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The Sound Of: Astrophonica

Our newly relaunched monthly label showcase, The Sound Of, puts the focus on the labels we love; outlets that are championing new artists, dropping key releases and driving their respective scenes. This month, we catch up with d&b imprint Astrophonica's co-founder Charlie Fieber AKA Fracture to discuss the label's past, present and future alongside a blistering mix of cuts from its impeccable catalogue...

Astrophonica could be referred to as a happy accident. The label, set up by drum & bass duo Fracture & Neptune in 2009, actually came about after the pair had placed two tracks with DJ Flight’s Play:Musik, just as the imprint unfortunately folded. Stuck with nowhere to release the music, which had been gaining traction in the wider d&b community — something their beautifully chaotic brand of drumfunk had found difficult to crack — they decided to just put out the tracks themselves. Calls to distributors were made and ‘Clissold’/’Killerwhat?’ was released to the world.

“The first few releases were Nelson [Neptune] and I, and it was very much a place for our stuff,” explains Charlie Fieber, aka Fracture. “We never considered releasing anyone else’s music, at that time.” The first non-Fracture & Neptune release came in 2012/13, in the form of two EPs from the mysterious character Dawn Day Night. A volatile mixture of rowdy basslines and the hyper-energetic jitter of juke percussion that was feeding into the UK scene, they put the label front-and-centre of that emerging movement. “Those records really opened some more doors for us,” says Fieber, “and that set the label on another path.”

Since then, the roster has expanded greatly. Frenchman Moresounds brought his bouncy dub flavours, Sully dropped an EP soon after his switch to jungle, rising star Lewis James shared his impeccable, cosmic productions, and Om Unit put out his first collection of completely original Philip D Kick tracks. Plus the label’s ‘Gradients’ compilations have introduced artists like Teklife footworker DJ Earl, Exit boss dBridge, Proc Fiskal, FaltyDL and the legendary Luke Vibert. 

As the mind behind all the A&R, Fieber has certainly created a diverse catalogue, but also one with a cohesive vibe. He says he looks for two things in a signing: first, the tracks must be playable in one of his sets, either radio or club — “It doesn’t mean that they have to be club bangers but they definitely have to be something could play in a set.” And second, well...  “They’ve gotta have a factor to them that makes me personally prick my ears up,” says Fieber. “Like a hook of some sort. That might be a production technique, or it might be a sample used, or just an overall vibe. I think that’s why the label’s got an identity, cos the music, it all comes down to what I think — like, this sounds like a release for the label, cos it pleases me and it pleases my ears.”

Want more? Check out our previous The Sound Of features with Dark Entries and Correspondant...

Ben Hindle is DJ Mag's deputy editor. Follow him on Twitter @the_z_word