This Dutch label specialises in strange dance floor sounds. Holly Dicker meets the crew behind it.
Maks is originally from Breda in the south of Holland. He's been living in Nijmegen for eight years, but he didn't move there for the music scene. He knew no one when he arrived, although it didn't take him long to find his kind of people. A few of them showed up when I met with Maks earlier this month. There was Darko Esser, who, aside from DJing and running his Wolfskuil and Balans labels, has been presiding over Doornroosje's electronic music program for the last 15 years. Doornroosje is the town's best-known cultural institution, a venue that's been going since the '70s, and where many big bands have performed. It's also the home of Planet Rose, Holland's longest-running club night, where Maks worked as a sound technician between 2009 and 2015.
Camiel Masselink was also with us. He put together the Shipwrec mix for this feature, and has a track coming out on the label's new subsidiary, Galatea, which will launch in the autumn. It'll be managed by Alex Jansen, who's also here. Jansen was part of the Nijmegen-based ARC# group who debuted on Shipwrec's main sub-label, Deep Sound Channel, in 2013. He also used to help Maks run the Shipwrec record store when it was based out of Waaghals, a music shop that has been trading since the '80s.
It made sense to make Waaghals our rendezvous point. Maks was running late, so I made a beeline for the shop's electronic section on the third floor. It was pretty small compared to how much floor space was occupied with CDs, as well as rock, metal and other vintage vinyl releases. Maks didn't have the record store for very long, about two years in total. Was that due to a lack of demand for current dance music vinyl in Nijmegen? "It was just not possible to make a living having the shop," he said. "And it takes too much time. It takes up all your time. I was also working in Doornroosje once or twice a month. And having kids. And building decors and interiors, being a carpenter." This was all on top of running the label, plus the odd film job or DJ gig under the name HerrFer.
Shipwrec was born out of Maks' desire to release "quality electronic music" on vinyl, especially the "weirder kinds of electro" he was into. Dutch veteran Maarten Van Der Vleuten set things in motion with an IDM-electro inversion of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," together with two cuts of analogue fare—one pitch black and gravelly, the other more in keeping with his former Apollo and R&S affiliations. Then came a set of squidgy bass abstractions from Funckarma, another revered leftfield act from Holland, which sounded like Rephlex had stumbled across a DMZ night—in other words, a bit mental. Bubbly glitch and lurching broken beat weirdness from "sound sculptor" and artist Julien Mier followed. It set the tone for the broad range of music the label would continue to back, before settling into the more comfortable (but nonetheless maverick) electro, techno and acid rhythm it's known for these days.
In its second year, Shipwrec tapped EPs from new talents like Individualism, Inofaith, Ard Bit and AstroPoser, mostly because of Maks' involvement with Planet Rose. To mark its 10th release, however, only old-school electro royalty would do. Cosmic Awakening from Ed "DMX Krew" Upton marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship between him and the label; Maks would call on him again to record Shipwrec's first album release. Shape Shifting Shaman saw Upton up to his psychedelic disco tricks as DMX Krew, and it was decidedly tongue-in-cheek. There have been more serious albums since, from Ai's Plant43, 214 (a producer from Seattle) and The Exaltics of Bunker Records, which have taken Shipwrec's electro blueprint in a variety of directions.
Having amassed a solid catalogue by 2013, Maks set up Deep Sound Channel to put out more purist forms of techno. In 2016 it has reached its tenth release with a spooling, pensive cut from local artist Tom Liem. Liem was part of the label's inauguration troupe, ARC#, together with Alex Jansen, Steven Siwalett and two members of ESHU, Ivano Tetelepta and Roger Gerressen (who's since left). In between there have been EPs from respected techno artists like Milton Bradley, Mike Parker, Dasha Rush, Albert Van Abbe and a misty dub techno album from Conforce as Silent Harbour.
You could say that Deep Sound Channel has provided some stability amid the styles of Shipwrec's more wayward releases. This is also true of Shipwrec's single-sided vinyl mini-series, designed to bring "electro to the club," with an emphasis on functional tracks. So far there's been driving dance floor fodder from Anthony Rother and Delta Funktionen, with another from 214 on the way. These releases are adorned with silk-screened artwork on the un-grooved side. They're a beautiful collector's item and DJ tool in one—a move that feels totally Shipwrec.
As part of my Nijmegen tour, Maks also took me to meet Shipwrec's chief designer, Yorick De Vries, from Another Day. The two met at Paraplufabriek, where Another Day is currently based and where Shipwrec was headquartered for its first three years. Paraplufabriek is an old factory building near the main train station, an ex-squatted property that has since been turned into a co-operative space, owned and managed by its various residents, who range from a tattooist to a wine specialist.
De Vries designed Shipwrec's fun, island-themed logo as well as a dozen or so of the label's early sleeves. He also produced a book at the end of their first year together, a self-initiated project, to act (in part) as a catalogue for his efforts. "I thought Shipwrec was something special," De Vries told me. "I felt we had worked so hard, so I wanted to do something. I wanted to bundle it all together into a sort of history of the start." The book shows just how much time and effort De Vries spends on creating a single Shipwrec cover, from intricate typography experiments and failed ideas, to all the maquettes and bizarre still-life arrangements that make up so much of his portfolio. There were sleeves that pulled out into posters, laser-cut outer casings and some glow-in-the-dark ink—in short, a real design treasure trove. "That's why I love these kinds of assignments—I can really get freaky with stuff," said De Vries.
The artwork has since been shopped out to other designers, like Mehdi Rouchiche, the freehand illustrator best known for his work for Crème Organization, Bunker Records and Motorwolf. He produced the cover of Umwelt's State Of Matter EP from earlier in the year. Some artists have even handled the design of their own covers, including Ekman, Galaxian and Datassette. "It's about getting more and more people involved, while the label and Deep Sound Channel grow, so we can all benefit from it in a way to expose ourselves, our work and the stuff we like," said Maks.
Maks says the label's direction is driven solely by the music he likes. "I get really enthusiastic about really good music. And that's just the thing: it's getting to be a bit of a problem," he joked. "Because maybe too much good music is coming my way now." And he wants to release it all. At the time of writing, Shipwrec has put out six EPs this year, plus another four on Deep Sound Channel—more records than some labels press up in their entire existence. "This year I wanted to double the releases—or do more, because at some stage there is too much music just lying around."
That's partly why there's another sub-label, Galetea, coming out this year, which will focus on house music. Jansen has been preparing its first EP for about two years. It'll be a sampler featuring two Nijmegen artists, Camiel Masselink and two young guys still in college, together with two artists from Istanbul. Unlike Maks, Jansen is in no rush to get a load of Galetea releases out. He'd rather see how this one pans out first. There is also a digital-only extension of the label, which began in April. The idea is to offer a more economical platform for unknown artists to release their music. There are three albums out already.
Meanwhile plans are underway for the next Shipwrec event at Doornroosje. On June 18th Maks will team up with Esser and Planet Rose again for an Acid Special night with The Exaltics, Chris Moss Acid, Ralf Gerritse and Bintus all representing the label. Albert Van Abbe, who released his Ostinati EP on Deep Sound Channel in 2014, will also perform as Datasmok. Local favourites Acid Junkies will play, too. I'm told it's set to be a classic Nijmegen night. But how do electro parties usually fare here? "The electro scene, record-wise, has been stable for a really long time," Esser told me. "But it's hard to promote an electro party for a general audience. We put on Stingray last year, a bit too early as usual. We had around 150 people turn up, who had a great time, but I was counting on more people travelling down to the night." This is why they've chosen to bill the party as an acid night, even though it'll mainly be electro.
It seems like purely electro parties have never attracted much of a crowd. Even when Maks was throwing them back in Breda it was only ever for 100 or 200 people. "There's never been a big scene when it comes to parties for this kind of music," he said. "In The Hague the parties were also very small. I-F mentioned when they do stuff there nobody turns up, for some reason." Nevertheless, there's a definite thirst for it on vinyl, something Shipwrec has capitalised on.
I left Nijmegen eager to return. I was most impressed by the genuine sense of camaraderie between everyone, which Maks, Esser, Masselink and Jansen all said was characteristic of the place. People who want to make it in electronic music here have learned to band together, in spite of their stylistic differences, resulting in a diverse, if understated scene. "I lived in Berlin for a couple of months," Jansen said, "and it was a really nice time, but Nijmegen—it has something that I can't explain. Detroit artists or people from Berlin, they can say, 'Yeah, we have this kind of sound,' but I think Nijmegen has, in a really small form, a feeling, you know?"
From The Valley And The Mountain to Coco Bryce, Camiel presents the sound of Shipwrec.
The Valley And The Mountain – Chasing Magnetic Particles
214 – Mind Racer featuring Kenneth Roman
Composite Profuse – 30 Foot Wave (upcoming)
Quadratschultz – Der Rasende Roland (upcoming)
214 – I See What You Did There (upcoming)
Illektrolab – Dreaming Electric (upcoming)
Coco Bryce – Mononom (Mesak Remix) (upcoming)
Ekman – Sharada
Delta Functionen – A New Planet
Lost Trax – Flatliner
The Exaltics – Gone
Versalife – Shine Eye
Jauzas The Shining – Nothingness (upcoming)
FAH – Come Join Us (upcoming)
Galaxian X Stingray313 – Graphene
The Exaltics – No Way Back
Coco Bryce – Dark Dub (FFF Remix) (upcoming)
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