||Brownswood are celebrating 10 years with a compilation of 10 cover versions - one for each year of its existence. Sourced from Brownswood artists past and present, it's testament to the independent label's diverse, multifarious legacy. Brownswood 10 Versions is the first in a series of releases and events to mark a decade of releasing music for the independent label. A limited edition, vinyl-only release, it collects together versions from Brownswood artists - past and present - that re-make and re-imagine tracks.
Brownswood Recordings was born at a time which, in a strange way, was perfectly primed for independent record labels. Picture the scene — it’s 2006, and record sales continue to plummet to new, dispiriting lows. The veterans of the music industry grapple to comprehend the new, depressing reality facing them. With such little money to be made, only the most dedicated — driven by sincere passion, ill-thought-out optimism and, frankly, a plain disregard for economic reality — would choose to start a record label.
It’s into this environment which Brownswood emerged. Founded by Gilles Peterson, it followed his departure from iconic label Talkin’ Loud, a subsidiary of major label Mercury, which championed artists ranging from Roni Size and 4hero to Omar. By 2006, however, Gilles felt increasingly stifled. As purse strings tightened in the major label world, he sought an outlet where he could freely support the varied, divergent musical currents which continued to pique his interest.
Starting with little fanfare, the label started slowly. Its first signings were as eclectic as you’d expect: Ben Westbeech’s bass-weighted soul music, Soil & “Pimp” Sessions’ third album of (in their words) “death jazz”, followed by the delicate meditations of Elan Mehler’s jazz quartet. Since then, the label’s sonic trajectory has remained just as tough to pin down — from Mercury-nominated Ghostpoet’s debut to Mala’s re-configuring dubstep with Cuban sound system culture, it affirmed its place as a platform for artists to grow or do something different.
This collection of covers is the perfect vehicle for the ever restless, open-ended musical policy of the label. With a solid grounding in jazz, there’s Emanative’s beefed up Sun Ra stargazing (in a previously unreleased mix), Daymé Arocena’s take on a Patrick Forge-discovered, latter-day Dingwalls classic and Soil & “Pimp” Sessions’ explosive version of Art Blakey.
Elsewhere, there’s British-Kenyan outfit Owiny Sigoma Band’s previously unreleased cover of Can’s “Vitamin C”, reworking hazy krautrock with their nyatiti master Joseph Nyamungu. Mala’s ‘Cunumicita’, meanwhile, sees the dubstep talisman re-framing one of Peru’s traditional touchstones.