dissident releases—"Raffle" is a spacey italo stomper.
Veros Artis Volumes One and Two
Uncharacteristically digital incarnations of Dissident that round up crucial pieces of the puzzle, including "Clem's Bounce" and "False Energy." This is your best starting point for the label.
In conversation Blake comes across as a rational idealist: one who judges the world around him according to a lofty standard, one he sees as always attainable, and that he's willing to fight for. This ties in with a punk sensibility: healthily skeptical towards opportunists and fakers, allergic to bad faith, eager to traffic with like minds, dedicated to principles. So rather than give up on music, Blake realigned his expectations. "I realized that as long as none of us involved were that concerned with making any money that we could run a small but functioning label and release whatever we wanted and be 100% independent. It's really making sense now that lots of distributors are going bust and taking loads of labels down with them." Blake imagines Dissident as poised to benefit from this dramatic industry shake-up. "It's like a forest fire, it's obviously very bad for all the trees that get burned down, but it creates very fertile conditions for new plants to grow."
As a new plant on the scene, Dissident has thrived in part because its cultivated independent spirit has attracted a steady supply of self-selected new blood. "It seems that most people who send tracks to me actually get what the label is about and feel a connection with it rather than just sending demos out to tons of labels in the hope that someone will like their stuff." Those demo-senders who end up joining the Dissident crew are likely to find themselves part of a dedicated collective that places a punk-style emphasis on self-reliance and communal involvement. "All our artists retain full rights to all their music and we take each stage as it comes and work out something that's fair for everyone. So far it's worked really well and people like Photonz and Off Key have, to name but two, done a really good job of capitalizing on their Dissident releases and are beginning to carve something out for themselves in the game. And the Cage and Aviary guys and Gatto Fritto have kind of outgrown us, left the fold and started their own labels so that's really good too. Everyone takes responsibility for themselves and has been grabbing the bull by the horns, and so far I think it's going really well. It's a genuine exercise in independence."