As of late I have had a strange interest-bordering-on-obsession with Lo Recordings offshoot LOAF (Lo: Alternative Frequencies for those not down with the lingo.) It doesn't typically occur that I get so weirdly captivated with almost the entirety of a label's catalog and keep a close monitor on what the label is releasing next. It's for good reasons...
Most of the releases have a special limited edition version that consists of the disc (typically a 3" CD) and an art print being sealed onto a record sleeve-sized piece of pulpboard. This is all then silkscreened over with the release information (in a sharp font courtesy of regular Lo designers Non-Format). The result is a peculiar package where you actually have to damage the silkscreen to access the music.
While the prints that come with the releases are by a variety of artists and designers, the silkscreened text is consistent throughout the LOAF library. It makes for a combined sense of a very aesthetically unified label catalog while each individual package retains its status as a unique art-object. Luckily for those who don't care to pay for the deluxe packaging (or those of us in the U.S. who can't handle exorbitant import costs), LOAF also provides normal CD editions as well as MP3 downloads of their albums.
And it's very fortunate that they do. The talent on the LOAF roster is remarkable. Each artist displays their developing styles, sincere and authentic, but they also sit comfortably next to the sounds of their various contemporaries. The results are releases that sound very "of their time" in the best sense possible.
The piano-centric compositions on Gavouna's "Falling" EP sound a great deal similar to fellow piano tinkerer Hauschka. Even so, Gavouna's pieces have a sense of lightness all their own while gentle percussive touches and string accompaniments flesh things out. Motohiro Nakashima provides the label's only full-length album to date, in which traces of the micropop of Lullatone, Fourcolor's sense of space and the intense drama of World's End Girlfriend can all be detected. Vincent Oliver's two EPs have the same melodic melancholy and sonic diversity of Fog's albums (at least prior to this year's "Ditherer").
I could go on about Charlie Alex March's charming pop (whose recent "In The End" EP received an endorsement from David Bowie), the catchy plunderphonic dust of Barbed, the pleasantly disorienting post-Aphex weirdness of Batfinks, etc. All these comparisons could make the LOAF catalog appear derivative and uninspired, but the case is the opposite. All of these releases have traces of familiar sounds but they consistently transcend their reference points.
It is very exciting to see a label that is as committed to building a singular visual identity as it is to creating a strong and varied musical identity. Visiting the LOAF site and taking a look (and listen) will fully explain things.