Kranky co-founder Bruce Adams sits down to debate his new guide, You’re With Stupid: kranky, Chicago, and the Reinvention of Indie Music. (UTPress) Adams explains the distinctive situations that put Chicago on the coronary heart of the ‘90s indie rock scene, the emergence of the kranky aesthetic, and sings the praises of Labradford. Adams’ guide is filled with private recollections and reflections, together with assembly associate Joel Leoschke, kranky’s early roster of bands, and many desirable recollections from the broader Chicago scene. But Bruce additionally offers a lot helpful context that helps us to rethink the historical past of unbiased music. Cutting off in 2002, simply because the period of file-sharing started to actually disrupt the music business, You’re With Stupid gives an insider’s perspective on the significance of interdependence.


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Interview recorded between Urbana and Montreal, August 2022
Produced and combined in Montreal, October 2022

SP* at Anchor

Many of our readers describe ACL as a useful resource for “suggestions,” and whereas I hope that what we do right here transcends this zeitgeisty formulation, it actually does converse to one of many core ways in which we take into consideration our function. We’re your music obsessed buddies who’re all the time blissful to speak about our favorites, new and previous. And how can we uncover new artists? A very good place to start out is by digging into the catalogues of labels which have launched information you’re keen on. Before “curators” migrated out of the museums and seemingly colonized each side of our lives, the idea of curation was modeled by the very best file labels. We share an identical sense of style, so if I like one album I’ll most likely discover one other I like as nicely. As a listener, we come to belief our favourite labels so implicitly we’d purchase a brand new file with out a lot as a preview. The as soon as enigmatic Chicago-based kranky label has been extensively influential since their founding in 1993, and exemplifies a label aesthetic.

Over practically three a long time, kranky has been residence to so a lot of our favourite artists: GodspeedLowStars of the LidLabradfordPan•AmericanLichensTim Hecker, Christina VantzouA Winged Victory for the SullenLoscilBenoît PioulardGrouperDeerhunter, and on and on. But the behind the scenes of the label had lengthy been hazy, with founders Bruce Adams and Joel Leoschke obscured behind the persona of “mr. kranky.” That’s modified with the discharge of Bruce Adams’ You’re With Stupid: kranky, Chicago, and the Reinvention of Indie Music. The label first got here on my radar round 2001, after I purchased the CD model of Godspeed’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and whereas I’ve stored tabs on the label ever since, studying Adams’ guide made me notice simply what number of information I’d missed from the early years of the label, from artists together with Windy + CarlAMPMagnogJessica BailiffDadamah, and Roy Montgomery.

And whereas a historical past of the primary decade of kranky could be attention-grabbing in itself, You’re With Stupid does way more than that, situating the emergence of the label in a wider context, starting with the indie music growth of the Eighties, the post-Nirvana signing spree of the early Nineteen Nineties, the boundary crossing musical experimentation spurred on by the newfound entry of the CD period, and, crucially, how the particularities of Chicago put that metropolis squarely in the midst of all these forces. The 80s had been fuelled by the DIY spirit unleashed by punk, as networks of venues, zines, mail order corporations, faculty radio stations, and tape merchants helped small regional scenes broaden. Adams explains how American distribution for British punk and new wave information helped facilitate distribution for US-based unbiased labels as nicely. Chicago turned residence to importers and distributors, whereas insulated from among the market forces that drove the business in NYC and LA. Chicago has a wealthy musical historical past stretching again to the sooner days of blues and jazz, and town’s range of scenes additionally allowed for the emergence of hybrid types of music. So whereas the mid-90s noticed The Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair go platinum and gold, artists together with TortoiseGastr del SolJim O’RourkeRob MazurekKen Vandermark, and lots of others had been growing new sounds for a rising world viewers of their very own.

Bruce Adams

With all the eye lately divided between streaming and the vinyl revival, it’s straightforward to miss the transformative results of the CD growth. As Adams explains, CDs had been quicker to fabricate and simpler to ship. Many elusive information from the 60s and 70s (krautrock, afrobeat, free jazz, dub, musique concrete, new music, minimalism, psychedelic, and many others) had been circulating extensively for the primary time. Tastes within the comparatively siloed world of indie rock had been altering past the everyday confines of the style, encouraging experimentation with new devices and kinds. Adams underscores the defining affect of Chicago’s black musical traditions on this shift, together with blues, jazz, home, and hip hop, and the AACM. Many of the identical artists working for Thrill Jockey and Drag City may very well be discovered attending or internet hosting DJ nights devoted to reggae, dub, drum n bass, and different genres that impressed motion past rock orthodoxy. One significantly attention-grabbing instance within the guide is how Casey Rice, who’d recorded and toured with Liz Phair and Joan of Arc, in addition to being the indispensable dwell sound engineer for Tortoise, turned impressed by drum n bass to launch his Designer mission.

Before founding kranky, each Adams and Leoschke labored for different labels and distributors, together with Touch & Go and Cargo, they usually set off on their very own partly on account of their want to do one thing new, each aesthetically and as a enterprise. Chicago was already residence to many wonderful labels (the aforementioned Touch & Go, Thrill Jockey, Drag City, AtavisticTraxWax Trax!, and lots of extra) who had been higher positioned to signal native acts, and thus kranky’s roster started to mirror the decentralized community of experimentation that was going down all over the world. Kranky’s first launch, Prazision, got here from Richmond, Virginia’s Labradford, to whom a lot of the guide is a thinly-disguised love letter. According to Adams, Labradford broke down the doorways of indie rock, slowing down and embracing textural longform songwriting. Through their Peel Sessions in 1994 and 1996, the group helped domesticate connections within the UK and Europe, additional solidified by their curated Festivals of Drifting in London starting in 1998. Labradford additionally discovered fellow travellers in Stereolab; Adams relates how, in August 1993, Labradford’s Carter Brown drove from Richmond to New York to ensure Stereolab had synthesizers for his or her American tour. These transnational connections continued: connections with Bristol and Flying Saucer Attack information led to the signing of AMP; the label paid tribute to the affect of New Zealand by releasing information from Dadamah and Roy Montgomery; Godspeed cemented a reference to Montréal; and the late Peter Rehberg’s Vienna-based Mego additional solidified a reference to European experimental digital music that continues to at the present time.

If this worldwide genre-bending all sounds acquainted, that’s as a result of kranky is a pioneer of an aesthetic all of us dwell in right this moment. Before the fixed entry of the web and file-sharing, we discover most of the similar forces at work, simply manifesting inside the media ecology of the time. And it’s this historic perspective that makes You’re With Stupid of specific curiosity, permitting Adams to humbly counsel that we’d discover in his experiences some classes for the current second. The eleven chapters that comprise You’re With Stupid proceed in roughly chronological order, starting in late 1991 as Adams and Leoschke, then working at Cargo, dreamed of beginning their very own label over lunch on the “post-rock diner” Jim’s Grill, and culminating within the early 2000s and the exceptional success of Godspeed and Low. This episode offers only a partial window into this fascinating guide, and likewise I contact on only a small fraction of the deep kranky catalogue. I hope you get pleasure from, and please do hunt down Adams guide.

Detail from Theaster Gates’ Ground Rules (Free throw risk) (2014)

*This episode is devoted to the reminiscence of Mimi Parker of Low, who died on 5 November 2022. ACL wish to lengthen our deepest condolences to her household, buddies, and lots of followers.


You’re With Stupid (UTPress)
Simple Machines
Lounge Ax
Experimental Sound Studios (ESS)


Labradford – “Listening in Depth” (Prazision, kranky, 1993)


Tim Hecker – “concord in blue iv” (Harmony in Ultraviolet, kranky, 2006)

Sebadoh – “Gimme Indie Rock” (Gimme Indie Rock!, Homestead, 1991)

Archers of Loaf – “Plumb line” (Icky Mettle, Alias, 1993)

Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock” (Siamese Dream, 1993)

Jessamine –  “Secret” (Jessamine, kranky, 1994)

Slint – “Good Morning Captain” (Spiderland, Touch & Go, 1991/1995)

Tortoise – “Djed” (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, Thrill Jockey, 1996)

Spacemen 3 – “Feel So Sad” (Recurring, Fire Records, 1991)

The Art Ensemble Of Chicago – “Urban Magic  (in 4 Parts)” (Urban Bushmen, ECM, 1982)

Designer [Casey Rice]- “Vandal” (Vandal, Organico, 1996)

Labradford – “New Listening” (Prazision, kranky, 1993)

Labradford – “Recorded And Mixed At Sound Of Music, Richmond, Va.” (E Luxo So, kranky, 1999)

Labradford –  “Wien” (Fixed::Context, kranky, 2001)

Labradford – “S” (Mi Media Naranja, kranky, 1997)

Stereolab / Nurse With Wound – “Simple Headphone Mind” (Simple Headphone Mind, Duophonic Super 45s, 1997)

Gastr del Sol – “The Harp Factory On Lake Street” (The Harp Factory On Lake Street, Table Of The Elements, 1995)

AMP – “Celestialreturn” (astralmoonbeamprojections, kranky, 1997)

Massive Attack – “Inertia Creeps” (Mezzanine, Virgin, 1998)

Magnog – “Shapeshifter” (Magnog, kranky, 1996)

Roy Montgomery – “The Soul Quitens” (Temple IV, kranky, 1995)

Windy + Carl –  “Surfacing” (Depths, kranky, 1998)

Jessica Bailiff – “Beautiful Soul” (Even in Silence, kranky, 1998)

Grouper – “Disengaged” (Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill, Type, 2008/ kranky, 2013)

Low – “Remember” (Secret Name, kranky, 1999)

Liz Phair – “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (Exile in Guyville, 1993)

J Dilla “33” (Another Batch, 1998)

Wadada Leo Smith – “Images” [excerpt] (Spirit Catcher, Nessa, 1979)

Angel Bat Dawid – “The Oracle” (The Oracle, International Anthem, 2019)

Christina Vantzou – “The Magic of the Autodidact” [edit] (N°2, kranky, 2014)

Dead Texan  – “The Struggle” (The Dead Texan, kranky, 2004)

Stars of the Lid – “The Lonely People (Are Getting Lonelier)” (The Tired Sounds Of, kranky, 2001)

Bowery Electric – “Deep Blue” (Lushlife, Beggars Banquet, 2000)

Kevin Drumm – “Deep Breathing Doesn’t Work” (May(Part 2), 2017)

Labradford – “Lake Speed” (Labradford, kranky, 1996)

Sound Propositions is written, recorded, combined, and produced by Joseph Sannicandro.

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