Holly Dicker explains how this small DIY operation based in Copenhagen became a globally respected experimental label.
Stadsgaard and Rahbek started the label eight years ago. They run things day-to-day and are the key decision-makers, but they are not the "puppeteers" of Posh (an abbreviation the group all use when talking about the label). It's a collective operation, they insist, with no hierarchies and very few rules. The most prominent proviso is friendship: no one has ever been "signed" to Posh, every release has transpired from a personal connection or creative intuition. Ultimately, Posh meet people they like and provide them with a platform to showcase their art in whatever form it may take.
All of the group I met in Berlin shy away from genres. "They're impractical," says Rahbek. He uses the term noise reservedly, for "practical" purposes, even though it fails to properly cover much of Posh's output. "We never wanted to be a noise label," he continues. Stadsgaard prefers "electronic music," in the widest possible sense. "I always say 'electronic music,' or 'electronic dance music' if it's danceable," says Rönnberg. To compartmentalise the label's sound misses the point.
Noise did, however, bring Rahbek and Stadsgaard together. They met at a concert Stadsgaard was promoting at a small art space in Copenhagen. Rahbek was only 15 or 16 at the time. Stadsgaard, 14 years his senior, was already deeply involved in the city's small scene and writing music under the alias Sarah's Charity. While still at school, and with no musical experience or training, Rahbek started the band Womanhead with his classmate Alexander Fnug. Their shows were improvised and "very messy," with Fnug on guitar and Rahbek on vocals. Several years later they added Bo Høyer on bass and Anton Rothstein on drums and became Pruneface/Sexdrome, a snarling punk group with black metal swells. Fnug, Høyer and Rothstein would all become Posh artists, too.
The 12-inch that launched the label, Songs For Loviatar, didn't sound like Rahbek's messy punk or Stadsgaard's noise experiments. Their collaboration, Damien Dubrovnik, was born over an "ecstatic few weeks" in the studio one summer. Releasing music wasn't their original goal—Rahbek wanted to get some production tips from Stadsgaard, but after a few hours the project had developed "a language of its own," Rahbek says. The record was paid out of both of their pockets. Rahbek, still a teenager, borrowed the money from his father. "I actually never paid him back," he laughs.
Posh was very hands-on and DIY in the beginning—and still is in many respects today. Rahbek and Stadsgaard dubbed tapes themselves from a friend who had the equipment. "He got so annoyed with us that he ended up giving us the dubbing machine," remembers Rahbek. The artwork was xeroxed and folded themselves or by friends, who'd drop by the Posh office on Blågardsgade in Norrebro, which they moved into in 2011. Before that, Posh was based out of Rahbek and Stadsgaard's apartments.
The office also doubled as a shop, which opened for just four hours every Friday. "We were a terrible shop," says Stadsgaard. But selling records wasn't the drive. "It was like a hangout club," says Rahbek.
"It was always about music," Stadsgaard says. "Even if we were talking about something completely different, the framework was music. That made it special."
"So many important meetings for me happened there," Rönnberg says. Hoffmeier chips in: "It was a place where you talk about something you had done, without having any attachments, just a conversation."
Posh got their art into the world with a sense of urgency. In the first year they released 13 cassettes, including a reissue of Prunceface's demo, three 12-inches and a 7-inch by Sexdrome. They were all released in limited runs, sometimes with as few as 45 copies. Back then Posh tapes were traded through the noise network Stadsgaard was involved in, or sold at shows. A small but fiercely dedicated fan base started to form—"hungry wolves," as Rönnberg describes them.
Browsing Posh's early roster, you'll come across many different names. But peek behind the monikers and you'll realise it was just a handful of people: Stadsgaard and Rahbek, and a third member, Klaus H. Hansen, who was heavily involved in Posh at the start. There was also lots of collaboration going on. The three of them were in Limepit together, a tour de force of drones and power electronics. Stadsgaard, Rahbek and Hoffmeier made a record together as Severe Photography.
"In the beginning at least, it felt important to make it look a lot bigger than it was," Rahbek says. It wasn't only about projecting the illusion of a scene. "It was like trying to get all your friends to do something, to create a community where everyone could feel like if they had something to contribute, then they could."
It worked. "If you tell a lie for long enough it becomes true," Rahbek says with a glint in his eye. "But it was never lying because everybody else was doing the same in New York or in Los Angeles," Stadsgaard says.
Hoffmeier, AKA Puce Mary, was living in Amsterdam when Posh was getting started. She was making music and sending Rahbek tapes of her recordings. They didn't personally connect until she moved back to Copenhagen a year later. Piss Flowers was her first solo release for Posh, a collection of demonic rumblings, distortion and brutal noise. Lucia came shortly after, a collaboration with Rahbek that was far moodier and more restrained. (There was a tape under the alias Amphetamine Logic in between.) Posh has been integral to Hoffmeier's creative development. "It has been my main platform from the beginning," she tells me. "I only started thinking about making music because of being friends with these people. I was really inspired by what they were all doing."
Mutual respect is the glue that bonds Posh artists together. "Simon is someone you really need to keep your eyes on," Rönnberg says about Simon Formann. Formann is Yen Towers, one of the most danceable acts on the label. He's also in Age Coin with Kristian Emdal, the photographer and visual artist behind a number of Posh sleeves. (The pair of them are also in several bands.) "I can't understand how Simon isn't bigger. I'm so excited for his future in Posh. He's easily my favourite producer right now, even if I know him."
In 2013 Posh staged a two-day showcase in Copenhagen called Dokument #1. The event was held over a grey February weekend at Mayhem, a venue dedicated to extreme and experimental music in the city, and the main public library. It was the music librarian there, Lars Kjelfred, who came up with the idea Dokument #1. Even at this stage, Denmark was in the dark about Posh and "the Mayhem (punk) scene" that had shot up around it. Dokument #1 aimed to rectify that. Every set was recorded that weekend and compiled into the 18-track Dokument #1 LP—Posh's 100th release.
The group's most memorable show, which began in total disaster, took place the following year in LA. 13 Torches For A Burn was supposed to be a two-day festival at The Church On York, a performing arts venue in a former Methodist church. But the promoter didn't have the correct permits. "The fire department came that same day and closed it down. Everyone was in a panic," recalls Hoffmeier. "They had paid for 30 people from Copenhagen to fly to Los Angeles," adds Rahbek. The event was relocated to the club Los Globos and condensed into a 12-hour back-to-back session the following day. "And you couldn't leave the venue. When you came in, you weren't allowed to go out. So people who came to the show were in there from 4 PM till 4 AM," Hoffmeier says. "It was great!" (There's a mini documentary about it on NOWNESS.)
Rönnberg entered the group after they all bonded over Moët champagne—around 25 bottles of it, apparently. Damien Dubrovnik were booked at Norberg festival in Sweden in 2014, and Rönnberg was there with Northern Electronics. Stadsgaard and Rahbek performed in the monumental Mimerlaven, a former iron ore mine, aesthetically similar to Berlin's Kraftwerk, albeit smaller and far more dangerous to navigate. Besides music, Anthony Linell (AKA Abdulla Rashim), Rönnberg and Rahbek all shared graffiti connections. "In many ways it felt like meeting a similar gang from the next big city over," says Rahbek.
The Swedish connection, which began with Utmarken in Gothenburg, ossified from there. That winter Rahbek went to Stockholm for a residency at EMS Elektronmusikstudion, a renowned centre for electroacoustic music and sound art. He and Rönnberg put in some late night sessions in Rönnberg's apartment. They even managed to coax Erik Enocksson, a traditional composer who's scored several films, into the studio. These musical fragments would eventually form The Base Of All Beauty Is The Body, the debut record from "Scandinavian supergroup" Body Sculptures.
Body Sculptures can be traced back to Berlin Atonal festival, where Rönnberg was booked to play a couple of years back. Instead of performing solo, he invited Rahbek, Hoffmeier, Enocksson and Ossian Ohlsson (AKA Vit Fana) to play during his mainstage slot. "I got this idea of curating my own festival lineup," says Rönnberg. "I wanted everyone to do short solo sets instead of me playing at all. And instead we kinda formed a band out of it." They all met as a group for the first time at soundcheck. The experiment paid off.
"I'm rarely happy about particular shows. But this one was really—"
"—magical," cuts in Rahbek.
Posh continue to have a stronghold at Atonal. This year Rönnberg took over the Sunday program under his Nordic Flora guise, a series he shares between Posh and Northern Electronics. Hoffmeier performed a new piece called A Feast Before The Drought, featuring (among other things) the screeching strings of a violin. Stadsgaard and Rahbek, meanwhile, presented their current Damien Dubrovnik album Great Many Arrows, Posh's 200th release. Their show was markedly different to the self-abusing performance art they're best known for. Normally, Rahbek would dunk his head in water and choke down contact mics. This time his voice carried the duo's torment in between gorgeous waves of sound from a harmonium, an instrument of precious and personal value to Rahbek. It was one of the standout performances of the weekend.
In eight years Posh has naturally expanded, and yet the group remains as tight-knit as ever. They're all still involved in each other's projects, either playing covertly on a record, like Great Many Arrows, which features additional instrumentation from six other people, to the more spontaneous collaborations like Contour, which involved seven Posh artists. A lot of it has to do with Mayhem, where most of the Posh crew have a studio space. But if the Posh "shop" was the hangout club, Mayhem was—and is—"a place where people go to work," says Hoffmeier.
When Posh began it was about stoking a scene in Copenhagen and encouraging creative people in the city to take part. Now that scene is established, Posh are still dedicated to their friends and fans at home, but their focus has shifted outwards. "It used to be from Copenhagen for Copenhagen," says Rahbek. "And now it's from Copenhagen for the world."
Loke Rahbek presents the sound of Posh Isolation, including a handful of unreleased tracks.
Unreleased upcoming Posh Isolation
Khalil - Submit So Deep (The Water We Drink LP 2017)
Unreleased Excerpt upcoming Posh Isolation
Unreleased upcoming Posh Isolation
Unreleased upcoming Posh Isolation
Age Coin - Domestic (Performance LP 2017)
Age Coin - Raptor (Performance LP 2017)
Varg - Salem l (Nordic Flora Pt. 2, En Ros Röd Som Blod 3 x CS 2016)
Croatian Amor - Breathe Into Me (Finding People 12” 2017)
WhiteArmour x Croatian Amor - Finding People (Digital single 2017)
Khalil - Gigds (The Water We Drink LP 2017)
Erik Enocksson - The State The Sea Left Me In (Farväl Falkenberg LP 2017)
Vanity Productions - Blue Eyes Reflection (Only the Grains of Love Remain LP 2017)
Brynje x Croatian Amor - Värmland (Love Means Taking Action remixes LP 2017)
Damien Dubrovnik - Arrow 5 (Great Many Arrows LP 2017)
Unreleased upcoming Posh Isolation