Various 'Speedy Wunderground - Vol.5' LP
It’s safe to say a lot has happened since the release of the last Speedy Wunderground compilation in 2019. The revered label headed up by producer Dan Carey alongside Alexis Smith and Pierre Hall has had numerous professional accolades, personal triumphs and evolved vastly in the last few years at a staggering pace. To note a few of these - Awards: (‘Best Small Label’ at the AIM awards and ‘UK Producer of The Year’ at the Music Producer Guild Awards for Carey). Critical acclaim for Carey across a range of successful releases (Wet Leg, Kae Tempest, Fontaines D.C. to start with) and huge acclaim for the label itself, with The Quietus effusing: ‘The label has become genuinely prestigious. It is not ridiculous to wonder whether one day it will be looked back upon with the same reverence as labels like Factory, Sarah, Zoo or Creation receive today.’ High praise indeed.
As well as the world changing, so has Speedy – it’s constant evolvement a reaction to whatever opportunities arise for it – including their in-lockdown ‘Quarantine Series’ a collection of what began as online experiments as a result of Carey’s studio being closed due to the pandemic and led to over twenty collaborations with artists such as Georgia, RoRo, youngblackmale, Kae Tempest – all commandeered under Carey’s ‘Savage Gary’ alias forming almost a parallel strand of the label, more electronic and hip-hop focussed due to the lack of studio access, with the results no less thrilling.
Then there’s the fact that aside from its legendary single-series – Speedy is now a proper fully-fledged label – having released EP’s and albums from Squid, Tiña, The Lounge Society, Honeyglaze and Stephen Fretwell (Fretwell being their first Top 40) with lots more on the horizon.
For a label that started out with a strict set of rules – it is now, in some strands of its structure, moving outside of its original parameters to continue to put out some of the freshest and most exciting new music in the country. ‘It’s all happening very organically’ says Carey, ‘it feels natural. As always, it is leading us. Not the other way around.’
‘It’s weird’ expands Hall – ‘even though we’ve been going for 10 years’ (they started in 2013), ‘people still constantly refer to us a new label. Which hopefully is testament to the quality and feel of the music we put out’.
Which bring us back to why we are here. The fifth seminal collection of those now very collectable 7” series tracks. First of all – the name. The previous four going under the Year 1/2/3/4 guise – this is ‘Vol. 5’. ‘Well, we had to really’ says Hall – ‘due to boring stuff like vinyl manufacturing and COVID – we fell way behind. It felt strange putting something out and calling it Year 5 – when it’s our 10th anniversary as a label next year. If felt like we were doing ourselves a discredit.’ The two sides of the compilation itself also reflect that passage of time brought along by external factors. With Side A being all the tracks recorded before lockdown, and Side B - all those recorded quite quickly after. ‘Yeah, it’s weird how it happened like that’ says Hall, ‘but it definitely wasn’t intentional. It’s funny how things work out sometimes though. It definitely gives it extra relevance.’
And what a collection it is – probably one their most diverse and eclectic compilations to date. There’s the strut-stomp funk of (the now defunct) Lazarus Kane’s ‘Narcissus’; the psych-haze swirl of Pynch’s ‘Disco Lights’. PVA bring the party with their Patti Smith meets Factory Floor incendiary debut single ‘Divine Intervention’; and The Lounge Society turn things up with their political call-to-arms ‘Generation Game’ (their much-anticipated debut long-player due for release on the label later in the year).
Elsewhere Polish superstar Brodka and Carey’s in-house band Scottibrains distill chaos with ecstasy on ‘Wrong Party’ and moa moa provide a sweetly saccharine respite – layering sunshine pop over reverb-drenched vocals in ‘Coltan Candy’
Finishing things off is the enigmatic Joyeria – with his devastatingly effective deadpan vocals jostling with a krautrock beat and detuned guitars on ‘Here Comes Trouble’ – while it’s left for London’s deep tan to bring their taut, seductive post-punk to the closing ceremony as only they can on the outlandishly titled ‘tamu’s yiffing refuge.’
And what more can be said apart from that? This is a label and producer at the peak of their powers, it’s having a genuine cultural impact and is playing a big part in forming the present and future landscape of UK music as we know it, that much is obvious. As they approach their 10th year all you need to do is look back at some of the names that been involved already - many at the earliest stages of their careers: Squid, Black Country, New Road, Loyle Carner, black midi, Kae Tempest, Sinead O’Brien, Natasha Khan, Steve Mason, Jane Weaver… the list goes on.
Is there anything left for them to achieve? ‘We like the idea of being important to people’ says Hall. ‘To inspire them like those other labels were and are important to us. Carry on the baton. We want to be the next Heavenly, the next Rough Trade, the next Warp. And I think we can. Otherwise - what’s been the point? We just need people to give us a chance. And first and foremost – let the music do the talking.’
We have a feeling it will.
Catalogue number: SWY5LP
Label: Speedy Wunderground