Labels to Watch: Projekt Records and Spotted Peccary Music

Vortex Music Magazine

Operating for a combined 70 years, Projekt Records and Spotted Peccary Music have storied histories exploring the fringes of music from near and far. Showing no signs of slowing down, these local curators with global ears will continue to do so for years to come.

Projekt Records' founder and director Sam RosenthalProjekt Records' founder and director Sam Rosenthal

Projekt Records

YEAR FOUNDED: 1983
ROSTER: Steve Roach (pictured above—photo by Adam Fleishman), Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Erik Wøllo, Lycia, Soriah, Aurelio Voltaire
NEW RELEASES: Steve Roach’s Trance Archeology (11/15), Forrest Fang’s Ancient Machines (12/6), Mark Seelig’s The Disciple’s Path (early 2020)

Back in 1983, Sam Rosenthal was a teenager releasing music by his own projects, as well as compilations of like-minded artists, as a hobby. By 23, his band, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, was releasing their third record, Ashes in the Brittle Air, and had a song on a CMJ sampler. After over 35 years and more than 500 total releases, Projekt Records’ imprint on the dream pop, darkwave, neoclassical, goth and shoegaze scene has been incalculable. And they aren’t showing signs of slowing down.

The label is a study in loyalty, as much with Projekt’s artists as with Rosenthal’s resolve, with its two best-selling artists—Steve Roach and Aurelio Voltaire—having released dozens of albums with the label over the last 20 years.

“I’m an artist,” Rosenthal says. “I treat the artists I work with right. I’m proud that I’m still doing this after all these years. The label releases relatively fringe music, and yet it’s been able to flourish and release great albums from many artists.”

Operating in the periphery of the music industry at large, Projekt has helped to helm some amazing releases from Roach alone; his record Molecules of Motion was nominated for a Grammy in 2018 for Best New Age Album, his second such distinction in successive years following 2017’s also-nominated Spiral Revelation.

Evolving with the ebbs and flows of the industry as well as the ways fans consume music has been another tactical advantage for Projekt’s longevity, as Rosenthal explains.

“I’ve been running the label as my full-time [job] since 1991,” Rosenthal says. “In this time, it’s evolved from cassettes to LPs to the arrival of CDs, digital downloads, the departure of CDs, streaming, the return of LPs... I’m always keeping up with whatever way the fans want to hear the music.”

Spotted Peccary Music

YEAR FOUNDED: 1986
ROSTER: Erik Wøllo, Weingarten-Charlton, Craig Padilla, Chronotope Project
NEW RELEASES: Kelly David's Meditation In Green (pictured above—design by Daniel Pipitone), Bart Hawkins' 21 Pulse Eclipse, Rudy Adrian’s Woodlands, David Helpling’s Rune (11/22)

Exploring the edges of the aural stratosphere and beyond, Portland’s Spotted Peccary Music has been cultivating and releasing new age, ambient and electronic music since the mid-1980s. First formed in the southwestern U.S., the label’s principals—Deborah Martin, Howard Givens and Jon Jenkins—have expanded the original, geographically inspired roots of Spotted Peccary to artists with muses exploring all manner of cosmic orbiting. The label is still artist owned and operated, to boot.

“For us, it has never been about running a business, and we have never thought of an album as just a ‘product’ to sell,” Jenkins explains. “Through the years, we always deeply believed that the music we released on the label was different than anything else that was happening at the time.”

Over 150 releases, Spotted Peccary has united the cinematic visions of artists from all over the world, and was ahead of the curve on a lot of now-standard business practices for music promotion. As Jenkins explains, the label had a website in 1994, long before most people even knew what the internet was; it was one of the first independent labels to offer music on iTunes; and it launched a podcast in 2004 when podcasting was still a fledgling idea.

Martin’s musical contributions also helped gain exposure for the label, with her 1995 album Under The Moon receiving ample play during the 1996 Summer Olympics coverage on NBC.

For Spotted Peccary, it’s about the music; but it’s also about the way the music is shared with its audience. “I believe we hold one of the highest standards for audio quality in both physical goods and digital downloads,” Martin says. The label also features “unsurpass[ed] artwork keenly paired to the music itself, [is] mindful of the ecology in our packaging, [and strives for] an ever-expanding palate of creative artists and expanding explorations in sound.”

Explore more of the experimental in Portland music in our latest issue.

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