“Electronic music is art, not just entertainment” – Simon Viehoff, Nord Label founder
Nord Label is a small independent electronic music record label, based in Berlin, Germany. The brainchild of Simon Viehoff (aka Lebowski), resident dj and co-founder of the Impulse bass culture project, Nord has been established as a genre-defiant creative platform to cater for experimental music across the spectrum; from ambient electronica and drone to techno and drum & bass, oscillating effortlessly between the abstract and the complex. The idea had been conceived and scrutinized for a couple of years before it eventually materialized in 2014, when Simon was presented with two tracks by old friend and Berlin-based producer Ill_K.
Simon Viehoff reflects on the Nord Label concept
“I wanted to create something that gives musicians a home for their music and at the same time a place where they could experiment. They should feel like this is not only the place where you release a tune or an EP, but more than that. Before starting the label, I’ve been playing as a DJ for a couple of years and met a lot of gifted and inspiring producers and musicians, who seemed to have a hard time getting their music on a label. I mean most of them had already released on different labels before, but when I talked to them it was kinda: ‘I’m really into this thing now and experimenting a lot. It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve done till now in a way…’. Everything you could see was that special emotional connection they had with a certain piece they did. So, I wanted to create something where anyone can come to and say, ‘look at this, it’s really special to me because…’ and then you get talking”.
The Nord project started with limited edition vinyl releases, showcasing the label’s musical direction and aesthetics; to be progressive and not constrained by boundaries and genres. Championing a quality over quantity ethos, supplemented with elegant packaging and stunning photography from Nordic landscapes, rendering each physical product distinct and collectible, Nord expanded its scope launching the digital offshoot NORDIG in 2016; the music policy being similar to the parent label. Featuring like-minded producers from all European corners, the label fosters an innovative habitat, which provides artists with the creative space and freedom to express their musical vision.
Artists and Discography highlights
To the time of writing, Nord Label has published 5 singles/EPs available in vinyl format and a ‘various artists’ compilation on CD, as well as 5 digital only EPs. The exquisite label artwork comes from a photography collection Simon and his brother had taken during their trips to Scandinavia and Iceland. Each cover aims to reflect the music featured on the respective release.
Simon comments on the Nord Label A&R process:
“… kinda random actually :). I started with ILL_K who had been a friend of mine for some years and from there on it created its own dynamic. I remember writing a message to Owl after ILL_K showed me a couple of tunes from him, but I actually never thought he would really want to do something, since Nord just had one release, which wasn’t even released at that time. After that, DYL contacted me and we started talking. And from then on I just had the luck of meeting a lot of amazing (and nice 😉 ) people with whom I connected. It’s still the same basically. If I talk with someone that I feel I can say anything on my mind and the other way around, regardless if it is about something casual or a project you work on, that’s the point where I say: ‘okay let’s get going and see if we can create something that touches and inspires both of us’ …”.
Nord started off in style with Nord#1 by ILL_K, a sample-rich 2-tracker exploring abstract electronica, followed up by the brilliant Expedition EP, featuring Owl, Clearlight, Dyl & Ill_K; the highlight of the EP being ‘Broken Satellite’, with ominous pads over deep sub-bass, creating a feeling of unsettling anxiety.
Owl carried on the expedition with the Northern Light EP, his first solo release on Nord. The Belgian producer beautifully captures the vivid colors and diffused glow of Aurora Borealis and the ancient myths and superstitions regarding lunar phases, combining tribal percussions and eerie melodies.
Nord#4 marked a turning point in Nord’s discography. Apart from the regular Nord artists, contributions from an array of exciting new producers, namely Acid_lab, Ahmad, Taucher, Broken Promise, Chet Matuto, Blanca, Hysee and Dailiv, culminated in the sensational compilation aptly named Fjords. Nine tracks mostly within the 85/170 bpm territory from post-Autonomic to drum & bass, beautifully capture the diverse, glacial nature of the northern terrain; wind chimes on misty mountains, epishelf lake forms, skerries and rock reefs.
Nord#5 is Survey’s debut on Nord, the Berlin duo with releases on Invisible, DSCI4, Translation Recordings and Eternia Music. The Taiga EP is clearly dancefloor-oriented, with Survey’s trademark industrial, tech-edged style. Detailed, gritty textures over a half-tempo rhythm, gloomy and ominous, encapsulate a voyage within the extreme temperature range and density of the boreal forests. The highlight of the EP is ‘Spule’ which also received the remix treatment by the prolific Estonian producer Thing.
Nord#6 is Dyl’s first solo project for Nord and a completely different affair from the previous releases. The cosmic tapestry of the Monoceros EP (Greek word for the unicorn) is a reference to the faint constellation, which lies between Hydra and Orion. However, the theme title is misleading; instead of beautiful, magical patterns and romantic allusions, the atmosphere is unnerving and ferocious. With relentless drones and degraded galactic noise, the EP is the exact opposite of a sci-fi lullaby.
Simon comments on his favourite Nord releases
“It’s hard to pick a favourite, since every release made something click on my head. Every release has at least one tune that makes me go crazy or takes me to another place in my mind. However, there is of course the first release we did, because it was just that. It was such a thrill to work on it with my friend ILL_K and then finally having it in your hand was just amazing. Another special one, if you want to call it like that, was the ‘Fjords’ CD compilation. It’s a whole different thing to work on a project with so many artists and still create such a fluid work. We also put a lot of effort and creativity into the design and packaging of the CD, so that is my second pick. I could also go on and tell you something special about every release but that would negate the whole topic in a way ;)”
Nord Digital was established in early 2016, as the digital arm of the parent label with the same music policy, in order to facilitate the release schedule. Bringing new faces to the growing roster, namely Mark Kloud, Aphtc, Pete Satūrn, Dissident and recently K-Rob, NORDIG musical excursions adhere to the same standards. Mark Kloud’s beautiful ‘Last Light’ and pessimistic ‘Nothing Is True’ meet Aphtc’s mournful ‘Requiem for Caleb‘ meet Pete Saturn’s ‘Voyager mission’ to Saturn and its major satellites, meet Dissident’s quirky ‘Chewing Reflex’ and K-Rob’s ‘Grounders’ exercise on tech-noir.
Full label discography
NRLDLBL001 (7”) – Ill_K – 4real b/w Basso (July, 2014)
NRDLBL002 (12”) – Various Artists – Expedition EP (December, 2014)
NRDLBL003 (7”) – Owl – Northern Light EP (June, 2015)
NRDLBL004 (CD) – Various Artists – Fjords (August, 2015)
NRDLBL005 (12”) – Survey – Taiga EP (March, 2016)
NRDLBL006 (7”) – DYL – Monoceros EP (June, 2016)
NORDFREE001 – Dyl – Nebunie (free download)
NORDFREE002 – Dyl – North Pole (free download)
NORDIG001 – Mark Kloud – Last Light EP (February, 2016)
NORDIG002 – Aphtc – Opaque EP (October, 2016)
NORDIG003 – Pete Saturn – Escape The Orbit OF Saturn EP (October, 2016)
NORDIG004 – Dissident – Dissolution EP (December, 2016)
NORDIG005 – K-Rob – Grounders EP (March 2017)
Nord Club Nights
“The first Nord club night took place in Potsdam, Germany. It was made possible by the “Wer schweben will muss beben” Collective. There is another collaboration night titled ‘Versions’ in June in Bern (big thanks to re:st). Other than that, there aren’t much more nights planned at the moment, but we’re always happy to work together with other labels and promoters to get something going”.
Nord Label artists showcase their favourite tunes and influences on the brilliantly curated Nordcast series. All episodes are available at the label’s soundcloud page.
The label’s official website is temporarily down for maintenance and a new facelift, so make sure you come back soon for all things Nord.