The open-source and collaborative music label Club Late Music explores new ways of producing and promoting music

Born in Paris and London in 2015, the open-source and collaborative music label Club Late Music (CLM) seeks to explore the production and diffusion of musical projects by connecting artists worldwide. By gathering a broad community working together on projects and releases, Club Late Music attempts to represent an artistic movement driven by experimentation in the musical and visual field. “As a joke, we used to say in the very early stage that we should be a gym club for artists where everyone could come and go, to practice, to train, to become better”, they tell Collide24, “We share a common passion for music, and more particularly the broad spectrum of club music and its derivative by-products, including more experimental explorations across genres and bpms influenced by club culture.” 

In the first two years, CLM concentrated on organizing parties and releasing compilations to present their first members, but the idea of expanding their concept and enlarging their community has always been on their mind. In April 2017, Club Late Music initiated GUN – short for Global URL Nation – which can be seen as the backbone of CLM, a network of musicians, designers and creative enthusiasts, based on collaboration, mutual aid and the sharing of knowledge, skills and creative resources. “CLM would be nothing without the Global URL Nation, the incredibly talented community behind most of our projects”, they state, “It’s like two sides of the same coin. It started by gathering around 30 people and grew considerably over the years.” Tendre Ael, ASJ, ccontrary, Désiré, Jaeho Hwang, Andres Komatsu, SNKLS, Moritz Tontsch, Vibrisse and VINÍ are just some of the names behind this collaborative project – and there is still room to grow.

Sound by Mansa and Visual by Studio Dosage
Sound by Pacôme le Rouge and Visual by Adem Elahel
Sound by ASJ and Visual by Théotim Hunaut
Sound by Désiré and Visual by medieval_cortex
Sound by Vibrisse and Visual by Alpha_Rats
Sound by S1monc3llo and Visuals by LEI

Since their early beginnings, the community has always been open to new members – and intends to stay that way in the future. “We believe that difference is the cornerstone of empathy. Being confronted with the other or the unknown is a way to discover yourself, before moving forward collectively. Anyone with the right mindset, regardless of their skills, identity or background can bring a positive contribution to the project”, CLM explains, “We currently have around 130 members, each with their own influences, expectations and ways to participate. There’s obviously an aesthetic affinity with the content we release (musically and visually) but it’s not a prerequisite. We care more about the process than the result.” Through their label, CLM seeks to promote a positive vision of the future of music and how it is created, promoted and disseminated, by building up an exchange of knowledge, resources and skills. 

“We are strongly inspired by the free and open-source software communities of the 1990’s and 2000’s, who developed complex projects in a revolutionary way by using this new thing – the Internet”, CLM tell us about their collaborative approach, “At the time, no one really knew how to manage such a tool, and such movements put a strong emphasis on open contributions and collaborations, as well as the free circulation of their creations. We wondered what forms it could take with musical content, after that platforms like MySpace or Soundcloud really changed the way people created and shared music.“ The emergence of digital technologies over the past decades has greatly redefined the distribution of recorded music, as well as the ways of promoting, consuming and producing. As technologies evolve from one year to the next, the internet provides a whole new field of experimentation and collective practices, and connects artists worldwide. 

“Now the Internet has lost a lot of its emancipatory power – it is a harder place to navigate, which has also shown its worst sides”, CLM explain, “These movements from the past can be seen as idealistic, but we try to keep the same core values and see how they could be applied in the current context. After five years of activity, and considering the current state of the world, we are still more than convinced that collective action and togetherness are much needed guides to move forward.” Using various mediums, processes and formats, the collective has released a number of exciting projects so far, ranging from EPs and compilations to audiovisual projects, installations and live acts. “We grew up with the Internet, and probably the URL culture and its capacity to blend everything into a chaotic mass is just rooted in our generation. We believe it’s important to come together and to welcome various profiles if we want to develop something meaningful and relevant”, CLM state, emphasizing once again the importance of collaboration and diversity to their practice.

One of their ongoing collaborative projects, The Great Sleep, consists of thirteen narrative audio mixes, combining sounds, visuals and written text. The project was aired on Internet Public Radio from December 2019 to December 2020, after their open call for new residents. “Since we knew we had a fixed number of shows, we wanted to develop something with a beginning and an end”, CLM explain, “We really like world-building and story-telling, and we thought it would be interesting to imagine a multimedia story that develops every month, just like a series, whose main source of inspiration would come from audio mixes and the associated visuals. Every month, we give a pitch for the episode to two artists from GUN who work on the mix and cover. We then develop the written text, depending on their interpretation, to rework the narration, refine the story and incorporate new elements.” With each chapter meant to be heard, seen and read, the result is a fascinating back and forth between the three mediums.

For their five year’s anniversary this year, CLMxGUN released twelve tracks in October under the name Tinnitvs, with two or more members collaborating on each track. “We did not want to go with a regular compilation of individual artists, but something more in line with our activity and core values”, CLM explain, “We thought that having only collab tracks from members of the GUN community would keep it simple and celebratory, and could give some interesting results. Kind of a snapshot of where we’re at right now. And we’ve been very happy how it turned out.” As they have worked on collaborative projects before, like Emergence or United, they already experienced the benefits and challenges of working together on one track. “The most important thing is meeting someone and their world. This allows everyone to go towards new methods, constructions and sounds. The main challenge is to let everyone express themselves and at the same time to succeed in mixing the whole”, SNKLS, one of the involved artists, explains, and CLM adds: “It’s a way for people to meet and bond, as well as to get introduced to other people’s ways of producing or music thinking. It takes people out of their comfort zone, pushing them to explore unexpected directions.”

In many of their projects, CLM questions collaborative production processes and the modern ways of making music, leading to experimental approaches like the upcoming Chain of Whispers EP which will be released in November. Inspired by the Chinese Whispers Game, the concept behind the two 7-track EPs is having one track being passed from one producer to another. “We think that such a playful approach, with a defined set of constraints or rules, can be very fruitful – people are still creating together, but it takes out the seriousness you can sometimes have on a regular EP”, CLM explains, “On a deeper level, it can be seen as an exploration of how music is altered by every contribution, a metaphor of how it happens on a larger scale in space and time with the evolution of genres and the blending of cultures which has been exacerbated in the past decades.” The project explores the manipulation and transformation of sound, when being passed from one artist to another. “We don’t know our position in the chain (unless we start it) which already brings a bit of mystery to the project”, SNKLS adds, “When I received the tracks I asked myself which elements could have crossed from project to project and therefore which I wanted to prioritize.”

With their projects often crossing the lines of the two disciplines, CLM immersed themselves in exploring the intertwinement between music and design. The fascination for those creative disciplines can be traced back to the consumption of multimedia in the internet era, from video game soundtracks to MTV music clips and the predominance of visual elements in their daily life. “To us, they serve the same purpose : they create a world, a universe in which the spectator or auditor is invited to step in. One can complement the other, for example when an EP cover comes after music composition but still gives off a vibe prior to listening to the finished project. Sometimes they develop together, and can only exists fully when put side by side”, they tell us, “On every project we try to use both substrates to suggest stories, or to accentuate the emotional expression of an artist, may that be with radio show covers, event flyers or releases.” Coming from a musical background, sound has often played the bigger part in their audiovisual projects till now, “but that’s something we wish to experiment with in the coming years.”

Genome 6.66 Mbp (Shanghai, China), visuals by Olga Bjem & Jimmy Premier
Visual by Gourau & Phong

The correlation of sound and design is an interesting field, that puts the involved artists into a challenging, yet exciting position. “When a musician and a visual artist come together, they sometimes lack a common ground to exchange ideas and develop the project together. But this barrier can also be interesting. Just like when you travel to a country without speaking the local language: you try to communicate however you can and that often leads you to unexpected discussions”, CLM conclude, “It’s the same with an audiovisual project, for example a musician who exposes what they have in mind visually (or the other way around) can take the project in new directions.In our case, since we’re a music label, even the participating visual artists have a certain affinity with the music we release. That often acts as a strong basis for collaboration.”

Visual by Gourau & Phong
Visual by Akua Visuals
Visual by GRIG
Visual by GRIG

Looking into the future, CLM have a certain kind of skepticism towards the evolvement of music and technology. “Overall, we are really scared and pessimistic. We witness an extreme polarization taking place over the world, and wrong tendencies being accentuated in music and technology alike,  such as the rising of inequalities, biases, surveillance or economic-benefit-above-all productivity”, they state, “The global challenges we currently face are of a true complexity, and they are diluted across intricate layers of society. The response we give to them must be equally complex, and therefore needs various profiles to come together and go beyond their own interests. But it’s not easy, as the past decades have exacerbated the importance of the individual, so we need to learn (or re-learn?) how to interact together in a meaningful way to develop new models. We believe the tools we have at our disposal, with all their flaws, can be of great help to that. They are unprecedented in human history. We must take this opportunity to learn to use them in this context for what we believe in.”

As the current situation makes it difficult to organize any parties, CLM will focus on other formats for the moment, such as workshops and masterclasses. Apart from a new single of their series SEED, an upcoming UNITED EP and a collaboration with the label Oxyorange, Club Late Music is currently working on a new version of GUN, GUN 2.0. “The last couple years, we’ve been focusing on consolidating our structure and on developing tools for the GUN community in order to have a strong foundation for the project to continue”, CLM explain, “Now we feel it’s time to give the community more freedom and ways to participate. To us, the biggest challenge of open-source and collaborative projects is to foster participation, and we believe one the best ways for that is to develop a proper framework that gives both freedom of initiative and support tools. We want to involve the whole community in all the aspects of creation, from production to diffusion, and we’re currently discussing with a dozen members to find ways to implement that in practice.We’re curious in which directions it will take the CLMxGUN adventure.”

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