Although home to five separate imprints loosely organized around Cologne minimalism: Traum, Trapez, Trapez Ltd, My Best Friend (aka MBF) and MBF Ltd, its labels have since parted from the classic minimal excursions of the early nineties and developed their own independent style, while still keeping in close touch with the techno movement.
Traum releases are the most complete and personal, with a sound varying from wide-eyed ambience to those fusing trance elements and the sounds of Detroit and early English techno; in Triple R's words, "Trapez stands for clublife, sweat and beats", functioning more as DJ tools; MBF offers a warmer, punchy disco-house sound; the Ltd. offshoots provide chances for wider experimentation with new artists and offbeat material.
The first exclusive label signed by Kompakt Distribution, artists who have recorded for Traum Schallplatten include Akufen, Steve Barnes (under numerous aliases for all five labels), Break 3000, Dominik Eulberg, Nathan Fake, Jorge Gebauhr, Oliver Hacke, Adam Kroll, Jeff Samuel, Alex Under, Audio Werner, and an ever-growing roster of newcomers. Traum, Trapez and MBF all have CD compilations mixed by Triple R, and Traum's annual Interkontinental series compiles new tracks by new artists from all over the world.
This week sees the release of 'Elektronische Musik Interkontinental 5' and signals another turning point for the label. Featuring new tracks from both core artists and new signings: Lars Wickinger, Kenny Leaven, Linus Quick, Florian Meindl, Ortin Cam, Mashcraft and Gabriel Kogler, the mixed CD compilation and triple vinyl package showcases 'the more dance-crazy side of the label' from artists from corners of the world not usually associated with Cologne-styled minimalism.
In the first of RA's new Featured Label series we talked to Riley Reinhold and Jacqueline Klein about the history of Traum Schallplatten and the new directions the pair are looking to push their family of labels in 2006.
Tell us the reason behind the choice of the name Traum for the label.
Well the name hints at the past as much as it hints at the present, which of course is already in the past for us.
The label is run by Jacqueline Klein with the help of myself and so it was important that the label have no male connotation. On purpose we avoided using any cliche, typically male or techno names. We know techno is in many ways a male-dominated domain, but since we see our music as music rather than simply techno we decided to steer clear of such names.
The other reason we chose the name, which means 'dream' in English, is because Jacqueline studied psychology and had always been interested in the area of dream psychoanalysis.
The name of the word and its feeling certainly connects with German labels from the '70s like Ohr, Brain, Tangerine Dream, Neu, La Düsseldorf, etc. since we like to regard our music as a journey in sound.
As Tangerine Dream said in their first album 'Electronic Meditation': "The brain locks itself up in its tight shell and builds a dream world. There are no barriers here, no stupidity and no complexes."
Our slogan is in many ways the same: "Open your ears"
What is Traum's musical philosophy overall as an organisation and record label?
Compression kills music. The acoustic nature of our music has always and will always drive what we do. We were raised with guitar music and like the notes in between the air and the space which make music organic.
We know techno is closing these spaces in many ways but we want to keep them open for as long as possible. For this reason people like Nathan Fake and Dominik Eulberg have sent us music in the past. It is our strength but also our weakness because music is, in many ways, a physical experience about frequencies and compression. Whether or not the sound is acoustic, 3D or sounds good is not the main objective. It's about the joy you gain from it.
We accept this challenge and acknowledge it. As a result our style has changed over the years in such a way that DJs can play our music.
2005 was a year in which the label changed in a big way.
Overall, the organisation and its goal is to collect a fine group of people that share the same interest in music, that will support each other and will release exciting music and feed the 'Traum machine' to create mind-blowing music.
Tell us about each of the labels Traum, Trapez and My Best Friend.
Traum, which started in 1998, is the mothership and in its original conception is very unique and personal and oversees all the other labels and sub labels. Trapez, which we launched in the year 2000, has a 'release fast, act fast, live for the moment' philosophy while Trapez Ltd (from 2001) is for the harder, edgy sort of techno that is more leftfield. MBF started in 2004 and is our house and disco label.
In 2006 the current wave of Traum artists includes producers like Dominik Eulberg, Alex Under, 3 Channels and Shane Berry while artists like Steve Barnes (aka Process, Cosmic Sandwich) and Oliver Hacke have been with the label for some time. How do you think Traum has evolved musically since its inception?
Like I said earlier, the development has been a gradual one but Interkontinental 5, which comes out in May 2006, is an indication of the direction we think Traum should be going.
Nathan Fake has an ambient track on it and Steve Barnes a dreamy one. There are some harsh melodic tunes on there by Jesse Somfay and Adam Kroll and a lot of emerging label newcomers like Lars Wickinger, who released a 12"on Traum just recently.
Lars Wickinger (the only artist on the label from Berlin apart from Marek Bois), is fusing different techno genres into new ones so no one can say which way his music will go.
We see great potential in Cosmic Sandwich from Brighton, who used to record for Fat Cat Records in England and Ultimate Dilemma. He's recording an album which should be released after the summer.
We're doing a special limited edition cover made out of wood for Dominik Eulbergs forthcoming 12" on Traum. We're working on the comeback of Oliver Hacke, after he returns from the USA. Alex Under will also release some material in a different style to what he has previously done on Trapez.
We're doing a big Traum/Trapez party at the C/o Pop festival here in Cologne on the 26th of August at the Stadtgarten/Studio 672, where we'll hopefully feature all of our core artists: Oliver Hacke, Alex Under, Shane Berry, Triple R, Dominik Eulberg, Friguli (live).
Name five essential Traum releases which sum up the Traum musical philosophy and general direction of the label, both past and present.
1.Dominik Eulberg - Die Rotbauchunken vom Tegernsee
2.Minilogue -Leopard EP( forthcoming 12" in June)
3.Nathan Fake- Dinamo
4.Process - Integ
5.Adam Kroll - Sylphen
What has been Traum’s most successful release to date?
It's in the top 5 above...please guess!
Tell us about your flagship compilations 'Selection' and 'Elektronische Interkontinental Musik'. What do you hope to showcase on each of these releases?
Well the Interkontinental LP is an opportunity to push and encourage new artists by also having them release a solo 12" afterwards on Traum. It is a way of going through the development stage together with the artists.
Initially Traum was a label that was only interested in investing in new artists rather than building our name off artists who were already famous.
Since then a lot of established artists that like our music have been in contact with us so we have changed that rule and have incorporated their love for the label via remixes on Traum and Trapez. For example, Robag Whrume's remix of 'Die Rotbauchunken vom Tegernsee', John Tejada with more to come. I hope you're ready for some surprises!
What does Traum look for when considering whether to sign a track or artist?
For us it is important that the artists wants to join our label and share in the spirit of the label. For many artists this approach is quite new and certainly for some, it's not what they want.
The artist's spirit is the most important and today we work hard to make sure we give feedback to the artist as we were not able to do that in the early days when we had no office.
How many demos do you receive each week/month?
Does Traum have any residencies or club nights that its artists regularly play at around the world?
We are now working on this via our booking agency: Traum Booking, which was set up 6 months ago to help us promote our elaborate roster of artists. Our bookings are handled by Maik Loewen and Axel Erbstösser.
Traum's releases are now being distributed digitally through the Kompakt MP3 store. How have MP3 sales affected the number of vinyl units being shipped?
That's not quite right. Our exclusive distributor for records and CDs is Kompakt. They do a very good job but our MP3s are sold at Kompakt and through other MP3 stores like Beatport and iTunes.
The MP3 sales have not influenced our vinyl sales so far.
We think the main reason independent labels distribute digitally is because people are already listening to this format. But politically and philosophically speaking, we favour vinyl and its direct power a lot more.
Tell us about some of the releases coming out from the Traum stable in the next one or two months.
Interkontinental 5 triple vinyl in May
Audio Werner album in late summer on Trapez
Cosmic Sandwich album in fall on MBF
Dominik Eulberg - 'Buchdrucker' on Traum in July
Triple R and Remute - 'Jah Wobble' 12" on Trapez ULR 001 (from the Selection 4 mix CD on Trapez)
Franklin de Costa (Trapez Ltd 43)
UND - 'Rodeo' (Trapez Ltd 44) - a crazy record that will polarise audiences. Straight people will hate it, Ricardo Villalobos will love it!
Triple R - 'Friends are Silence' (MBF LP) - My own release featuring collaborations with several different producers. From melancholic deep to disco house to tool disco!
Everything really, but I guess it's obvious from our comments.
Finally, Traum is one of the labels that has recently become quite 'hip' in tandem with the rise of the 'minimal' house and techno scene outside of Germany. Many German labels seem quite wary of becoming associated with 'the next big thing'. What are your thoughts on this?
Well we might have become hip but we are in it for much longer.
For us the next thing is: baroque techno on the label Traum and static techno on Trapez Ltd with Shane Berry pulling out some more of his tricks. In terms of what way MBF will go, we think there are endless opportunities to play around with disco in a relaxed and cool way.