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Monday, May 28, 2012

S.F. Label tUMULt Specializes in the Dark, Experimental, and Druggy

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 3:30 AM

Andee Connors of tUMULt and Aquarius Records
  • Andee Connors of tUMULt and Aquarius Records

Name: tUMULt

Headquarters: San Francisco

Owner: Andee Connors

Founded: 1999

Label one-sheet: In short, tUMULt is an independent record label operated solely by Andee Connors focused on releasing fringe bands of esoteric genres like black metal, experimental, and psychedelic. Connors is also co-owner of Aquarius Records, San Francisco's flag-bearing record store for niche genres, which has been instrumental in the development of tUMULt.


Musical focus: tUMULt's discography is as eclectic as Connors' taste. The label is perhaps best known for its releases of local black metal bands like Weakling and Leviathan, but there are vastly more genres represented in the label's back catalog. tUMULt's roster has also been graced by modern psychedelic notables Acid Mother's Temple, a group that sometimes combines lounge and grindcore called 7000 Dying Rats, noisy Swedish garage force The Brainbombs, and dirge-y, cult rock group Harvey Milk.

The stylistic variety may be baffling to average consumers, but Connors says there are common threads in the catalog. "All the music on tUMULt is dark, druggy, droning, [and] a little bit fucked." He uses the descriptor "druggy" often in reference to his releases, but admits it is odd, since he has been sober his entire life. Perhaps, though, it makes sense: Connors could be seeking his own psychedelic experience through strictly aural stimuli.

Creation story: Connors' role at Aquarius facilitated the beginnings of his label. He was a massive fan of Souled America; a depressive alt-country band from Chicago that was selling very well at Aquarius. After arranging for them to perform in San Francisco, Connors casually joked that someone should release a box-set of their early material in America, since their records were then only available as German imports. A few days later, the group contacted Connors to discuss the box set, as if it had already been decided, and he borrowed enough money to finance the ambitious first release.

The risky release of an elaborate Souled America box set unintentionally set the tone for tUMULt's obstinate championing of thoroughly non-commercial bands. Connors never seems to consider the financial soundness of releasing bands that are practically unheard of, won't tour, and aren't aligned with any vogue genre. In some cases, the popularity of a release is unsurprisingly dismal, but the label has also accrued a trend-setting reputation. Many unheard-of bands tUMULt initially released achieved later success on larger labels or are now regarded as influential.

  • Mastery

Most recent release: tUMULt typically releases in batches of three. Most recently, the label released a local one-man black metal project called Mastery; a bizarre record from Botanist featuring exclusively drums and hammered dulcimer with lyrics strictly dealing with plants; and Black Bug, a blown-out synth-punk trio from Sweden. The trio of releases characterizes tUMULt rather well: Black metal, unclassifiable experimentation, and feral, raucous rock can begin to describe many of its titles.

Most unusual release: Most tUMULt titles vie for this category in one way or another, considering the thoroughly off-kilter thread running through its music, but the back story behind the double-disc Solar Anus collection takes the cake. Connors heard the diabolical, sludgy Japanese psych group by chance, but his release of its material wasn't facilitated until he met the vocalist in Japan. Connors recalls discovering that "he was a martial artist who also filmed pornographic movies about dead girls." Such an outsider sensibility apparently endeared them to each other even more, and a comprehensive collection on tUMULt soon followed.


Primary format: Most independent labels catering to niche markets that are profiled in this column have an affinity for the vinyl or cassette format. In most cases, cult music gravitates towards cult formats, but tUMULt releases primarily on CD. Connors is personally an avid vinyl collector, but CDs are simply more financially practical. The cost of production allows Connors to release much more music than if he was paying the exorbitant cost of manufacturing vinyl. Additionally, Connors insists that it is counter-productive to fetishize formats. He worries that the format becomes more important to some collectors than the actual sounds contained -- a sentiment likely developed as a reaction to the sniveling collector mentality of certain customers in Aquarius and record stores everywhere.

On running a record store and a record label: Aquarius and tUMULt are intrinsically connected. It's partly a practical relationship: Connors distributes his titles through Aquarius, instead of running his own mail order, and has a high-profile physical location for promoting his titles. But more importantly, the tastes of his coworkers and the relationships developed with fellow fanatics all over the world have molded and influenced tUMULt in incalculable ways.

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Sam Lefebvre


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