Benbecula Records - Our friends electric
Decent tunes over a fast buck have always been the preference of credible indie labels and Benbecula are no different. Doug Johnstone samples their wares
The Scottish electronica scene is probably healthier now than it’s ever been, and that’s down in no small part to Benbecula Records. Formed eight years ago by artists Beluga and Phase 6, and currently run on a day-to-day basis by general manager Steven McConnell, the Edinburgh-based independent label has been a focal point for some of the finest electronica this country has to offer, as well as putting out plenty of intriguing music from various other genres and countries.
‘A collective of like-minded individuals got together in 1999 to start a label that would hopefully be the first of it’s kind in Scotland,’ says McConnell. ‘We didn’t see much forward thinking around, we only really wanted to do something that sounded modern and made one re-assess what they thought was good music.’
Benbecula can perhaps be thought of as a more compact version of Warp, and their impressive roster is centred on the kind of leftfield, downbeat folktronica and ambient that fellow Scots Boards of Canada produce par excellence. But the label has enough character and quality to its output to have carved out a handy niche for itself, and McConnell, quite rightly, shies away from such pat comparisons.
‘We are not interested in genres, cliques or releasing music by people who are already famous,’ he says. ‘We prefer building people from next to nothing. We are not interested in making a fast buck from an established star, although a fast buck would be nice.’
Benbecula are one of a clutch of small independent labels currently thriving across the genres in Scotland. Alongside the likes of Chemikal Underground, KFM, Fence and SL, Benbecula are a fine example of how dedication to new music and breaking new ground are the cornerstones of what music labels should be about, although McConnell sees this democratisation of music as just the start.
‘The label entity is a bit of a rough term these days anyway,’ he says. ‘I see it evolving, or maybe devolving, into a free, community-based project. Artists don’t need labels as much as they used to, the internet has sorted that out, which I think is great.’
Since their birth in 1999, Benbecula have cast their net far and wide to find the music that excites them. Among the Scottish contingent, which makes up about half of their roster, there’s the jazzy folktronica of Reverbaphon, the alternative folk of Wounded Knee, the indie guitar rock of Genaro and the enigmatic electronica of Christ. All four of these acts can be seen alongside three others at a forthcoming label showcase, a night which might hopefully go some way to increasing the label’s profile and cheering up the man who runs it, who doesn’t see much in the way of inspiration round about him.
‘I look around at what other labels are doing, both underground and pop, and I am convinced that folk will look back on this era as a dark and uninspiring one, much like how people now view the 70s before punk,’ says McConnell. ‘It really is pretty terrible stuff. Hopefully Benbecula will stand out as a little jewel in amongst the shit when people look back at the 2000s.’
Benbecula Records showcase, Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, Fri 30 Nov.