From Ambient Roots To Block Rockin’ Beats
This is the first ever press release for Astralwerks when the label was introduced to the world by Caroline our distribution company. Following the successful release of the Excursions In Ambience album, which was released on Caroline Records, it was decided that a new label should be created to support the growing electronic scene and Astralwerks was born. The name was an amalgamation of Astralweeks the seminal Van Morrision album and “werk” from Kraftwerk the legendary electronic pioneers from Germany. When Astralwerks sent press releases in its early years they were sent on colored Kinko’s paper. This original press release was unearthed while going through publicity archives that had been in storage for years.
It’s hard to imagine now, when everyone from chillwavers to Kanye is mining old chillout-room B-sides for inspiration, but in 1993, the idea of ambient electronic music was so alien to most American listeners that a New York Times feature on the genre found it necessary to warn, “Strangers to ambient house may find the variety in these works hard to grasp at first. But a few listens in the proper state of reflective attention reveal the span of experimental moves that the creators of ambient house are making with seemingly random sounds.”
The occasion for the feature was a compilation, Excursions in Ambience, that had just come out on New York’s Caroline Records, an independent label with punk-rock roots that was better known for bands like Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, and Primus. Featuring acts like Future Sound of London, Ultramarine, and Banco De Gaia, the album was designed to showcase the strange new sounds coming out of the U.K. and Europe (as well as pockets of the U.S., in the case of Los Angeles’ Tranquility Bass). Caroline’s Brian Long, who compiled Excursions alongside the New York DJ Mr. Kleen, called it “the future of electronic music: compositional, melodically interesting, texturally interesting, and very forward-thinking.”
Within a few months, Caroline had established a new platform to secure the music’s future: Astralwerks. The new label kicked off on July 30, 1993 — 20 years ago today — with Tales of Ephidrina, the debut album from the Future Sound of London’s Amorphous Androgynous alias.
Amorphous Androgynous FAX. That’s how we communicated back then. I don’t recall if they took our club-sensitive A&R suggestions on board. I kind’ve imagine not. DJ Reese (RIP) was the first employee I hired. He was a regular DJ at the Limelight and we’d worked together at Rockpool Magazine. – B. Long
Astralwerks’ first promotional sampler. Long before the now famous Astralwerks CD samplers came, we released these. Cassette samplers! Of note is the original Astralwerks starburst logo and the fact that Astralwerks had an email address (via Cyber.net) for fans to connect with us long before AOL, Prodigy, and Hotmail, which came in late ’95.
Better Living Through Chemistry is the debut studio album by English big beat musician Fatboy Slim, released on 23 September 1996. Its name is a variation of a DuPont advertising slogan.
The founder of Skint Records, Damian Harris, has described the album as having been “more of a compilation than an album”, as some of the tracks had been recorded some time previous to its release, due to Norman Cook’s other musical projects. Three of the songs from the album were previously released in Skint’s first volume of their compilation album series Brassic Beats. This same Brassic Beats album is advertised in the album’s booklet.
The album cover features the image of a 3.5-inch floppy disk, paying homage to the cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday” single, which featured a 5.25-inch disk.
The song “Give the Po’ Man a Break” is featured in the 2000 film Traffic.
The song “The Weekend Starts Here” is featured in the first episode of the British sitcom, Spaced.
The piano sample in “Song for Lindy” is from the song “Better Days” by Jimi Polo (1989) which was also sampled by Congress in their track “40 Miles” (1991).
This track was Future Sound of London’s most successful single, getting to number 12 in the UK Singles Chart in 1997. It features prominent sampling of the Run-DMC album Tougher Than Leather.
Formula (Now Magnum) PR / Astralwerks release for the brothers’ North American tour. Riding high on the success of their first two albums, the band blazed a trail across the U.S., along with the legendary Orb. Many minds were blown, some for the first time as we made our way across the country – enjoying the unique comforts of cross country bus travel. We watched a lot of episodes of the Simpsons on VHS, among other things! – E Kolosine
The Meteoric Rise
When AIR came to America for their first US shows, many people didn’t realize it was actually their FIRST live performance EVER, including in their home country of France. With a slew of analog gear on stage that can be delicate to move around and sometimes susceptible to weather and other factors, the show was plagued with issues. In the end, the band made it through the show but it was clear they needed a lot more time pre-show to set up their gear.
The show took place at a very cool venue called ARO Space. It was co-owned by Alex Calderwood, a successful entrepreneur who previously started Rudy’s Barbershop and later, after the demise of ARO Space, founded the ACE Hotel.
This is a poster from this first ever AIR show and one in a limited run of 100 posters that were made for the event.
Phoenix invaded America for the first-time in 2000 with their 1980’s style of verse chorus. They grew over the years with a very passionate U.S. following and eventually catapulted themselves to performing in US arenas.
This was a classic moment in one of our favorite films, High Fidelity starring John Cusack, Jack Black, Tim Robbins among others… Cusack’s character ran a record shop and in this scene he says “I will now sell 5 copies of The Three EP’s by The Beta Band”. The next year The Beta Band opened up for Radiohead in the summer and fall of 2001 and things really took off from there for the techno-prog-folkies.
AIR scored this critically acclaimed film from Sophia Coppola. The album was nominated for best soundtrack at the 2001 Brit Awards. At the time the band received a lot of acclaim and respect from the French media and the soundtrack became a legendary moment in their career.
Fatboy Slim plays Centro Fly which was a small nightclub on 21st street in NYC. This was a massive underplay for Norman and we sold numbered tickets at the door 1 week before the show. The catch besides waiting in line was that every ticket buyer needed to be interviewed and be able to answer questions about Fatboy Slim. The Astralwerks staff did the selling. Reflectively that might not have been legal!
The song is perhaps best known for its accompanying music video, which was filmed in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel (now the LA Hotel) in Los Angeles in December 2000. Directed by Spike Jonze and featuring actor Christopher Walken, who trained as a dancer in musical theatre before his acting career, it features Walken dancing and flying around in the empty hotel to the music.
The “Weapon of Choice” video won six awards at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Walken was awarded one of MTV’s “Moonmen” for Best Choreography. The clip was also ranked number one in a list of the top 100 videos of all time by VH1 in April 2002 that was compiled from a music industry survey.
Here’s the first record from the Norwegian duo Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe that we released in 2001. The guys revel in their softness with this beautiful record and fast became one of our favorite Sunday morning artists to listen to at home. Be sure to pick up the limited edition vinyl re-issue that came out in April 2016 in our shop.
The Label Expands
This was the debut album from Australia’s The Sleepy Jackson, a delightful record filled with so many trippy pop moments. Frontman Luke Steele is even better known these days as one of the masterminds behind Empire of the Sun but we highly encourage you to take a trip back in time with this classic debut!
CHEMICAL BROTHERS EBW3. This was the first shot across the bow of the mighty “Surrender” album, continuing the “EBW” tradition of releasing dance floor stompers ahead of each album on these relatively anonymous vinyl releases.. Subsequently, an alternative version of “Electronic Battle Weapon 3” was later released as “Under The Influence” on the album “Surrender”, while “Electronic Battle Weapon 4” was later released as “Freak Of The Week” on the “Music:Response” EP. – E Kolosine.
Sia’s classic song “Breathe Me” reached an entirely new level when it was used in the series finale of HBO’s critically acclaimed series Six Feet Under. The scene was even written with the song in mind & you can dig more into the song selection over at Vulture. We all know what happened with Sia’s career in the years to come after this song. Be sure to pick up our vinyl re-issue of her album “Colour the Small One” in the Astralwerks shop. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNwARV9tPUw
The New Pioneers
Is it a boy band with a fanatical fanbase? Or is there more behind them? One of our favorite videos from Hot Chip, or as a matter of fact, our entire 23 year history.
David Guetta started to make a larger stamp in the American electronic and dance music scene with his 2009 album One Love but reached an entirely new peak with the release of “Nothing But the Beat” in 2011. The album featured numerous hit singles including “Where Them Girls At”, “Without You”, “Turn Me On” and this track “Titanium” featuring Sia. These tracks forever changed what was being played on Pop radio and David helped pave the way for numerous artists to follow him.
This was easily Swedish House Mafia’s biggest song from their short career… They announced their break-up on June 24th, 2012 and this video gives you insight into their rise to fame of selling out massive arenas and stadiums all across the globe. They were easily one of the biggest faces of the mainstream progressive house music movement.
You probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you how long it took to put together this super rare and limited edition box set for our 20th anniversary. What better way to launch it than on Record Store Day, one of our favorite days of the year? This bad boy is now sold out forever but we have a few lying around the office & would like to give one away via a contest from time to time. Stay tuned for that….
Astralwerks 20th Anniversary Flexi Disc Box set. 20 Years, 20 Artists, 20 bucks. Made in very limited supply these were issued on the 20th anniversary of the label on July 30th, 2013. Includes unreleased and rare tracks by Kraftwerk, Hot Chip and classic tracks by The Chemical Brothers and Swedish House Mafia.
Much of America was hit with one of the worst cold / winter spells in 2013 and when this video was released in February 2014, it was like a grand welcome into the spring season for us. We eventually thawed out…. thanks to this song that warmed up the globe, 175 million views later.
The Chemical Brothers returned to working with longtime collaborators Dom&Nic who produced and directed this fantastic video featuring vocals from Beck. Did you know it was done in one shot? Dig deeper into the video here… Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a Tom & Ed appearance and see if you can recognize where that image of them originally comes from? Hit us up on Twitter if you can spot it.