Music Portrait | posted 11.03.2021
Important Records
Deep Listening Forever!
Whehter it’s Pauline Oliveros, Éliane Radigue, Alina Kalancea or Caterina Barbieri: For 20 years now, Important Records has been like a well-stocked record shop for exciting sounds and music that needs to be heard intensely.
Text Kristoffer Cornils
Rubriken_sticker_detail_06

You can find all available Important Records vinyl records in the HHV Records webshop.


At the end of the 1990s, John Brien Jr. was finishing his teaching degree when a record shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hired him as a buyer for the indie section. »I wasn’t qualified for the job and I’m not sure if I was ever very good at it,« he says today. »But when I left the store in 2001 I kept buying from the same distributors and selling online via eBay and the first Important Records website.« That was the name of his mail order business, which quickly became a record label. The first catalogue number was a 7inch by outsider folk legend Daniel Johnston, to whom Brien had written a letter. »I was astonished when one day my phone rang and it was Dan’s dad,« he says. »It was a dream come true.«

The second catalogue number, however, is already a stark contrast to Johnston’s catchy, albeit quirky, folk-rock tunes: »Amlux« is an album by Japanese harsh-noise legend Merzbow. A confusing prelude, as Brien also admits. But also part of the (non-)concept of the early Important days: »My approach in the earliest days of the label was to curate it like a good record shop – with interesting, unique records in every section. I was anti-branding/anti-advertising so I didn’t want to create a brand. What I wanted was to release records and create a label that couldn’t be categorised.« Thus, the goth-pop of the Dresden Dolls more or less peacefully rubbed shoulders with the psych-rock of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO and releases by Andrew McKenzie’s project Hafler Trio. The artwork and design is until today done by Brien himself and the releases on vinyl, CD and cassette, but sometimes also on rare formats, are always adapted to the demands of the music they contain or, as in the case of the tape sub-label Cassauna, sometimes used to release unusual sounds without great financial risk.

These, however, are without question at the centre of Important Records. Over the years though Brien has noticeably abandoned the label’s early links to the pop and rock realm. He refers to his own listening habits that guide him in curating the label. An indicator of how these have concretised over the course of the past two decades is provided by his own output as ELEH: since 2006, Brien has been releasing an astonishing amount of albums under this name, exploring the possibilities of analogue synthesisers with minimalist means. Drones, sound materiality, intensity, slowness: these are not only the cornerstones of his own sound, but also, in different combinations, those of the artists on Important Records. Many of them have become constants in the back catalogue over the course of two decades. Merzbow, for example, released several more albums on Important Records, including a massive 13-piece album cycle about bird species living in Japan.

»I was anti-branding/anti-advertising so I didn’t want to create a brand. What I wanted was to release records and create a label that couldn’t be categorised.« (John Brien Jr.)

Two of the most important artists in the label’s cadre, however, are no longer alive. Radical composer, accordionist and »deep listening« theorist Pauline Oliveros, for example, began working with Brien in 2006 as part of a re-release of her album »Accordion & Voice« and followed it up with several more until her death ten years later. »"It’s still difficult to believe that she’s no longer with us in person but her spirit is so profound,« Brien says of the long-time companion. »I’m always re-reading her books, thinking about the advice she offered and just last week I watched every interview I could find with her.« Accordingly, he feels that it is a great honour that he is allowed to take care of her musical legacy in close coordination with her estate.

Important Records also dedicates extensive reissues or even first releases from the archives of the visionary composer to the sound sculptor Harry Bertoia, who died in the late seventies. »Harry’s approach and philosophy, especially with sound, aligns with my own and I think we both hear things in a similar manner. He’s a deep listener, like Pauline,« says the label owner, who, however, will not lose sight of contemporary music over the reappraisal of the works of Oliveros or Bertoia. » I like the idea of balancing the old with the new but it’s not something I do consciously.« Digging into the archives, however, remains his greatest joy. But there are many overlaps and continuities between what the younger generation of Important Records artists like Caterina Barbieri, Jessica Ekomane or Alina Kalancea stand for and the artistic and technical approaches of the greats of New Music and Sound Art, like Éliane Radigue.

This is also reflected in Brien’s release schedule for 2021, which includes reissues by Oliveros, Acid Mothers Temple with the Silver Apples, Tod Dockstader, Wanderwelle, Saint Abdullah, Éliane Radigue and ELEH, as well as tape releases by Rose Bolton, Jeff Burch, Pauline Oliveros, Rama Parwata and Brian Thumler, and a comprehensive compilation to celebrate the label’s 20th anniversary, which also happens to be the 500th catalogue number. The tracks for this were compiled by former skateboarder and drone artist Duane Pitre, and feature Kali Malone and Tashi Wada, among others. It’s a project very much in the tradition of Important Records, which has been dedicated to exploring spaces of possibility in sound since its early days. Whether it’s scratchy analogue electronica, long-form drones, crunchy noise and feaky psych-rock: deep listening forever!


You can find all available Important Records vinyl records in the HHV Records webshop.

Your Comment
Related Articles
Music Essay | posted 27.05.2013
10 Favourites
Tape Labels You Better Should Know
Hurrah! The cassette tape is turning 50 and though that’s really old, or sort of anyway, the tape is alive and kicking it big style.
Music Portrait | posted 03.02.2020
Mad About Records
Sinfully summery
With his label Mad About the Portuguese Joaquim Paulo takes care of the really hard to find records from Jazz to Bossa Nova. With success. We introduce you to the label in detail.
Music Portrait | posted 03.03.2020
Kalahari Oyster Cult
The best of all possible worlds
Diving for pearls in the mud, tracking down rave classics from the nineties and working with producers for whom it doesn’t matter if the record ends up in the Beatport charts: Colin Volvert’s label Kalahari Oyster Cult mixes up the underground with its DIY ethos.
Music Portrait | posted 05.05.2020
Soviet Grail
Collective memory
Amid jazz experiments, electronic brutalism and psychedelic underground, Sergey Klimov digs for treasures for which musicians ended up in prison. With Soviet Grail, the Russian label boss traces the history of Soviet music.
Music Portrait | posted 09.06.2020
Dekmantel
Infinite Holidays
For the better part of a decade now, the Dekmantel imprint from Amsterdam is successfully squaring the circle as label, festival and promoter of several events: Connecting innovation and underground with a quality standard that is by now globally recognized without failing its aspirations. An end? Even in times of crisis far away.
Music Portrait | posted 07.07.2020
International Anthem
In search of the truth
For six years the label International Anthem from Chicago has been reliably delivering jazz with their own attitude and idea. Although the founders refuse to be ascribed almost any kind of attribution to a genre. For them, the most beautiful sound is just always: the truth.
Music Portrait | posted 11.08.2020
Light In The Attic
Everything Is Illuminated
For almost 20 years, the Seattle-based record label Light In The Attic has been shedding light on those releases that have been in the dark. The fact that they focused on vinyl right from the start, today the label is considered a pioneer.
Music Portrait | posted 14.07.2020
WeWantSounds
Contagious passion
WeWantSounds has been publishing music from the 1970s and 1980s since 2015. The name of the label is a catchphrase. When the Parisian two-man company selects the reissues, genre and country borders don‘t matter.
Music Portrait | posted 30.06.2020
We Jazz
With emphasis on We
We Jazz, that stands for edgy, surprising jazz from the north. And also not. Since 2013 the festival has been held in Helsinki, since 2016 the label was founded. Matti Nives mainly publishes Finnish bands there. And acts as one of the most important networkers of the local scene.
Music Portrait | posted 10.09.2020
Melody As Truth
On the threshold of sound and silence
With his label Melody As Truth, Jonny Nash moves between balearic and ambient. The journey leads from new age to a new art of world chamber music.
Music Portrait | posted 15.10.2020
Dark Entries
Between Disco, Goth and Porno Soundtracks
Since 2009, Josh Cheon has been running his label for underground music from the 1980s and those who want to be the next big underground hit. Next year he will have released over 300 records. We introduce you to the label from San Francisco.
Music Portrait | posted 12.11.2020
Tidal Waves
Riding the Wave
A powerful wave has already washed many treasures ashore. Seen in this way, the name fits, because the Belgian reissue label Tidal Waves searches for, discovers and publishes pearls of music history believed to be lost.
Music Portrait | posted 17.12.2020
On The Corner
Bangers for the backroom
With his label On the Corner Records, Pete Buckenham serves a heady stew of afro-futuristic jazz concepts and contemporary street grooves beyond the genre ascriptions, and is opening the gates to the sound universe of tomorrow.
Music Portrait | posted 11.02.2021
Far Out Recordings
At the epicenter of the Brazil craze
Joe Davis is the train driver whose bandwagon a whole generation of Brazil-affine producers jumped on in the mid-nineties. With his Far Out Recordings label, he became the worldwide representative of Brazilian music culture.
Music Portrait | posted 08.04.2021
Gondwana Records
Soul And Character
As a DJ and musician, Matthew Halsall became a label operator. Starting with a local focus on Manchester’s contemporary jazz scene, the trumpeter, composer and bandleader has since given his imprint Gondwana Records a fairly international focus.
Music Portrait | posted 12.05.2021
Arsivplak
The Past, Re-presented
Volga Çoban’s Arsivplak label and Arşivplak edit project are two sides of the same coin: his approach to Turkish funk, disco, pop, rock and jazz is archival on the one hand and strives to shed a new light on old sounds on the other.
Music Review | posted 16.06.2015
Aidan Baker & Idklang
In The Red Room
In Idklang, Aidan Baker has found a partner who provides an informal frame to his exuberant arts.
Music Review | posted 10.06.2015
Jamie xx
In Colours
On his debut, Jamie xx hat got it all right. It’s an incredibly exquisite record – exquisite enough to be disgusted.
Music Review | posted 15.06.2015
HELM
Olympic Mess
Overcoming stress through music: On »Olympic Mess«, Luke Younger aka HELM is trying to handle his very own chaos.
Music Portrait
Arsivplak
The Past, Re-presented
Volga Çoban’s Arsivplak label and Arşivplak edit project are two sides of the same coin: his approach to Turkish funk, disco, pop, rock and jazz is archival on the one hand and strives to shed a new light on old sounds on the other.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing, 1981
Nightlife for androids: On »Nightclubbing«, along with one of the world’s leading rhythm sections, Grace Jones made sure that reggae and new wave would develop a new life of its own in 80’s pop.
Music List
Crumb
10 All Time Favs
Since their debut »Jinx« in 2019, Crumb have been considered the next big thing in music . Now their new album »Ice Melt« is out. The perfect opportunity to ask them about 10 records that have shaped, improved and educated them.
Music Interview
Adrian Younge
Sonic history lesson
»The American Negro« marks the beginning of a new chapter in Adrian Younge’s work. It is more frontal, more politically charged, and more self-assured. He wants to teach. We had the opportunity for an in-depth interview.
Music List
Leon Vynehall
10 All Time Favs
With his new album »Rare, Forever«, British producer Leon Vynehall continues the path he started with »Nothing Is Still« 3 years ago. Today he tells us 10 vinyl records that have shaped, improved and educated him.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces Of A Man (1971)
He was called the “Godfather of Hip Hop” because he wrote about drugs, racism and the Divided States of America. Gil Scott-Heron’s most successful album is now 50 years old – and more timely than ever.
Music List
Jenn Wasner (Flock Of Dimes)
10 All Time Favs
With her solo project Flock of Dimes, Jenn Wasner has just released her most personal and at the same time most substantially far-reaching album. We asked the musician to name 10 Vinyl records that have shaped, improved, and educated her.
Music Portrait
Gondwana Records
Soul And Character
As a DJ and musician, Matthew Halsall became a label operator. Starting with a local focus on Manchester’s contemporary jazz scene, the trumpeter, composer and bandleader has since given his imprint Gondwana Records a fairly international focus.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Yellow Magic Orchestra – BGM (1981)
Cues for the future: on their fourth album, »BGM«, the synth wizards of Yellow Magic Orchestra drafted background music for generations to come.
Music Portrait
Important Records
Deep Listening Forever!
Whehter it’s Pauline Oliveros, Éliane Radigue, Alina Kalancea or Caterina Barbieri: For 20 years now, Important Records has been like a well-stocked record shop for exciting sounds and music that needs to be heard intensely.
Art Portrait
Vincent de Boer
Like Jazz With Brushes
Dutch artist Vincent de Boer has become a regular band member of the British jazz band Ill Considered. He draws record covers based on the grooves he hears. For »The Stroke«, the process has now been reversed.
Music Portrait
Far Out Recordings
At the epicenter of the Brazil craze
Joe Davis is the train driver whose bandwagon a whole generation of Brazil-affine producers jumped on in the mid-nineties. With his Far Out Recordings label, he became the worldwide representative of Brazilian music culture.
Music List
Aaron Frazer
10 All Time Favs
»Introducing« is the name of Aaron Frazer’s first solo album. As the drummer of Durand Jones & The Indications, however, he is by no means an unknown name. So musically it’s off to the sixties. He tells us what actually influenced him musically.
Music Portrait
On The Corner
Bangers for the backroom
With his label On the Corner Records, Pete Buckenham serves a heady stew of afro-futuristic jazz concepts and contemporary street grooves beyond the genre ascriptions, and is opening the gates to the sound universe of tomorrow.
Music Portrait
Tidal Waves
Riding the Wave
A powerful wave has already washed many treasures ashore. Seen in this way, the name fits, because the Belgian reissue label Tidal Waves searches for, discovers and publishes pearls of music history believed to be lost.
Music Portrait
Mort Garson
Music for plants and people
He was involved in over 900 songs and reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, but Mort Garson’s current fame is based on an encounter with Bob Moog, whom he persuaded to give him one of his synthesizers. A rediscovery.
Music Portrait
Dark Entries
Between Disco, Goth and Porno Soundtracks
Since 2009, Josh Cheon has been running his label for underground music from the 1980s and those who want to be the next big underground hit. Next year he will have released over 300 records. We introduce you to the label from San Francisco.
Music Interview
Makaya McCraven
»I'm excavating sounds«
Makaya McCraven is one of the most leading jazz musicians of these days. Not only his hometown Chicago, but the whole world seems to be inspired by the free approach to the jazz heritage in his music. We had the chance for an interview.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 3rd Drop
12 releases you should look out for
On October 24, 2020 the third of three Record Store Days will take place this year. More than 120 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Gastarbeiter*innen Musik
Simultaneously with the genesis of Anadolu Pop, a viral infrastructure is developing in West Germany. This »guest worker music« has always only touched the public consciousness. The economic exchange could have also been a cultural one.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Anadolu Pop
Altın Gün, Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek or Gaye Su Akyol: more and more bands are again referring to the sound of Anadolu Pop, which was formed in Turkey in the 1960s. But is it a revival? We clarify.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 2nd Drop
Another 12 releases you should look out for
On September 26, 2020 the second of three Record Store Days this year will take place. More than 150 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve vinyl records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Portrait
Melody As Truth
On the threshold of sound and silence
With his label Melody As Truth, Jonny Nash moves between balearic and ambient. The journey leads from new age to a new art of world chamber music.
Music Interview
Kelly Lee Owens
»We store emotions in our body«
The Welsh musician released her second album »Inner Song« which wipes tears from cried-out eyes with one hand after the closing set while opening the window into everyday life with the other. A conversation with Owens about rave memories, trauma sessions and her challenge with Four Tet.
Music List
Harmonious Thelonious
10 All Time Favs
With »Plong« Stefan Schwander shakes the foundations of club music. His new solo album as Harmonious Thelonious lets everyday noises develop an eerie life of their own. He told us which 10 records have have shaped, improved and formed him.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 1st Drop
12 vinyl records to look out for
On August 29, 2020 the first of three Record Store Days will take place this year. More than 350 exclusive releases have been announced for this event alone. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music List
Jonathan Bree
10 All Time Favs
Jonathan Bree hides his face behind a latex mask. Well, right. But that’s not the most remarkable thing about the new zealander. Because he is first and foremost a first-rate songwriter. He told us which 10 records have shaped, improved and formed him.
Music Portrait
Light In The Attic
Everything Is Illuminated
For almost 20 years, the Seattle-based record label Light In The Attic has been shedding light on those releases that have been in the dark. The fact that they focused on vinyl right from the start, today the label is considered a pioneer.
Music List
Jay Glass Dubs
10 All Time Favs
»Soma« means »body« in Greek and that’s who the music of Jay Glass Dubs is aimed at. »Soma« is also the name of his new album. This was the chance to ask the Greek musician for 10 Vinyl records that formed him. He answers in, well, Greek.
Music Portrait
WeWantSounds
Contagious passion
WeWantSounds has been publishing music from the 1970s and 1980s since 2015. The name of the label is a catchphrase. When the Parisian two-man company selects the reissues, genre and country borders don‘t matter.
Music Essay
Baltic & Finnish Jazz
Removing Boundaries
While jazz from London to L.A. is evolving a fresh pop sensibility or even tries to update the fusion heritage, cool flavors between new blood and nostalgia are cultivated on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Here the genre is cosmopolitan as well and yet totally distinct.
Music Portrait
International Anthem
In search of the truth
For six years the label International Anthem from Chicago has been reliably delivering jazz with their own attitude and idea. Although the founders refuse to be ascribed almost any kind of attribution to a genre. For them, the most beautiful sound is just always: the truth.
Music Portrait
We Jazz
With emphasis on We
We Jazz, that stands for edgy, surprising jazz from the north. And also not. Since 2013 the festival has been held in Helsinki, since 2016 the label was founded. Matti Nives mainly publishes Finnish bands there. And acts as one of the most important networkers of the local scene.
Music Portrait
Roy Ayers
Warm vibrations with universal attraction
The American vibraphonist, singer, songwriter and arranger Roy Ayers is one of the most sampled contemporary musicians. With songs like »Everybody Loves The Sunshine«, the soul jazz legend, which celebrates it’s 80th birthday in September, became the main inspiration for Acid Jazz in the late 90s. His new album “Roy Ayers JID 002” on Jazz Is Dead with Adrian Younge and ex-ATCQ producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad continues his golden period of the Polydor years in the 70s seamlessly.
Music Interview
Gary Bartz
»We no longer see reality«
The Grammy-winning soprano saxophonist shared the stage with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Max Roach. Now he has recorded an album with British outfit Maisha — and discovered something new.
Music Portrait
Dekmantel
Infinite Holidays
For the better part of a decade now, the Dekmantel imprint from Amsterdam is successfully squaring the circle as label, festival and promoter of several events: Connecting innovation and underground with a quality standard that is by now globally recognized without failing its aspirations. An end? Even in times of crisis far away.
Music List
Rafael Anton Irisarri
10 All Time Favs
Ambient? Maybe. But with splinters of metal, neo-classical and other stuff. Rafael Anton Irisarri paints overwhelming sound paintings with thick brushstrokes. For us the American composer has revealed his influences.
Music Portrait
Muriel Grossmann
Abstraction with a sea view
Saxophonist Muriel Grossmann reaches abstraction on the Balearic Islands, rides the waves with hard bop and even amazes billionaires with standards. Who is the secret pioneer of the spiritual revival?
Music Portrait
Roza Terenzi
Rave in a time capsule
Roza Terenzi turns past rave days upside down and brushes it with jungle breaks and techno cuts. On »Modern Bliss« she finally ends up in the future.
Music Portrait
Soviet Grail
Collective memory
Amid jazz experiments, electronic brutalism and psychedelic underground, Sergey Klimov digs for treasures for which musicians ended up in prison. With Soviet Grail, the Russian label boss traces the history of Soviet music.
Music List
ADULT.
10 All Time Favs
ADULT. have been making music for more than 20 years now. And they still don’t want simple attributions, sunlight, self-deception. Instead they wanted to call us records, which they shaped, improved, formed.