Plug Research is an independent electronic music label based in Los Angeles California, specializing in alternative, ambient, experimental, soul/funk, tropical techno and anything else you can’t quite put your finger on. Allen Avanessian started the label as a hobby in 1994, producing electronic music with his partner from their home.
“We tried to get signed to certain labels, but we finally realized that we can release this music on our own, and get it distributed world wide through certain channels,” Avanessian said in an email.
He started working with other artists and producers, developing relationships and expanding the worldwide distribution network of Plug Research.
Much of what comes out of Plug is progressive, melodic and instrumentally as well as vocally-driven. It’s a label that’s creative, forward-looking, and supportive of pushing the limits within EDM. Avanessian listed afrobeat, hiphop, Appalachian and Brazilian as being among the progressives styles Plug Research promotes.
Electronic acts like Sonnymoon, the Hawthorne Headhunters, Sene, Naytronix and Elephant & Castle are being fostered by Plug Research as they explore new frontiers of sound. What these musicians share is that they’re rooted in clean downtempo. The way they experiment within that genre varies widely.
Sonnymoon offers spare beats and bass-lines inflected with simple but profound melodies delivered by Anna Wise with Dane Orr. The smooth, floating soprano of Wise mixes perfectly with the low, almost imperceptible swell of dreamy percussion and layered harmonies.
Hawthorne Headhunters puts together a throbbing soul/funk sound complemented by deep synths, irregular rhythms, spacey effects and stretched melodies. Their sound is boosted by their ability to harmonize like the best of an acapella gospel team on a street corner. It’s even nicer that their experiments trip up the smoothness of their vocals, causing you to have to listen harder.
Sene is a hiphop rapper with a light and easy vibe, rounded out by a sweet jazzy element. Storytelling pitched against dropped rhythms, pianos, squelching synths, saxophones and harmonic vocals, each track gives a chilled-out sense with a little edge of mystery. It’s like the sound refuses to belong to any one category. You keep wondering where it’s going to go next.
Naytronix offers more of this easy, chanting rhythmic style, backed up by watery effects, distorted trumpets and smoothly blended harmonies. The natural simplicity of the vocals blend well with an almost folk-synth approach to song structure – an easy listening, acoustic element infused with amplified, pensive synths. These are tracks that surround you.
Elephant & Castle steps it up slightly, giving a faster yet moody feel with wobbling vocal echoes and chunky synths. Experimenting with the sound of extra noise and reverb in the guitars and vocals, the group offers chill-out music that has a perplexing quality to it. You start to wonder what it is – whether you should dance, or just relax on the couch. Sometimes the style rocks out towards the shoegazing end of the dream pop spectrum; other times, it holds onto something a little more St. Germain. There is a simple spoken-word element, as with many of the experimental groups produced by Plug Research.
This is a label that takes creativity in all seriousness. Avanessian said Plug’s vision is “To develop and grow with the artists that we have, and create a larger platform for all kinds of musicians, artists, and a creative network of people who just want to be involved.”
It’s refreshing to listen to a wide variety of downtempo surprises in its ability to move as well as stun you with wave after wave of new style, new sound. It’s obvious Plug Research has gathered together a conglomerate of exceptional musicians.
“We look for artists that are enthusiastic, and want to be part of a process that will help them grow and develop into their own,” said Avanessian. “The music of course has to appeal to us, but we also want to grow and develop with these artists so that we can create a stronger brand and network that everyone feels good about.”
The range of artists produced by Plug Research is eclectic enough that you can expect something a little different from each one. But it’s the quality and carefulness of production that stands out. Never do we get halfway into an album and start thinking, “same old, same old”. This is stuff that’s taking advantage of technology in all its finest, playing around with genres, mixing and mashing new and old techniques, and focussing on low-key, energetic tunes that stand on their own in the world of EDM.