What is releasing records other than bringing »light« into the darkness? Music that would otherwise never see the »light« of day is captured on vinyl or cassette and made accessible to people. Above all, labels that specialize in reissues are such capacities of illumination, of enlightenment. So how can there be a better name than Light In The Attic?
The label from Seattle, Washington, founded in 2002, came into being at a time when large companies were suing Napster, when feature pages in the file-sharing networks saw the end of pop music and while countless young people were tapping into an archive that would have been denied to them forever for monetary reasons alone, without pay-to-play and illegal (they always are and always have been, of course) downloads. Just an apparent contradiction, which Matt Sullivan experienced at that time. After his graduation, Sullivan worked for Sub Pop in Seattle. At that time, he had already thought about starting his own label several times and got the necessary tools from this indie giant. He was sent to Spain to join the sublabel Munster Records and was responsible for the re-releases of Spacemen 3 and the Stooges. A momentous step, because this was the necessary and right hanger for an own label: bringing light into the attic of pop music history.
Because as wide and open as the world seemed after Napster, it was so limited. Contrary to popular opinion, not everything was available, in the best case still in miserable quality or as badly made bootleg. Big, important, significant records were missing completely. As important as The Last Poets were for the development of rap and hip-hop, their first two records couldn’t be found: Neither digital nor vinyl. Lost music. A perfect start for the label and so their self-titled debut album and »This Is Madness« were not just released on vinyl, but directly within the necessary framework. 220 grams, photos, lost material, liner notes from Chuck D2 – this is how you honour the greats.
And Light In The Attic took on a pioneering role that should not be underestimated: they consistently relied on the only true medium for such reissues. The vinyl hype was still far away at that time.
And Light In The Attic took on a pioneering role that should not be underestimated: they consistently used the only true medium for such reissues. The vinyl hype was still far away at that time. Today, 18 years later, it looks different. And Matt Sullivan and his partner Josh Wright are directly involved. Because the journey did not end with The Last Poets: they devoted themselves to spoken word legend Saul Williams as well as the soundtrack to the hardcore porn »Deep Throat«; they put the folk singer Karen Dalton and the almost forgotten Betty Davis on the pedestal that had long been waiting for them; the Monks and Kris Kristofferson were brought back into the limelight. One could spend days alone with the enumeration by now – and even then one would only have been able to reproduce a fraction of what the label has achieved.
In 2012, the film »Searching for Sugar Man« was awarded the Oscar for best documentary film. And Light In The Attic provided the reissue of the work of the American singer/songwriter. Those who know the film know what role the music plays there – and the soundtrack played a major role in the success of the film.
But if you look at the label roster, you know that awards are not the focus of the label work. Artists like the folk musician Michael Hurley or the jazz musician Annette Peacock are not released out of hope for money or gold, but because you want to – maybe even have to. Since the increased attention due to the Oscar-winning, there have been some understandable changes. Among other things, in recent years the company has used the opportunities to familiarize the American market with the big world of Japanese pop music. The »Japan Archival Series« and the »Haruomi Hosono Archival Series« brought together important albums and compilations and reminded us of the time when the Yellow Magic Orchestra performed on »Soul Train«. But Light In The Attic will never be limited to one style. In the last few weeks alone, for example, Seattler sound engineer Kearney Barton has released albums, a super-rare psych-folk album by Jim Sullivan recorded in 1969 and a classic of the ambient genre from the 1980s by Hiroshi Yoshimura. There are simply enough records that still want to be carried into the spotlight. In Seattle, they’re staying tuned.