Label Watch: L.I.E.S. Records

L.I.E.S. A label name, an attitude to life. Ron Morelli has shaped an era with his releases. After almost 15 years of Long Islang Electrical Systems, it’s time to take stock.

L.I.E.S. – there is hardly a fan of electronic dance music who doesn’t recognise these capital letters. They stand for »Long Island Electrical Systems« and the name already reveals the label’s place of origin: its creator, Ron Morelli, comes from New York. It was there that he came into contact with punk and hardcore in the early nineties. Although his friends included skaters and “freaks”, as he affectionately calls them, as well as ravers, he wasn’t really attracted to the dance music scene back then: »It seemed very drug fueled and decadent, neither of which I am.«

Morelli only really got it at the end of the decade: »I became obsessed,« he says of a formative period. »The scene in NYC at this time I got into this stuff in 2000 was in a transition as there were not too many proper clubs around anymore and the police were cracking down on nite life.« A tough, but in one way or another certainly tempting phase for someone with Morelli’s deinstitutionalised musical background.

You can hear this in the vast majority of the almost 300 L.I.E.S. releases – including sub-labels. Even if they are anything but stylistically homogeneous, they are united by a certain feel, a penchant for the imperfect. Whether it’s Malvoeaux’s »Targets EP«, the label’s first record from 2010, Tzusing’s debut album from 2017 or Ron Morelli’s LP »Heartstopper« from last year – the sound is analogue, raw, sturdy.Like a puffing, rusty tin bucket that only passes the MOT with difficulty, but reliably brings its occupants back to their destination every time.

Cardinal & Nun’s 2021 album »Dancing in the Evil« takes this aesthetic to the extreme, with EBM brushed against the grain at its darkest and turning the kids’ harnesses inside out at UNREAL raves. But punk, industrial, gothic and related genres are only one side of the coin. As Malvoeaux has already mentioned, L.I.E.S. has always seen itself as a label for sun-kissed dance music that alleviates the heaviness of existence.

Physical presence music

Legowelt, Voiski, inventory act Delroy Edwards and Wiesbaden-born Florian Kupfer had already made guest appearances on the label and provided Morelli with the right amount of weightlessness, which was particularly booming in the early and mid-teens. At the time, the label maker was working in the A-1 record shop, his “base” from which he publicised L.I.E.S.: »I decided to start the label and simply just see what happens, no real big plans other than getting the music out.« Access to DJs who regularly frequented the shop was extremely important.

And certainly also the fact that the label operated musically very close to the pulse of the times in its early years: L.I.E.S. records epitomised the status quo at the time by drawing on the sound aesthetics of the past. Some call it lo-fi house, others meme house. Despite its epigonism, its noise, its subsequently applied patina, it comes across as fresh, subtle, relaxed. And, at least for a while, as an underground alternative to the mirror-smooth minimalism that was changing guard at the time.

L.I.E.S. has always seen itself as a label for dance music turned towards the sun, which alleviates the heaviness of existence.

And today? Times have changed since the early days of L.I.E.S., labels are finding it increasingly difficult. Merch – the range in the shop is quite diversified – is still »not really important«, but creates another income stream in times of lower music sales. »Well the Instagramification of music (and everything in the world) is just a plague,« says Morelli. A commonplace that, when uttered by him, seems more sincere than ever. »The whole streaming of DK sets and all… its lame. A DJ should be heard, not seen. It should come down to the music you play and skills you have«. And although this sentence could be written thousands of times in the relevant Facebook comment columns, it also makes sense coming from Morelli. The almost undeniable superficiality that is more than ever attached to electronic music today is diametrically opposed to his values.