By Brad Knutson
During his twelve-year stint at Chicago’s Kranky Records, co-founder Bruce Adams saw his micro label of avant-indie and outsider sounds blossom into one of the most critically revered independent record labels in the country. Starting with Labradford’s “Parszision LP” back in 1993, Kranky went on to quietly release some of the most essential underground albums of the past decade, like Godspeed You Black Emperor’s “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven,” Low’s “Things We’ve Lost in the Fire” and “The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid” from Stars of the Lid.
In 2005, however, Adams decided it was time for a change, so he sold his half of the label and joined forces with his wife to found Flingco.com, a new online art and merchandising venture. Now, after some much needed time off from the daily grind of running a small label, Adams is back in the game with Flingco Sound System (FSS), a new label that has a similar underground music aesthetic as Kranky, but with a decidedly new millennial twist.
“I did miss a lot of things and didn’t miss many more things,” Adams says about his time away from the music biz. “Every three weeks or so my wife Annie would tell me that it was okay with her if I started a label and I would tell her that I was thinking about it. Then one day I told her what I had come up with.”
What Adams came up with was a new concept combining the nostalgic spirit of record collecting with the realities of today’s increasingly download-centric buying culture.
Flingcosound.com will sell album downloads and not single tracks,” Adams says. “FSS albums will be available through other digital vendors so, if someone wants to, they can buy individual tracks there. But I think FSS artists’ music works best when you listen to a collection of tracks sequenced together as a coherent album.” For the diehard analog purists, FSS will also be releasing select titles on vinyl, with pressings limited to 500 copies each. However, all records will include a coupon that allows buyers to download the digital version for free.
Even more interesting is the label’s optional subscription-based system where fans can pay a flat fee to receive every FSS release for a year. Additionally, members will get first access to albums prior to their release and other perks like exclusive downloads and bonus FSS swag.
“You can look back to the Sub Pop Singles Club. Labels like Vinyl on Demand and Three Lobed are doing it now. There’s a great digital label in Scotland called 7Things that really inspired me with their working methods. It’s a great way to build a direct connection with listeners.” Adams adds, “People can already subscribe to eMusic to get music digitally, why shouldn’t labels provide a similar service? Independent labels can and should experiment while the music business is in such a state of flux.”
Of course, Adams realizes that the subscription-based system is not a fail-proof plan. Like putting together a great album, he’s going to have to first attract attention with some knockout hits right off the bat and, most importantly, keep things interesting throughout the duration to keep people coming back.
“The challenge for FSS is to maintain aesthetic standards, surprise people with the range of music offered and limit the catalog so that subscribers get good music in a timely manner. Other labels [like Sub Pop trying to put out twelve new singles by twelve bands in a year] had trouble coordinating release schedules and stopped subscription series. I’m going to limit FSS to a more manageable schedule.”
FSS officially opens for business in early 2008, but to introduce his new baby to the world, Adams is throwing a label showcase party at Empty Bottle Thursday night featuring ambient soundscapes courtesy of Cristal, experimental black metal from Wrnlrd and “variegated droneworks” from local artist Haptic. “In a typical twenty-first-century manner, I read about Wrnlrd on a blog,” Adams says about finding the first batch of artists for the new label. “I know Bobby Donne and Greg Darden [of Cristal] from my Kranky days…and Steven Hess lured me into the Hopleaf one night and after a few beers he gave me a Haptic recording.”
Adams has not given a specific date yet, but once the doors are officially open at Flingcosound.com, “Oneiromantical War” from Wrnlrd will be the first record and digital album slated for release. A digital reissue of a 1987 album from obscure Dutch metal band Gore will follow in the spring and a new Cristal album is slated for a summer release.
The FSS showcase, with Haptic, Wrnlrd and Cristal, is December 13 at Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, at 9pm. $8.