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Label Watch: Strange Mono

We talk to the founder of the Philadelphian charity label.

Labels like Strange Mono are one of the key reasons why we do what we do here at Sun 13.

Community focus is something that has dissipated rapidly over the years, seemingly swallowed up by capitalism and the collective selfishness that is attached to it.

We’re lucky here in Liverpool. There still feels like some sense of community, and while many outside of the city see it as a bubble or, indeed, a village, perhaps this is why a sense of community can still be preserved. In any case, I’m willing to accept these criticisms if it means we can still feel a sense of community spirit.

Having not visited Philadelphia myself, I still get a sense that it holds a similar vibe to Liverpool. With labels like Strange Mono, if anything it seems like a city aligned to our ideals.

Formed by Philadelphian natives, Dan Timlin and Jesse last year, Strange Mono focuses on local DIY artists, releasing everything from albums and seven inches to rarities. Purely a not for profit label, all the proceeds from Strange Mono are donated to various local charities not limited to Prevention Point and Homies Helping Homies.

It’s perfect example of art reaching beyond our own personal indulgences for a greater good. That’s what community spirit is all about.

Recently we caught up with Timlin and asked him some questions about Strange Mono.

Jesse and Dan Timlin

S13: Can you tell us what the inspiration was behind starting the label?

Dan Timlin: “We have strong beliefs in the power of radicalism and practicing community support. Politicians cannot rise to meet the needs of the people because it goes against their own interests. A politician’s main interest is to put themselves in a position of power. Our main interest is community support on the grassroots level. We want to be able to meet the needs of our people (city, state, country, and world!), and provide a platform for these amazing, and often underserved, musicians. In an often ego driven, self-obsessed industry like art and music what is more radical than selflessness?”

S13: With the arts seemingly deprived of everything these days, did it feel like a baptism of fire to start a label?

DT: “Honestly it felt very natural for us. We wanted an outlet for all this creative energy that had built up over lockdown. My partner and I were both going through a period of transition. I found this really old mono tape duplicator that had been used for distributing church sermons. At that point there were a lot of protests and a lot of corrupt police activity across the country and especially here in Philadelphia. We wanted to find a way to raise funds for the Philly Bail Fund so we came up with the idea of releasing a tape, with Sandcastle, and donating everything. I sent a blown out copy of the tape to a close friend who said something like ‘Wow, keep making these strange mono tapes’ and we latched onto the name.”

S13: Philadelphia has been home to many great artists over the last decade. There really seems like a sense of community there. Can you tell us about it?

DT: “My partner and I have been a part of the Philly DIY music scene since we were teenagers playing basement shows with our high school bands. There has always been a diehard DIY ethos within our community. There are so many really great bands in the scene right now you can go to any show on a Tuesday night and you will probably see bands that are better than anything getting written about in the bigger magazines.

“Philly has a reputation as being a tough town and while I think it’s a bit dismissive, the reputation is definitely earned. Philadelphia has never been an easy place to live, let alone make art. We have a culture of violence and addiction like so many U.S. cities but what I think really makes our scene stand out is the unwavering positivity and dedication to connection that we see from so many of our artists. People have heard Philly has a ‘bad attitude’ but that’s just its charm. The ‘attitude’ itself is really just sheer determination and stubbornness mixed with a lack of filter; an unabashed and unrelenting honesty. We are all trying to communicate with each other, our views, our thoughts and feelings. We thrive when we are heard and we better our understanding of ourselves when we better understand each other.”

Below are several 2022 releases from Strange Mono.

Luna Honey: Parables

Luna Honey is the project lead by chief songwriter, Maura Pond, and partnering up with Strange Mono, the three-piece released their third record in as many years with Parables.

Following last year’s Ballast, Parables brims with brooding soundscapes that are like mist drifting through a graveyard.

With Jarboe and Jefferson Airplane clear influences, Luna Honey patrol the dark frontiers extracting a psychedelic and dark wave spirit. The results are brilliant, with an album of solid hits from front to back, ending with perhaps the best of the bunch in This World is Ending. The way things are going, it very well could be…

In any case, fans of early Chelsea Wolfe dig no longer. You’ve just found your new poison and Parables is the place to start in the world of Luna Honey.

Truculent: The Bottoms

“We build resentment debt the same way a house is built. Brick by brick,” says producer, Truculent. Inspired by generational resentment and oppression, Truculent gives us their latest release, The Bottoms.

The two 10-plus minute compositions that consist of The Bottoms are earthy acoustic journeys that harness the aesthetic of William Tyler and the pedal steel atmospheric bliss of Suss.

With voiceovers inspired by poverty and social injustice in the backwaters of the United States, if anything it evokes a similar imagery to reading a Jane Smiley novel.

Charlie Butler Interview: “Outside of music, comics and books are my biggest influences”

Webb Chapel: Dalmatians

Following their LP, Like the Country, Webb Chapel release Dalmatians.

Formerly of Austin-based outfit, Beth Israel, Zack Claxon’s latest project sees him taking us on a journey through the murky world of experimental lo-fi, with a dose of luminous bluster. There’s a bit of everything here in what drips with DIY aesthetic, with a concoction of fuzzy hooks, acoustic lust and no-wave absurdity.

On Dalmatians, Claxon covers vast terrains and for those who like everything from odd-ball balladry to the lo-fi prairie hum and quintessential pop hooks, well Webb Chapel is most certainly your one stop shop.

Nyxy Nyx: Thee 3rd Album

Bandcamp was made for bands like Philly DIY stalwarts Nyxy Nyx. Releasing  music at a constant rate, Thee 3rd Album features Benjamin Schurr, Maura Pond (both of the aforementioned Luna Honey), Brian Reichert, Jake Lenderman, Dan Angel, Drew Saracco, Josh Meakim, Rachel Gordon, Sean Sprecher and Tim Jordan.

Despite spanning over 21 songs, Thee 3rd Album has a funny way of not outstaying its welcome, as Nyxy Nyx take us through the haunted house of art punk and shoegaze. Throughout there’s also an Eric Bachmann /Archers of Loaf vibe – faint, although listening to Thee 3rd Album may just have you reaching for No Recover shortly after.

Thee 3rd Album is a nice entry point into Nyxy Nyx’s hefty body of work. All of which is well worth your time.

For more Strange Mono releases, visit their Bandcamp page.

Previous Label Watch features:

Cruel Nature Records
Trouble In Mind Records
Waxing Crescent Records

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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