Valentine Records Relaunch by Emily Oldfield – for all those beating hearts in the Manchester music scene.
Think the Manchester music scene is a piece of the past; stuck in memories of Factory Records and ‘Madchester’? Think again. So many people have declared the Manc music scene ‘dead’ or ‘stuck back in time’ ; expecting lines of local listeners hooked up to headphones like stethoscopes, waiting for the beats of an old playlist. Well, there’s a much more prominent pulse you need to keep your finger on right now. Contemporary music in Manchester is alive and well. A key symptom of this is the rebirth of Valentine Records; an independent label forged by the city, for the city – a presence from the past which also celebrates the best in modern Manchester music. They are so important for this very reason, proving that the old and new can be compatible. And just like a good valentine, sure to show you that there’s plenty to love – right now. Valentine Records has been charming listeners for years – and January 2016 is set to be the month of the official relaunch; so there’s even more lined-up.
Hi Valentine! – the life of a notorious Manc born label
Valentine Records itself emerged in 2001, as a label committed to supporting exciting artists, (local and international), co-founded by music fans Sarah Bradley and David Fox, with promoter John Mitchell and columnist Juliet Jacques. It could be considered a bit of a long-term lover of the Manchester musical underground – taking on bands in its early days including Extinguish Her, Five Years Later and Chevron. What the label quickly captured was the energy in ‘noughties’ Manchester music; an era which often gets neglected.
Valentine Records are important; not only can you use their music to engage with the present energy in Manchester’s music scene, but through their back catalogue you can also uncover a range of bands and beats which have played a prominent role in Manchester’s underground scene in the last 10 years or so. Remember, even famous Manc artists such as New Order and the Happy Mondays were classed as ‘alternative’ at the time; ‘mainstream’ just isn’t Manchester. The whole point of music here is that it is worked for, dug for, delved from the depths. And it’s so worth it.
However, it was through their own self-styled ‘Schizoid-Avant-Pop-Disco’ nights, To Amy with Love, launched at the Retrobar by 2003, that Valentine started to gain a bit of reputation. Flirting with plenty of parties, It achieved cult success in the subsequent ‘electroclash’ craze of the time; working with names as bizarre as Ultrafoetus and Penguin Map Mijinko. Yes, this is a label which certainly doesn’t shy away from the exciting and eccentric; partly why it is so important today! With achievements including a ‘track by track’ cover of Sonic Youth’s Dirty involving pretty much everyone, 2006 was a year which sounded so good. But if the sound was healthy, the heart was packing up (the party has to take its toll somewhere!), and amidst internal pressure, the label decided to take an extended break.
Resuscitated, revived and ready for action
But a worthy valentine keeps on charming, right? Original label members David and John (along with signed-act Mark Corrin) certainly charmed some special attention through their Rebellious Jukebox nights at the Deaf institute, attended by none-other than Mark E Smith (though perhaps he was only passing by to sample some of the venues’ Fall-themed cocktails’). This was 2008/9 and the heart was getting stronger already. Once music begins in Manchester, it never seems to die! Rebellious Jukebox quickly became the facilitator of a number of local MP3 releases, including artists like Babyslave and Caro C. It also quickly became difficult to see it as anything other than Valentine Records all over again – and the label officially relaunched in 2010.
The great thing about Valentine after all (as well as many other independent labels working in Manchester), is that it pulses with the lifeblood of bands and gigs. Why? Because not only does it build music, but is built of musicians itself – with 4 of the label members also forming the group St Lucifer (their debut 7” release ‘Van Der Lubbe Was Innocent’ is due out imminently!).
This means the label has an in-depth understanding of what it takes to survive in the modern music scene – getting in on the action (everything on the spectrum from constructive to destructive) especially through gigs! No shying away behind polished screens and meeting room doors! This is the great thing about modern Manchester music; it makes a mark. Particularly memorable moments include Kurt Dirt vs Petrol Bastard culminating in an epic stage appearance by Can’s legendary frontman Damo Suzuki in 2012.
Yes, this is a label which takes on the energy of a range of talents; and now it is readying itself for a big relaunch in January 2016. It is not only a celebration of all things Valentine has been working on from 2012 onwards – including exciting new material from the likes of Mark Corrin and new signing Reigns of Monty Carlo – but also heralds an exciting new home!
Back in the heart of Manchester
Where’s home? Let’s face it, a valentine is always looking for a heart. And it seems like the label found it, in the form of new record shop Soundwaves Here We Come, set up on the second floor of Afflecks. It is from this great address the label will operate – and captivate! The pulse is already racing; with Valentine’s focus on all things exciting and eccentric meaning that a series of gigs are already lined up; set to take place within the shop itself (the first being on 19th December)! Part of the Valentine team and St Lucifer member Alex Lee currently owns the shop and just like selecting a good tune, strikes the perfect balance between past and present. He’s proud to sell vinyl of the past, but pushes artists of the future too. This is a really valuable thing at the heart of Manchester’s musical underground right now: a supportive, encouraging atmosphere. In Soundwaves Here We Come for example, new artists are offered the opportunity of air-time in store, as well recently built stage/PA rig for playing in store gigs.
Therefore, Valentine Records is back and doing what it does best, spreading the love for current Manchester music, as well as artists further afield. Over the years they’ve dealt in the weird and wonderful from all over the world, including success with Warsaw-based Neil Milton, Cartwheel from Melbourne and Daniel Maze from Vancouver. Its Valentine 100 Compilation makes this clear and offers you the opportunity to browse some of the most exciting underground artists of recent years. Because this isn’t just a tale of Valentine, but a trip through modern Manchester music, its connections and how it keeps coming strong. Just how active the label has been, despite times of difficulty, is enough to put two fingers in the face of anyone who says that modern Manchester music is dead. It’s actually alive and kicking. Stay tuned.