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Friday, February 8, 2013

Moon Glyph: The Oakland Psych Label Recently Arrived From Minneapolis

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 3:30 AM


[Many local labels are offering obscure reissues and innovative new releases on all conceivable formats. Label Sampler is an occasional column that profiles a different Bay Area independent label in each edition.]

Name: Moon Glyph

Founded: 2009

Owner: Steve Rosborough

Headquarters: Moon Glyph is currently located in Rosborough's home in downtown Oakland. He recently relocated from Minneapolis, where many of the label's artists are based.

Musical focus: To encapsulate the genre focus of his label, Rosborough reluctantly uses the term "psychedelic." The tag is misleading, though. While a thread of otherworldliness runs through the kaleidoscopic fabric of Moon Glyph's roster, a sole adjective doesn't do justice to label's 50-plus releases since 2009. Rosborough's personal affinity for ambient electronic (the genre of his own music as Olives and other monikers) makes it well represented. So are PC Worship's crude rock experimentalism and Leisure Birds' hypnotic and cosmic rock. Drone, musique concrète, electronica -- Moon Glyph's eclecticism illustrates Rosborough's open-mindedness and refusal to deal in codified sounds. "I'd rather listen to a half-baked new idea than a hyper-polished old idea," he says.

Creation story: Rosborough moved to Minneapolis after graduating college and became immersed in the local music scene, going to shows and assimilating sounds both old and new while working at an independent record store. Moon Glyph began as an outlet for his own work. The first two releases were projects of his entitled Olives and Soothsayer. Soon, Rosborough became impressed with a performance by Velvet Davenport, one vessel of Minneapolis musician Parker Sprout. That night, Rosborough eagerly arranged to release a cassette of Sprout's idiosyncratic acoustic psychedelia.


Recent release: Arp Navigators, a collaboration from two Minneapolis entities named Food Pyramid and Roy Orb D.MT., is the most recent LP from Moon Glyph. The label previously released the work of each artist individually, and -- in the collaborative Minneapolis spirit Rosborough describes -- the two joined forces on this LP. Each sprawling track mixes synthesized and live sounds into minimal, hypnotic grooves where dawdling synthesizer and syncopated percussion mingle with lush electronic textures. Despite the crisp digital tone, the intuitive performances lend Arp Navigators an organic feel. The album exemplifies the type of tangential psychedelia Rosborogh is fond of.

Primary format: Moon Glyph primarily releases on cassette. Rosborough finds that the format's accessibility and pragmatic production leads to the most innovative music appearing on tape first. "The newest, freshest, weirdest stuff comes out on tape. Cassette is the format where people can experiment and don't feel restricted by the cost or formality of it." That said, the label's discography is peppered with LPs and 7-inches. Cassettes never lost relevance within the niche realms of noise and metal, but when Rosborough began Moon Glyph, rock and pop hardly ever graced the format -- even the strangest varieties of rock and pop. Cassettes have reemerged as a viable format for many genres in the last few years, though, and Moon Glyph is exceptional for its detailed packaging and presentation of tapes.

Rosborough, a graphic designer by trade, usually designs and lays out the artwork of each release. In some instances he collaborates with the artist, but Rosborough compliments the inherent physical properties of a cassette tape and its classic fold-out J-card very appropriately with his aesthetic direction on each release. When viewed together, the artwork of each release is extremely dissimilar, illustrating Rosborough's desire for the art of each release to reflect its musical traits.

The J-card for Treasure Hunt's Toys Unatic
  • The J-card for Treasure Hunt's Toys Unatic

To focus on what is still an odd format for so many consumers inevitably limits the audience of certain releases, a fact Rosborough readily admits. He would like to release all material on vinyl, but financial constraints hinder his ability to do so. "I'm not Mexican Summer," he says. "I don't have a billionaire heir funding everything." Rosborough isn't precious or protective of Moon Glyph's releases; he wants each one to reach as many listeners as possible. But he's also not going to slow the rate of releases because he can't afford to manufacture strictly vinyl. "Every day I get emails saying I should do things on vinyl. I usually just reply, 'You're right.'" More and more vinyl appears on Moon Glyph, though. At the current rate, it won't be long before vinyl usurps cassettes as the label's primary format.

Origin of label name: "Moon Glyph" intends to communicate the psychedelic undercurrent of the label's roster. Rosborough is interested in music that transports the listener, propels them beyond our physical plain and creates an ethereal mood. Like a "glyph," Rosborough strives to cultivate a label emblematic and synonymous with such transcendent sounds.

Leisure Birds' Globe Master
  • Leisure Birds' Globe Master

Geography: Rosborough asserts that his move to Oakland was simply in the pursuit of a new locale. He views Oakland as the Midwestern city of the West Coast. "This is a lot more like Minneapolis than I thought it would be," he says. Moon Glyph represents many artists from Minneapolis, although the label's discography is now international, with recent releases from Australia's Angel Eyes and Danish group Halasan Bazar, among others. Rosborough describes Minneapolis as a tight-knit scene of industrious musicians who create prolifically during the bleak winter and frequently collaborate. Indeed, the many mysterious artist handles on Moon Glyph's discography are often different arrangements of the same performers coming together for short-lived projects. Rosborough excitedly details upcoming releases from Bay Area artist Clipd Beaks and FWY!. Meanwhile, he's becoming familiar the vast number of players spread across the Bay Area's many intersecting music scenes.

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Sam Lefebvre


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