Since its inception in 1993, Laurence Bell’s Domino Records has always stuck to its ethos of releasing exciting left-field music running somewhat parallel to the mainstream. Debuting with 'Soul and Fire' by Sebadoh, in the fourteen years since then the label has built unstoppable momentum until the present, when it is arguably the biggest “indie” label in the U.K., stealing the mantle from the likes of Rough Trade – though any discussion of what represents truly independent music these days can lead to a convoluted conversation.

With the likes of Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys so ubiquitous in the present day music scene - and, correspondingly, Domino Records’ presence - it’s easy to forget that many other acts on the label can offer more challenging, complicated bodies of work. From the pastoral Movietone to the mysterious Pram, whose kitchen-sink aesthetic frequently takes on a nightmarish quality; to the abstract electronics of Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden and his collaboration with Steve Reid, as well as the likes of To Rococo Rot and Max Tundra; to artists from Latin America such as Juana Molina and Bonde De Role; to the Americana of Smog (whose recently jettisoned his pseudonym in favour of his real name, Bill Callahan) and Will Oldham / Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, the label offers one of the most varied palettes of any its size.

Perhaps it is its ability to draw in all different kinds of music on different levels of accessibility that’s been Domino’s success, a move that has simultaneously kept the purists and the casual listener happy. Somehow managing to span many genres, and with their recent acquisitions among the biggest indie acts in the U.K., the sky’s the limit for the label.

They’ve also had some seriously striking cover art, investing time on the artwork of the albums that are released on the label with the same enthusiasm as with releasing records – an aesthetic that harks back to classic labels such as Factory, with it’s classic Peter Saville artwork that still remains challenging and groundbreaking to this day.

It’s fitting that an evening devoted to displaying the artwork of records released on the label should be a gallery devoted almost wholly to the aesthetic of album covers – Art Vinyl in Broadway Market, east London.

While staff from the label mingle and DJs spin classic tracks – most, but not all, from the Domino roster – the walls are adorned with images from the various albums. Some front covers are instantly recognisable in the memory, such as the Soviet kitsch of Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut; others, such as those of Archie Bronson Outfit, Max Tundra and Juana Molina, are less well-known but just as striking.

The albums are displayed in random order, without priority for those which have been big sellers – a reminder of sorts that Domino is committed to always finding new and frequently challenging music, not just resting of the reputation of the label’s big name acts.

Here’s to next year’s 15th birthday celebrations.











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Commenting On: Art Vinyl Gallery, London, 5/4/2007 - Domino Records Exhibition








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