It's an impressive start for the fledgling imprint: The Vacuum EP was only Eglo's second release. And it has given Shepherd and fellow label co-founder Alexander Nut a solid platform from which to build their roster. Speaking about their early successes, Alex comments that he was, "really pleasantly surprised, but at the same time, everything we do I feel very confident about. If it doesn't go amazingly well, cool, we did our best and we always put everything into it. Our heart and soul, [our] blood, sweat and tears, [our] HSBC."
Floating Points' own debut release kicked off the label, and although it didn't make quite the same splash as its follow-up, its soulful fusion of boom bap hip-hop and slo-mo house became a secret weapon for DJs happy to take their sets below the 100 BPM mark. Lead cut "For You" was actually the catalyst for Alex and Sam's friendship, with the pair hooking up after it had been played at Plastic People's midweek producer showcase, CDR. "I got 'For You' through the internet somehow," explains Alex. "When I was first playing it [on Rinse FM], it had no name on it, so I just used to say 'For You' when I announced it. I went to CDR a couple of times, and I'd seen the name Floating Points come up on the screen but I never made the connection.
"One day they played that tune, 'For You,' so I went up to Tony [Nwachukwu] and Gavin [Alexander, founders of CDR], and I was like, 'Where is he?' They pointed and said, 'He's over there. 'Where?' 'The guy in the glasses. There! He's there right in front of you, the guy in the glasses!' I was looking at him but I wasn't thinking that it was him, because it wasn't the guy that I had in my head. So I went and started speaking to him and he was a pretty crazy character and we got chatting. I was a big fan of his music and he'd been listening to the radio show as well, so then we just sort of developed a friendship from there."
Nut's gig on Rinse FM has been among the most important keys to the success of Eglo. "When I moved to London [from Wolverhampton in late 2003], I'd given up on doing a career based around music, or even the creative industries. I'd worked so hard from the age of 13 onwards expecting to do something in the West Midlands, and it just... try, fail, try, fail, try and fail; stuff just never happening." Having dipped into various music promotion jobs, he eventually decided to concentrate on his own career in music, soon receiving an offer of a trial at the then-pirate after his friend Charles Holgate (AKA MC Nomad) passed on one of his mixes to Geeneus and Sarah Lockhart.
Although his slot was originally slated to be Rinse's hip-hop show, Alex continued with the same freewheeling selection found on the mixes that got him noticed. "I did two series of mixtapes," Nut continues, "One was called Something in the Shape Of, which was primarily hip-hop, grime and dubstep, and then I did one called We Love Radio, which was soul and hip-hop." It was one of the latter mixes that impressed Swedish vocalist Fatima. Nut hooked her up with a CD after witnessing her take to the mic on countless occasions at nights that he was attending.
Three of Eglo's best
Floating Points - Peoples Potential
All of Sam Shepherd's solo releases on Eglo have been nothing less than outstanding, but if it's a subtly euphoric peak-time belter you're after, "Peoples Potential" is the one for you. Rocking a loose and jazzy groove, its bouncy acidic synths and modulated trilling tones make it a thrilling ride.
FunkinEven feat. Fatima - Kleer
Stevie J's first effort for Eglo showcased his love of elastic bass, getting plenty of swing into his loping take on electronic boogie. Fatima, meanwhile, rides the beat perfectly with her delicately multi-tracked vocal, accentuating the rhythm and shifting keys with almost nonchalant ease.
Shuanise - Catch
Dallas-born, London-raised, Nigerian roots: Shuanise Odunaiya isn't your regular female hip-hop artist. This track with Cologne-based beatsmith Hubert Daviz is a great example of her twisted soul, working up a dusky, spaced-out vibe before dropping in an ultra-deep bassline that'll get heads nodding as soon as it jolts into action.
Her forthcoming three-track 12-inch featuring Shepherd drops later this year. "She's turned into one of my best friends," says the producer. "We're all really close [at Eglo]. I've been working with Fatima since day one, but given that she's a friend, we'll turn up to the house and we'll just end up making cakes and eating pasta rather than making any music, or if we do, it's always something stupid...[a song] about pineapples and mangos," Shepherd laughs. "We've been a bit more serious recently, working on the EP together. I've been getting all this stuff like tape machines...There's a certain sound that I want to aim for with it."
London-based singer Shuanise is the less celebrated of Eglo's female contingent thus far, but you get the sense it's only a matter of time. Her soulful hip-hop stylings add plenty of vocal hooks to her heavily blunted backing tracks. "She really struck a chord with me," explains Nut, "being from a kind of hip-hop background, but being (at the time) quite different from the hip-hop scene in general, because it was getting quite stagnant. I'm not saying that there weren't people doing it, but what labels were putting out, and what nights were going on, they weren't very inspiring or interesting. Shuanise is just super hard working and, for me, at least, she doesn't really think of music like 'I wanna make this kind of record so it'll sell.' She's just makes really deep, soulful, spiritual stuff."
Once labels reach a certain level of popularity, there will always be the temptation to bring in bigger and more established names simply because it's possible, but Nut makes it clear that he sees Eglo as a platform for the undiscovered and the underappreciated. "I like it when music is kind of untouched. If there's another label putting their records out, I'm kind of like 'that's cool,' but Eglo is a fully fledged label. I don't want to compare it to anyone else, but Motown would discover people, take them through the development as artists and really put their all into working it; not just putting out the odd record here or there."
So what have Eglo got up their proverbial sleeves next? "The newest thing is this guy ARP101, who's another new producer. He's from overseas, but he's a London-based producer. At the moment, it's of more of a hip-hop kind of ilk, a lot of synths, drum machines... It's instrumental, but the level of musicality is not loops as basic kinds of things. It's not hip-hop in the way that it's meant for someone to rap over, but it's head nod music... I just love it! The first thing we're putting out is real synthy kind of stuff. Quite hardware. And then FunkinEven, man. He's great because he's got music which is already there, it's all ready to go."
From speaking to all of the Eglo artists, it quickly becomes apparent how close-knit they are both as friends and labelmates, playing off each other's respective strengths and influences to put a fresh spin on modern, soulful dance music. "We're doing this for ourselves, and it's about something. It's about heart and soul, and hard work," Nut stresses. "I wouldn't put out someone's music if I thought they were a prick. I'd happily buy music, and I'll play music by people who are pricks, but I'm not willing to work with any. So unless your worldly view is positive and something we kind of agree on... It sounds cheesy, but we're about putting love back into our community."
When Alex talks about putting the love back in and developing Eglo artists, it isn't an empty promise. He's negotiated an album deal for Shepherd's Floating Points Ensemble project with Ninja Tune. It wasn't a decision that was made lightly, though: "We're quite adamant when labels approach us...that when you look at the accounts and the statistics, you're better off doing it yourself," states Nut. "You either pay 50%, or you put it out through someone else and you hardly see anything. Unless there's something to really get out of it, like a label funding us and putting us in Abbey Road at our request, we'll just do it ourselves."
That's exactly what's happened with Ninja Tune, with Shepherd, Fatima and the rest of the ensemble heading into the historic EMI-owned recording studio for their first sessions last month. "We recorded a track there, and it took all day because they're big pieces and I'm quite picky," comments Shepherd. "We agonise over where the microphones are. We like to experiment. At the end of the day, you're capturing a recording of something that's quite special. You really want it to be exactly how you want, and you just play around. A lot of the ideas that I have for the engineer, I'm talking to the engineer and it's like 'I want it to be really sort of ethereal, but I want the drums to be really punchy.' Complete polar opposite ideas of what I want. What I'm trying to say is that I want paradoxically impossible things to happen." With all they've accomplished in such a short space of time, it's easy to think that these impossibilities of sound aren't quite so unfeasible after all.
Download: RA Label of the Month 1007 Mix: Eglo (right click + save target as)
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