The name is more difficult to forget than to remember: Kalahari Oyster Cult, a label for electronic music founded by Colin Volvert in 2017, wanders between 90s nostalgia and a pastel-colored techno-utopia. Gazing with one eye at the dance floor, trying to exorcise ghosts of the past with the other, the label is a melting pot for past rave days and a place of innovation at the same time. A place where the logic of exploitation is substituted by a DIY ethic which is entirely human because it depends on what people put together on their machines – and not whether things crash into the Beatport charts or not. Having released over 20 records in three years, KOC has developed into an eldorado for renowned and aspiring artists alike. With releases from producers like Roza Terenzi, A Psychic Yes and Liluzu that make you sweat the ecstasy out of your body. And forgotten classics, on which gems like DJ Trance and Brain Pilot splash fresh water again in their face.
The label name stems from a gimmick with words that are put together to form something that has nothing to do with its original meaning. Volvert cut out the umlaut of heavy metal band Blue Öyster Cult, brought in his love for oysters – and pressed the cult as an occult narrative as well as an aesthetic shortage of words into a label name that sticks to your head even after three nights on the run. However, Volvert, who is booked as Rey Colino at parties all over the world, did not intend to enter the record business in the first place. »I just had a master’s degree in communication science in my pocket, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay in the academic field.« A few months before he graduated, he ran into Otto Kraanen, owner of the Amsterdam label and record store Bordello A Parigi. »That was when I knew where to go.« Kraanen offers him a job, Volvert works his way up. From intern to manager who takes care of sales and the eponymous label which releases kitschy Synthwave records alongside Italo Disco Compilations. Volvert cuts his teeth, takes care of artists and the label side, networks in Amsterdam, listens to even more music.
»I simply aim at releasing music that has a sound balance between 90s nostalgia and contemporary sound design, that takes the best of both worlds.« The decision to try something of his own was ultimately a result of the need to put a foot in the club doors of the Amsterdam scene. »I wanted to bring in everything that other labels and promoters, clubs and artists had given me on a silver platter during my time at Bordello A Parigi,« Volvert says – meaning the sort of electronic music that bubbles between monstera bushes in imaginary shopping centers with crunchy loudspeakers, binge-watching three seasons of X-Files and still not losing touch with the pumping sound of the present. »I simply aim at releasing music that has a sound balance between 90s nostalgia and contemporary sound design, that takes the best of both worlds. I don’t limit myself to one genre, even if I choose the music for the dance floor.« That means: looking for gems in the mud, licensing reissues and working with producers who either never have or have not released records for over 20 years.
_»I chose to diversify the offer with new music, reissues and compilations to make sure that the audience is not always to know what to expect,« Volvert says. In addition to his ever expanding Kalahri Oyster Cult, he has introduced the Oyster Tribe series in 2019, on which Volvert focuses to release slower percussion-based music from the past backed up with modern takes by remixers of his choice. Two records have already been released, »the third one is finalized and will go out before summer.« On »Elsewhere«, an infamous compilation installement he curates along with DJ soFa. On top of this, Volvert still finds time to develop a new series called Kalahari Oyster Ballads that will see the light of the day later this year and »focus on the quieter spectrum of electro-powered semantics, from meditative ambient ballads to escapist downtempo jams.«
All of this goes hand in hand with Volvert’s personal musical development. Whether the placid 90s deep house by X-Ray founder Raymond Castoldi fits the post-rave sound of Belgian brothers Stefan and Dimitri Van Elsen is not a question of feeling. It is pure conviction. When young downbeat producers from Down Under fish in the same pond with acid tribal sounds of 90’s producer DJ Trance, Colin Volvert has done everything right. »It is not difficult to draw parallels between the output of Kalahari Oyster Cult and my constant search for new sounds,« the label boss says. The taste changes, it drifts in a dynamic field, it evolves even more. »This is a great advantage for the persistence of a label. After all, it means having more freedom in choosing new music and picking up more people at the same time. But who knows what else I’ll find in the meantime.«