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Label Spotlight: Auris Apothecary

29 August 2014 xdementia No Comment
Baroke Misty Queens – Tacked Into It
[one-sided 6inch lathe cut with silkscreened b-side]

Auris Apothecary is a label that stands on its own, isolated from many scenes but especially from the main stream. It is the embodiment of “boutique” more than any other label today. Having received numerous releases for review from the label I simply couldn’t ignore the fact that what they are doing is something quite different. An emphasis on creative package design, carefully curated releases and most importantly; uniting the physical with the aural.

Auris Apothecary was introduced to the world on March 3rd, 2009 CE, but existed as an idea long before. It was formed by the triumvirate of Dante Augustus Scarlatti, Pendra Gon, and Ancient Pine. The outlook is somewhat the antithesis of the modern mentality of commercialism. They are not concerned with being the biggest or the best, or moving the most units. Rather, the focus is purely on the pursuit of creating a unified vision. While most folks are fighting to get onto the freeway, they are content to take the country roads and determine their own path.

The label hopes to accomplish the perfect embodiment of its name: an apothecary which holds any and all possible sounds to provide a sensory experience to willing participants. Effort thus far has been strictly on the physical, and the hope is to continue creating thoughtful, unique objects of tangible artistic value for many years to come. Along the way, the collective wants to educate people about the joys of obsolete formats, and inspire a new level of interactivity to the otherwise passive task of consuming media.

Sutekh Hexen – Become [.25inch tape reel]

The proprieters believe no format is better or worse than any other format, and that includes all forms of analog, digital, physical, audio, visual, and so on. Each medium has the potential to be exactly what is needed for a release’s aesthetic to be fully maximized. While some older, now obsolete formats have their inherent flaws (factors which ultimately lead to their demises), they also retain unique
characteristics that have an appropriate time and place for use. Auris Apothecary’s releases are sometimes susceptible to a chicken vs. egg process, with concepts being invented and formats being chosen before the material is recorded, in turn guiding the sounds to fit the theme. Most times, however, the label strives to find the format which will embody the material most accurately, factoring in fidelity, longevity, physicality, packaging, etc. They are equal opportunity lovers of all formats, and intend to utilize as many as possible in their lifetime.

In an age of instant digital gratification, physical objects mean more than ever. In terms of pure convenience and proliferation, digital downloads have paved the way for the widespread distribution of audio/visual media, allowing an infinite amount of copies to exist on the hard drives & phones of anybody who desires so. Knowing that, there is an aim for quality over quantity to create physical artifacts that are a definitive manifestation of the material, encompassing visual elements and tactile interactions to provide total cohesion. Nothing is off limits in terms of potential packaging.

Pusdrainer – Worms Beneath Thy Cold Flesh [cassette C22]

Yet with Auris Apothecary there are literally zero boundaries to what can be released in terms of genres/styles. Although a large percentage of what the label has published thus far is notably “dark” in nature, it is hardly an accurate representation of the proprieter’s true tastes. The entire essence of the name, apothecary of the ear, is to illustrate the fact that there is something for everyone, and whatever your poison/vice of choice is, you can find it on Auris Apothecary. When asked what kind of music they release, they respond that the spectrum goes from unlistenable dissonance to soundtracks for retirement homes. The entire purpose is to represent the widest possible range of sounds, from one fringe to another, appreciating the fact that neither would exist without the other. You can’t appreciate the controversial without acknowledging the agreeable.

The purveyors of the label knew quite a bit of their core “family” members long before the label was ever started, and a minor-but-noteworthy percentage of the artists are actually projects that some of the founders are/were in. There’s definitely been a few random encounters in the past though, and the connections that the founders have with their artists are often the result of some uncanny coincidence. Pusdrainer was discovered on myspace after finding a track of his put behind a video of a pig decaying in timelapse. Scarlatti recalls “I met one of the guys from the band Pessoa when he worked at the pizza place next door to a restaurant I worked at. I simultaneously lived and worked with both Tyler Damon and Deserter at the same time. I’ve lived down the road from the label Magnetic South and their bands Apache Dropout and Thee Open Sex for almost 5 years. I bought music from the underground record store that Drekka ran. I designed the website for Eddy Price’s (of th’ Empires) pin-up porno magazine. We purchased an 8×10 bass cabinet from Joey Molinaro years before we ever released him.” The list of crazy connections and back stories could write a novel, but they serve to illustrate the far-reaching scope of the relationships.

Unholy Triforce – Sandin’ Yr Vagina [anti-cassette C13]

While some of the packaging choices are admittedly atypical, overall the label aesthetic is very utilitarian. When asked, the contributors said: “We’d prefer the individual releases to speak for themselves, and we try to keep our own “image” out of the equation.” Thus, they use a mostly black and white color scheme, and they try to prevent any preconceived notions about the label from diluting the intended message. Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from somehow believing they’re a black metal label based purely on the logo, even though they have only released 3 or 4 things even vaguely in that vein. They stress that planned future aesthetic updates will strip everything down even moreso, to a purposeful point of “no aesthetic.”

When asked to choose a certain release as a favorite, the label responds: “Picking a single release as being the most meaningful is somewhat counter-intuitive to our vision, as each release represents a specific “potion” to us and each has its own intended purpose. That being said, certain releases have transcended others for various reasons, most often being that they perfectly manifest the concept we set out to achieve. Unholy Triforce’s Sandin’ Yr Vagina, the anti-cassette filled with sand, is definitely a noteworthy project, as it embraces fully the idea of destruction and absurdity that we find quite appealing.” Each release holds its own special significance within the collective’s experience and within the lineage of the discography as a compendium.

One of the best challenges for the label has been the constant need to create new art and designs for all visual facets, from release packaging to event flyers to website design, etc. Since one of the members is a graphic/web designer they stay inspired by always having new projects to work on in every style; and they have effectively logged more hours in Photoshop than they can even count. But they admit “Some of the downsides are dealing with shipping huge amounts of packages and having every customer in the post office hate your existence, or the ever-maligned “Paypal disputes” that customers start over the most trivial things. Basic things that I imagine many small businesses deal with, but it’s been a positive experience as a whole.”

Torture Corpse – Ooru Naito Rongu [recycled cassette C90]

Ironically it wasn’t until after Auris had started that the collective had discovered the thousands of other small labels with similar models. Scarlatti comments “With the continued rise in DIY outfits operating these days, realistically I don’t believe we’re that unique in the scheme of things.” However, Auris set out from the beginning with a goal of making every release a “special” edition, even if only in some minor facet of its physical form. They have also always tried to offer their wares at the lowest possible prices, even though the limited edition nature is almost a necessary evil due to the tedious manual construction that goes into each release.

Where promotion is concerned it’s very lacking, and it’s been one of the largest hurdles to overcome as a young, DIY organization. The main form of notification is through the email mailing list – which they prefer – as it is a direct pipeline to interested parties. While it’s effective for those already in the know, it doesn’t really help with those that haven’t discovered them yet. However ultimately they’d rather someone find them of their own volition, or through a series of randomized destinies than to be exploitative and spam the internet. So press releases are limited and a penny has never been spent for advertising. “We don’t believe in hyping something – if it’s good it will spread. Of course, having a PR firm couldn’t hurt!”

Flyer for BLACKMASS-XXVIII

When it comes to live performances the lable views them as a pillar of being a musician and actively tries to encourage their artists to perform, which is part of why the Black Mass series of events was started. They explain “We sought to highlight the community of artists that we respect by holding a true sensory experience, crafting video projections and filming every performance in high-definition for publication and archiving.” Unfortunately, a decent amount of the artists and releases they’ve worked on up to this point have been incapable of live performances for various reasons. Some were recordings from the past with groups that no longer exist, while others are purely studio-based projects that wouldn’t translate to a live situation. There is definitely a preference to work with artists that are actively promoting, travelling, booking shows, etc; and the label holds folks in higher regard when they already do those things.

When it comes to reviews the idea that they are one of those things that serve a great internal function but sometimes lack an external benefit perseveres. “On the one hand, we & the artists are excited to gain insight from a third party’s perspective, providing a fresh outlook and recognizing factors that never crossed our minds. On the other hand, the internet has made everyone into a “journalist,” and that comes at the hefty price of lowered standards.” states Scarlatti. More eyes and exposure are always a good thing, but ultimately the amount of promo copies they send out are limited; opting for a few well-placed packages to sites with integrity rather than a carpet bomb of blogs.

Most artists the label works with are considered “friends and family.” Since its inception, the focus has always been on promoting the works of those whom the purveryors have felt a connection with, be it personally or artistically; and a decent chunk of those artists have returned for multiple releases. While the solicitations for new releases from artists all over the world seem to never end, they’re not really interested in Auris Apothecary being just a notch in the bedpost for people looking to release “another album.” The label only accepts/initiates projects that they strongly believe in, and there is a master list of family members from which they will always grant precedence.

Inside the Artifex Guild

While Auris Apothecary have been near stagnant the past few years due to over-planning, the future release schedule has prepared them for a massive transition set to occur with the 100th release in September 2014 CE. The 100th release is an insanely ambitious (and secret) project, but it will also be the most all-encompassing release they’ve ever made. At that moment, they are closing the first chapter and beginning anew. “I have been coding a brand new website that introduces dozens of new features. We now have a physical space called The Artifex Guild which allows us to host more events. We’ll be returning with more NES cassettes, glue records, ¼” tape, and Locked Groove Lathe Plate releases, as well as a plethora of other things which at this point are secret or too far down the pipeline to discuss.” exclaims Scarlatti. One exciting thing in particular is the return to the absurdist roots of the label which was and idea that developed over 5 years ago that they still have yet to manifest. One can be sure that anyone who thinks the label’s output is weird or over-the-top is in for a massive awakening when they realize Auris Apothecary haven’t even breached the tip of the iceberg in terms of their potential truly bizarre ideas.

The NES casette batch

Auris Apothecary is a label based out of Bloomington, IN and is accessible via their website.

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