There was a time in Underground Dance music culture when it didn’t really matter who was behind the music that was being peddled by obscure labels. In fact, a conscious attempt by some to remain anonymous coupled with the sparse flow of information on such subjects in the pre-internet age meant that you’d be lucky to find out who was behind a particular record even if you wanted to.
It was under this veil that lone producers released dozens of records in a fairly short amount of time, going by a different pseudonym for every single one, and in some more famous examples it is still contested to this day whether or not the person alleged to be the creator of these works is even responsible for them at all.
When thinking of Norway’s Sex Tags this approach springs to mind. Not just because there is a scant amount of info on many of the artists involved with it but also that sex Tags embodies an era when the idea of collective and label stood above that of individual achievement, for lack of a better term. Not that Sex Tags is a strictly retro-fetishistic outfit, but proprietors DJ Sotofett and his maternal brother Peter are proud to wear their influences on their sleeve and it’s the combination of their wide-ranging tastes that makes Sex Tags the unique unit it is.
As Sotofett stated in an interview last year with Phillip Sherburne, Sex Tags is less of a label and more of a long-running project to showcase the brothers’ work and that of their friends, which can include everything from zines to posters and art installations. The actual record label part eventually split into two arms; Sex Tags Mania for House and Techno related material and Sex Tags Amfibia for all the other stuff that didn’t quite fit into that category, not to mention the collaborative mini-label run by DJ Fett Burger, Sex Tags UFO. In this respect, Sex Tags has more in common with multi-media imprints like Irdial Discs, as its not content with settling for any specific genre or format and spreads their creative endeavors over a wide range of mediums. And, as is often the case, the whole thing was born out of a lack of similar enterprises in their immediate surroundings.
Anybody who started making or releasing music in a shitty town or city will tell you that the main incentive was to create their own take on things, looking to bigger scenes for inspiration but invariably ending up with something entirely it’s own that gets squashed through the magical filter of a no-mark environment. Growing up in Moss, Norway, (by the their own admission, a shittay citay) the brothers ingested a protein-heavy diet of House, Disco, Techno, Acid, graffiti and B-Boy culture, something that is evident in the visual and sonic aesthetic of Sex Tags.
E.P’s like Don Papa’s “Distortion Buzz Funk” (MANIA 19) take on the low-slung, B-Boy machine funk tip, while the paranoid spastic-synth runs of Transilvanian Galaxi (MANIA 20) work out some post-disco demons at the wrong end of a three day biscuit bender. More esoteric releases on Amfibia include one-man Organ Black Metal outfit Engvaal’s “En Utvilsom Makt” 10" (AMFIBIA 12) (possibly my favourite Sex Tags release full stop and one of the most underrated releases of this year) and the dirty beach rock of Ungdomskulen.
But the Sex Tags posse aren’t exactly lacking in balls-to-the-wall Techno and Acid material either. On the contrary, some of the finest, roughest and weirdest dancefloor cuts in recent memory have come outta their shed. Hooking up with the excellent Laton imprint, they brought us a killer 12" from Lithuania’s Benzo (MANIA 17/Laton 41), all mad, bad and wrong in its fucked Techno ways. The dusty Detroit vibes of the Reson’s EP (MANIA 23) is also a highlight in the Mania channel showing that the traditional way wot men do Techno is far from dead.
What wonders Sex Tags will bequeath us next is really anybody’s guess but you can sure as shit expect many interesting and straight-up dope releases from these gentlemen. That much is a given. Unless they decide to call it quits on music and move into holistic therapy as Sex Tags Inner Sanctum.
Words by Mark Maxwell – http://thenewbackwards.tumblr.com/