At the risk of sounding corny as f–k, one of my favorite aspects about DIY label collectives of the 2010s (think Huh What & Where, Friends of Friends, Orchid Tapes, The Melt,) is that they are all close-knit groups of friends who care inestimably about the music they are collaboratively releasing. It might be easy to call each label a micro-scene or whatever, and there is some veracity to that, but it always starts with young people who like music, like each other, and can navigate a Tumblr.
Astro Nautico started as 4-6 AM student radio show at McGill in Montreal. Paul Jones, one of the labels co-founders, used the freeform show to play the experimental, exotic, and fringe electronic music for which the Brooklyn-based label is now beloved. After returning home from a break, Paul discovered that his childhood friends Bennett Kuhn and Sam Obey were into the idea of making their mutual music tastes into something a little more formalized — what started as a now-defunct Blogspot turned into the startup label that gave out all its music for free and held regular DJ showcases at an industrial art space in Brooklyn called Freecandy. In short, friends became a label became a community.
Perhaps the most consistent aspect about their sound is the exotic energy of the music they release. Rarely is there just a straightforward dance track which is defined by its BPM. More often there are elements of ambient, world music, soul, weird skittering syncopations and oozing, droning synths. On paper, it sounds like that would be sort of a mess, but with headphones plugged in, it is an adroitly polyglot aesthetic. The mix above works as a good introductory thesis for why you absolutely need to be keeping tabs on these guys.
Bennett, who now lives in Nicaragua to do nonprofit work while still working for the label remotely, compiled this mix and tapped friend Jammie Mountz for the artwork, which encapsulates Astro Nautico perfectly: Always consciously navigating roots by appreciating how vintage sound can be channelled into something experimental and innovative–striking but cohesive.
Bennet Kuhn discusses the philosophy of the Astro Nautico mix and illustration.
This Astro Nautico mix, though packed with hype tracks worthy of your car sound system or fanciest headphones, is basically about gratitude and perseverance. I’ve been living and working in Nicaragua for a year far from my old friends and Astro Nautico co-founders Sam Obey and Paul Jones, who reside in Brooklyn.
I made this mix as an act of appreciation for the work Sam and Paul have done to keep the label afloat while I’m not physically there, and to shout out a bunch of young talented artists making important music in isolation in their bedrooms. We receive you.
My megatalented illustrator/designer friend Jammie Mountz did the artwork. A jungle of warped ethnographic recordings and otherworldly voices meets the power and grace of post-genre contemporary art club music. Had to stick a Stingray in there because we deal #strictlyclassics.
Let us know if you are diggin’ Astro Nautico’s addition to the Car Tunes and Cartoons series in the comments and on Twitter! We will be back in two weeks with more. DJs please, pick up your phones, we’re on the request line!