Label Watch: Mangel Records

This young Berlin-based record and cassette label stands for a DIY aesthetic and punk attitude. The label excellently proves that DIY concepts do not signify shortcomings at all.

Niche, snotty, high quality, DIY: this is how the Berlin label Mangel Records presents itself. Behind it is the young and harmonious quartet of Anne Sophie Lohmann, Denes Bieberich, Martin Liepelt and Oskar Militzer. Since its founding in 2020, Mangel Records has released more than 30 albums by up-and-coming synth-punk and grunge bands like Die Verlierer or Das Kinn; the most recent ones are the minimal wave release by Klapper and Giulio Erasmus’s latest post-punk/dub-wave album.

Mangel has its roots in the collective Flennen. Flennen is an association of young musicians who have been organising concerts, jamming and recording solidarity compilations together for ten years. The label came about for a specific reason: the four originally wanted to release their band LIIEK on vinyl 7″. But the label they usually released on had financial problems. Nevertheless, they didn’t want to move away from their original plan. A release on Flennen was out of the question, as the pre-financing of the collective’s releases remained unclear for too long. So the four decided to start their own label. When asked what the name »Mangel« means, they answer with a dry laugh: »There is a lack of everything«. »Mangel« means »lack« or »dearth« in German.

»And If you do it yourself, you can also sprinkle a little bit of nonsense into the soup.«

Mangel Records

In addition to LIIEK, the four are also working on a number of other musical projects. The four can’t really explain why they keep starting new bands. Sometimes a new project just comes from the love they have for changing instruments. For example, Bieberich and Lohmann form the minimal synth duo Ostseetraum and the home recording project Klapper, and all four also play in the post-punk band Pigeon in addition to LIIEK. Given their long-time friendship, it’s no surprise that they are inseparable both professionally as well as musically. The way the four of them work together is so harmonious and familiar that everything just fits—there is no lack here.

Although Mangel Records started with a vinyl 7″ and still likes to use this format, it didn’t stop there. Bands like Noj, The Abdomen and Crime of Passing have also released long-players and tapes on the label. That’s right, tapes are back. Although they never really disappeared. Especially not with the Mangel crew. In the studio, at home, wherever there is an eight-track tape machine or a double tape deck, they overdub the tapes released on the label themselves, in real time. It takes a lot of work, but the tapes fit their releases perfectly in terms of sound and stand for their DIY concept, which also means not always taking themselves too seriously:»If you do it yourself, you can also sprinkle a little bit of nonsense into the soup,« say the four, telling how they once released a cassette with Flennen on which they inserted a pig’s grunt between each song. What is important to them, however, is that their recordings are pressed or produced as locally and high-quality as possible.

Always keep the »punk spirit« in mind

There is no defined release policy, the principles are simple: it should appeal to everyone and fit the label. Sometimes they get »requests that are just ›too professional‹«, they explain. Of course, quality is paramount, but it can still be a little provocative. Glossy press kits run counter to Mangel Records’ philosophy, which is based on the DIY principle and has no interest in turning its work into a business. »All the big labels are similar, whether it’s techno or indie. They have their catalogues, how things should be done. It’s not like that with us. With us the catalogue is more like this: it has to look cool, we release on Bandcamp and our website and write newsletters.« For this reason, the label deliberately avoids releasing on streaming platforms like Spotify.

They are quite happy to organise affordable promo gigs in contrast. The most important thing is that »the fan who doesn’t have much money can get in«. Luckily, this works out quite well, as they can always count on the support of their friends and get free help with the admissions, sound and artwork, they explain.

As much as Mangel Records is a label for records and tapes, gigs are also an important part of their work. In Berlin’s cross-genre underground scene, they were able to establish themselves quickly with their music. But what is the attraction? Good music, of course, but perhaps also a cultural phenomenon, the four suspect. Punk has always been an expression of rebellion, a counter-culture that also creates a harmonious sense of community. If you ask Anne Sophie, Denes, Martin and Oskar about concrete goals for the future of their label, they all have the same answer: none. They simply want to carry on as before: Niche, snotty, high-quality, DIY.