Label Spotlight: Mikroton

Mikroton is going into its second decade of publishing incredible compositions, electronic and improvised sounds. Founded and run by sound artist, graphic designer and curator Kurt Liedwart his vision seems both diverse and seemingly singular. When asked how he founded the Moscow-based label, like many other artists and self-starters he noted: “The main thing is that I founded the label to release my own music. Music production came later and it proved that I’m good at it as well as I’m good in music making. Putting it modestly. Now I changed some ideas and approach to different musical phenomena like ideas and practices.” I concur that he’s achieved that and a whole lot more.

One recent release on the label that I must point out, for sheer exhaustive, collective power and sonic impact is Formanex: 20 Years of Experimental Music. This ten-disc set is sumptiously pieced together, compact and monochromatic in design, and an amazing accomplishment that includes many of the luminaries who have appeared on the label. The focus is on experimental work in the field of contemporary composition, and improvisation. Most of the participants are, by far, some of the most accomplished and recognized sound artists of our time.

If you enjoy our first volume here, you can expect an additional hour of retrospective sounds from Mikroton via Vol. 2 to air, tomorrow (see entire tracklist below) – so remember to come back for much more!

A LIL’ HISTORY: Since 2008 Mikroton Recordings, founded and curated by Kurt Liedwart. This is what he shared about the imprint, its history and direction. I highly recommend you to explore his extensive series, most definitely a labor of love, and then some.

“The history of Mikroton and my own musical history have a lot of similarities because I founded the label to release my own albums. My first musical recordings date back to 1995 when I was making electroacoustic ambient and minimal techno. Then there was quite a long time of studio work till 2000s when I was working on the new material and shifted to more experimental approaches. In 2002 I started recording my first tracks and started thinking about publishing my works.

Mikroton was born in 2005 as a concept and it changed quite a lot. I used to be more into pure electronic and electroacoustic music then and basically was thinking about developing further the music, or sounds like I prefer to call it, which was called clicks’n’cuts, microtechno, microhouse, minimal glitch and ambient. Around that time I became interested in free improvisation and free jazz, listening to hundreds of albums and during that time I realized that this music in its pure form isn’t my thing at all. But I learned the main things from improvising musicians like attentive listening to partners, the ways to work with sound materials and ways how to work with music and sound in concert situations, how to build them and arrange for a proper musical result in a live context.

In parallel to improvisation with acoustic instruments, or what I call traditional improv, there was a line of improvisation with electronic instruments and computers. That was a much more important musical practice for me and influenced quite a lot. I mean such people like Günter Müller, Norber Möslang, Peter Rehberg, Jason Kahn, Florian Hecker, Marcus Schmickler, Thomas Lehn, Keith Rowe and some others. I think that the turn of the centuries was an important moment in music history when live electronic music gained its impetus and developed a lot of interesting sounds. Taylor Deupree, Ralph Steinbrüchel, Richard Chartier, Frank Bretschneider and others improvising with their computers? Yes, no problem at all! Now their approaches changed a lot, they stuck to their defining sounds and prefer to reproduce them rather than improvising with them. But I believe they improvise a lot with their sound(s) in their studios like I do almost daily for 25 years.

The first schedule of albums differed a lot from the final confirmed schedule of albums of artists I invited to the label. First I wanted to release a series of albums of my music but then I decided to invite artists I was interested in. Basically it meant commissioning them to record an album or to supply me with an album that was recorded but had no chance to be released. No demos, that was the main rule and remains till now. But I released one demo and that was a mistake. Other artists who send me stuff till now were other invited long before or they were the artists who I wanted to get in touch with to invite them but they were the first who wrote to me. This coincidence happens quite often.

Inherent to the way the label is structured is a conversation between artists working at the forefront of their field, with an emphasis on their diverse practices, backgrounds, locations and social conditions. The label released two seminal compilation recordings for Austrian electroacoustic, experimental and improv group of artists and Berlin Echtzeitmusik scene. Mikroton attempts to tap into and reflect the multinational and innovative nature of unique music scenes in Vienna, Berlin, Switzerland, Tokyo, Nantes, Oslo, Seoul, nurturing and connecting these experiments to a wider international scene through releasing high quality, thoughtfully-designed physical editions of recordings, and organizing musical showcases in different cities around the world.”

Kurt Liedwart, Winter 2020

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