Diskotopia got started in 2011, with no fixed agenda on the types of music they'd release. Lyne and Durr have put out 27 records so far, with a range that starts at dreamy downtempo, goes up to full-blown grime assaults, and has a vast range of styles in between. On paper there's not a lot to connect their releases aside from, say, a soft focus on servicing a dance floor. But in becoming a fan of label, I've been struck by just how much of an aesthetic through-line there actually is.
If you're new to the label, I'd recommend getting started with BD1982 and Myakkah, Durr's production aliases. He's amassed a quietly brilliant catalogue on Diskotopia. Durr told me that he's particularly proud of the Warehouse Soul EP, a collection of heavy-bottomed house tracks he did as Myakkah. My personal favourite is BD1982's Casings, a seven-track EP that's overflowing with ideas. Durr has a knack for making tracks sound like several things at once: "Cassava," the EP's standout, could be house, grime or IDM depending on how you're feeling at the time.
The next natural stop is Lyne's music as A Taut Line and Greeen Linez, a project alongside his friend Chris Greenberg, who he's been making music with since the age of 11. The Greeen Linez stuff is as chilled as things get on Diskotopia. On The Calm LP, which came out this week, there are blissful, sub-100 BPM Balearic tracks along with equally humid house cuts. A Taut Line is usually nastier and more for the club. Mutual Prints, Lyne's second album under the name, which came out in April, is endlessly inventive. Its 12 tracks are tonally similar, but things like tempo, rhythms and instrumentation shift drastically across the album.
Lyne and Durr told me that jungle is a key commonality in their tastes. "Labels like Reinforced, Metalheadz, Virus and 31 Recordings soundtracked a huge part of my teenage years," Durr said. Neither A Taut Line nor BD1982 work at jungle's breakneck tempo, but they share the genre's sense of dread and a yin-yang balance of light and shade. Lyne and Durr bonded over a love for the genre when they met in Tokyo in 2009 and decided to start a label together. Lyne, who's from the UK, had recently moved to the city from Osaka, where he was teaching English; Durr, who is from the US, had spent time in Kyoto and New York before ending up there. "We met at some event we were both booked to play," says Lyne. "We just got chatting and started doing some other events together, and it went from there."
The name Diskotopia is taken from an event series Lyne began in Osaka in 2005. Disco and funk formed the core of the parties, but they were usually tossed in a blender with techno, house, jungle and experimental. "We didn't want to be under one genre," says Lyne. "Which I think actually—I don't regret it, but it alienated us a little bit because people didn't know how to view the event. Especially in Japan, things like to be pigeonholed, and we were falling in the cracks between all of those pigeonholes. And also not being Japanese meant that we were not part of the Japanese scene; we were always going to be slightly outside of that."
Lyne spoke about Japan being a "place of contradictions," a view I heard a few times during my trip. An example he used was that as a foreigner, people were extremely friendly and welcoming towards him and other expats—"but at the same time you can never truly become Japanese and become part of the system. You'll always have people asking, still people asking me now, 'Can you use chopsticks?' 'When are you going back to England?'"
In running his events in Osaka, and later in Tokyo, Lyne also observed a subtle but crucial difference in Japanese nightlife. "Young people aren't interested in going out to clubs in the same way they are in Europe," he said. "In the UK for example, that's what you do. You go to the pub and then because of the old licensing laws, when they shut at 11 PM, you then go to a club on a Friday night or something like that, whether they're playing good music or cheesy Britney Spears. Here that culture isn't set in place because there is a 24-hour culture anyway. There's karaoke that goes on all night; there are bars that stay open until 5 AM; there's izakayas, where you eat and drink. There have always been alternatives to going to clubs here, and young people tend to take those alternatives."
Durr and Lyne agreed that living in Japan has influenced what they do as a label, although they viewed it in different ways. "In a literal sense, I'd say that our surroundings can inform a bit on the artwork side of things, but not necessarily all the time," said Durr. "There are still some incredible retro/future kind of hidden settings to be found around the country, which can be always inspiring."
"I think one of the positive things about Japan is that they often take strange cultures and they sort of juxtapose them out of context of the rest of the world," said Lyne. "And I think that affects you. You look at it and you go, 'That's mental, that's crazy, you can't do that.' You can't, for example, say your two favourite bands are Oasis and Blue, the boy band. If anyone in the UK said that you'd be like, 'What the hell?' And that kind of feeling, it does make you think, 'Well why can't I do these things? Why can't I take two things out of context and put them together?'"
There's some of this spirit in the way Diskotopia releases music. Before the interview with Lyne, I'd assumed that, through releases from Slackk, Visionist and Rabit, the label was trying to become a sort of Eastern outpost for the new wave of instrumental grime that had been bubbling in London and other places these last few years. But he told me that he and Durr simply jumped on the music because they liked its weirdness, and they'd organically made connections with the artists.
Conversely, Lyne said that out of everything they've released, the first Greeen Linez album, Things That Fade, gained the most attention locally: Lyne and Greenberg channelled '80s Japanese bubble-era pop music, which struck a chord. "It was very kind of nostalgic for Japanese people, and so it was something that they really homed in on," he said. "You know, relatively young foreign guys are making music that's sampling 1980s Japanese idol music, and then sort of running with it. They were quite excited about that initially I think, so that definitely got us more known."
Fujimoto Tetsuro, one of a couple Japanese artists on the Diskotopia roster, released an EP called Sketches Of The Other Tokyo in 2013 that reminded me of Machinedrum's blissful uptempo tracks but with an injection of '90s R&B. This year there was the excellent Frank Pile from Silvestre, a Portuguese producer who lives in London and makes dank and dusky house tracks, and CCCP, an EP from the multifaceted Russian artist Computer Graphics, AKA Pixelord, that was inspired "Soviet social and science films, animations and cassette tapes from an era long gone."
In the same way imprints like PAN or Numbers—to use two wildly different examples—release a broad range of music that makes sense in the context of the label, Diskotopia has created a platform where disparate tracks come to feel part of a broader whole. As the only constant in these cases is the people curating the label's releases, maybe the "thread" we hear—and struggle to articulate—is simply the manifestation of taste. In the early evening buzz of the bar in Tokyo, Lyne had another go at describing what this might mean in the world of Diskotopia: "I think often it's something that sounds quite forward-looking but at the same time has some connection to the past. If it sounds a bit weird, it sounds a bit fresh, it sounds a bit new but there is some sort of anchor point where you can kinda go, 'Ahh that kinda reminds me of that classic jungle tune,' or, "That kinda reminds me of that old house tune,' you know?"
Matt Lyne steps out as A Taut Line to showcase the many moods of Diskotopia.
Filesize: 150.3 MB
Greeen Linez - Australasia
A Taut Line - Returnee
A Taut Line - Dunes
A Taut Line - Stait Foreign Country
BD1982 - Casings
Computer Graphics - Virtual Race
BD1982 - And You Kno
Silvestre - Flash Fashion Design
BD1982 - Obeah Mirror
Myakkah - Eyes Up
BD1982 - Spatial
A Taut Line - Shimoda No Odoriko
Computer Graphics - Downloading
BD1982 - Writuals
Mau'lin - Octopus Arm
Serifu - Said Situation
A Taut Line - In This Heat (Fotomachine Remix)
Slackk - Act Nine
Mau'lin - Function Open (Am Rhein Remix)
Mau'lin - Starbeast
Fujimoto Tetsuro - In The Soil
Visionist - Survive
Rabit - Sunshowers
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