This devoted, quietly obsessive ethos forms the backbone of Antinote Records, the label Vandewalle launched with his close friend Gwen Jamois in 2012. In the space of four releases, the pair has shown little interest in aligning themselves to one genre, touching on techno, house, kosmische and more experimental fare. Both men are certified vinyl freaks: they each run their own word-of-mouth sidelines in buying and selling rare vinyl. (The cheapest records in Jamois's collection go for around 100 Euros.) "We love collecting records, but there's a feeling of pushing things forward if you go and put out music on your own label," Vandewalle says.
Vandewalle and Jamois also work the odd shift at Vinyl Office, a tiny second-hand shop in Paris, while its owner travels around Europe digging for records. The shop's walls are lined with everything from musique concrète to French psych 45s, 1 euro 7-inches, pop oddities and obscure jazz.
Antinote's origins can be traced to a small wine bar called Le Baron Rouge, tucked away on Rue Théophile Roussel in Paris's 11th arrondissement, a stone's throw from the Vinyl Office. It's there that I met Vandewalle. Inside it's every bit as cosy as you'd expect a Parisian drinking spot to be—dim lighting, dark wooden furniture, bottles stacked to the ceiling and a short, rosy-cheeked proprietor. The clientele is a mix of working-class locals and the odd tourist. Vandewalle has a close association with Le Baron Rouge—the owner is his uncle—and Jamois is one of its best customers.
The pair got talking about Jamois's younger days living in London during the acid house boom, an era in which he dabbled in production and committed dozens of experimental techno tracks to cassette. "It turned out he had all this unreleased material, just sitting on tapes in a bin bag," Vandewalle recalls. He eventually convinced Jamois to bring some of his music to the bar, and "from here, we decided to start a label."
Initial plans to release unheard techno from the '90s (or "techno archaeology" as they call it) were quickly shelved. "We found that, soon after the first release, friends started to get in touch with great music," Vandewalle says. The label launched in 2012 with Tapes, a three-track 12-inch of sludgy techno produced by Jamois as Iueke. Several things about the record were striking: the music itself, which was monolithic in stature; the way it merged seamlessly into the contemporary music landscape despite being produced in 1991; and the wonderfully intricate sleeve design.
The next release was an EP of kaleidoscopic synth manipulations from Syracuse. This was followed by a 12-inch of Afro-analogue house by Albinos. It quickly became clear that it was wise to expect the unexpected. "We listen to quite a lot of music," Vandewalle says. "That's why we did something with Syracuse [after Iueke]—to make sure people knew not to expect one style from us."
As we sat inside, a steady trickle of locals came in to eat, drink coffee or say hi to Jamois. The main topic of conversation was the foul weather, which had rained out the local bi-annual markets around the corner. "It's a great little market, usually I'll set up a stall with some friends and sell records," he says. In came market holders, a local busker and a co-worker at the Vinyl Office. Everyone seemed to know each other. At one stage, a mouse scurried across the floor. "Part of the charm," Jamois smiled.
Our discussion turned to the local area, Aligre, and Le Baron Rouge. "It's like a proper little village and Le Baron Rouge is our HQ. Within about three or four streets here, you have everything you need. You never have to drive anywhere." Vandewalle, who says he would never live anywhere else in Paris, describes it as "Bobo"—part bourgeoisie, part bohemian. Antinote has a similarly tight-knit, community feel, with a roster of artists who are friends or friend-of-friends. Loosely speaking, Vandewalle, the younger of the two at 27, takes care of the day-to-day running of the label; Jamois, 40, works more as a creative advisor. A third person, Nicolas Motte, is responsible for the label's striking visual direction.
I ask Jamois about his Iueke project. The music from Tapes had sat on cassette for the better part of 20 years. "In 1991, I was living in Brixton, working in a reggae studio," he says. "I'd stay there overnight, when the studio was empty, and work on my own music. I was pulling all-nighters, and generally putting together one track per night. I would make something, mix it to cassette and play it on an infinite loop, and fall asleep listening to it. I would have really crazy dreams." The tracks were mixed on-the-fly using just a couple of channels, with Jamois tweaking the EQs as he went. "I was lucky to have the equipment I had—working in a reggae studio meant I had access to lots of crazy compressors and reverb units."
It was in London that Jamois developed his passion for record collecting. "In those days I was very much into the odder side of techno," he recalls. "There was a point where I was buying 100-150 records a week. Luckily, I started selling records, too, otherwise it would have gotten out of control." He was DJing regularly, usually at squat parties in South London. Through this scene he became acquainted with the likes of Mixmaster Morris, Ramjac, Shamen, Luke Vibert and Aphex Twin, who he invited to DJ at a party just after he moved to London. At the age of 25, he moved back to France to study musique concrète, and his early productions were more or less forgotten.
The second Iueke record is a 22-minute techno jam called Alecot, which also dates back to the early '90s. "We were going to edit it down," Jamois says, "but we couldn't do it." Oddly, the same track appears on both sides—"If you are a DJ in a rush, you don't have to choose," Jamois explains.
He has clearly relished the opportunity to release his music, some 20 years after it was made. "Quentin did push me a lot to start going through the cassettes I had, and I'm glad he did." He says the process of going through his bin bag of tapes was tiring work. "The problem with cassettes, I have to be systematic, because when I went to the studio I would rarely master to DAT, it was generally straight to cassette. I would just use the first cassette that was there. Sometimes the track starts 15 minutes into the tape. Or one side starts as a jazz recording and suddenly drops straight into a track. But I'm slowly getting through it all."
"I have found some tapes made by friends of mine, and I've come across some pretty special things," he adds, cryptically. "One or two of those will probably see release a bit further down the line."
Alecot is out this month. After that there will be an EP of classic-leaning house from Geena ("Our first DJ-friendly record," Jamois says), a Parisian producer who recently appeared on W.T. Records. Follow-up records from Syracuse and Albinos are also in the works, as well as a debut record from Motte, their designer. Though it's only four releases deep, Antinote has been generating a healthy amount of interest. "Baka Tribe," from the Albinos EP, was commissioned for Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur's Get Lost VI mix on Crosstown Rebels. Also the cassette bounces for the Iueke records have been performed by local icon I:Cube, who Jamois says is a "big friend" of the label.
Vandewalle describes himself as "very protective" of his roster. He's turned down several producers who are affiliated with "two, three or four" other labels. "I don't want to run a label with well-known artists," he says. "That's very important to me. I mean, there are so many producers that release lots of music on lots of different labels, and that's fine. But, you know… It can kind of kill the magic."
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