Harmonious Discord has survived 17 years during the most turbulent times in the history of the music industry. Under the helm of Sean Anderson, also known as tech-house producer PointBender, the label has cranked out a sizable catalog of releases, mostly from Texas artists, and solidified a core audience of supporters at home and abroad. While riding that fine line between house and techno, the label has excelled at pushing definitions to the limit. The label bucks trends and stays consistent in its vision.
After a somewhat slow release year for the label in 2017, it has a stacked release schedule for 2018, including the new Vessel EP from Litex that dropped this week. For this week's mixtape, Anderson explores some of the music of the artists of Harmonious Discord and discusses the high and lows of the label's run.
When did Harmonious Discord get started? What inspired you to start a label?
Harmonious Discord started in 2001 when a small group of Dallas DJs/producers, including myself, wanted to move away from throwing large events and move toward advancing the state of original productions coming out of the area. Back in the early 2000s, being an up-and-coming artist trying to get signed to an established record label was difficult. I remember sending [digital audio] tapes over the mail and waiting weeks for responses.
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It was early in the inception of social media platforms like we know today, and outside of personally getting to know a label owner at Winter Music Conference or through a more established producer, it was extremely hard to even get an opportunity. On top of that, most established labels were either house or techno, and we often blurred the lines in both our DJ sets and productions. So we felt, why not do our own label? Also, more important to mention was that there was so much talent coming out of the state.
How many releases are you up to?
This February, we are celebrating 52 releases spanning 17 years almost to the day. I wish I could say we were at 152 releases, but as I found out over the years, great music can often ebb and flow. Rather than putting out music on a schedule, I relied on the quality of music that was coming into our outfit.
Is there a general musical style or genre that you lean into with Harmonious Discord?
Yes. We focus mainly on tech-house music, which I am sure in 2018 is a loaded term. But at its most basic premise, music that can sit inside a house music or techno music set without disrupting the flow and atmosphere that the DJ is creating.
We tend to lean more toward abstract releases versus dance-floor-friendly tunes. We rarely feature full vocals and often experiment with projects and artists that might sit better for someone listening to music alone versus on a dance floor. My one truism is that I wanted the label to sound unlike the majority of what I was hearing. Keep it weird.
How has the industry changed from an independent dance label perspective?
Frankly, it is still changing. We started out as a vinyl-only outfit. Releases were expensive, and production times were long. Digital deejaying began to become popular, and we realized we could bypass the long wait times and unused inventory issues by partnering with digital download sites.
We were an early sign to beatport.com and for years an exclusive label to their download site. In 2014, we started releasing on iTunes and other digital music providers and streaming services. Over the last two years, our focus has been on how we best harness the power of social platforms to extend our reach even further. I don’t claim to be an expert on those things, but I learn something new weekly.
What is your take on the wellspring of talent in Texas and why that talent tends to get more attention outside of Texas borders?
The talent inside the state of Texas simply cannot be ignored. We listen to every demo sent to our website, and frankly, the music we receive from Texas artists is undeniably a cut above.
I have some theories on why this is the case based off traveling and observing other scenes. In Texas, producers just have to try harder. In large metropolises like New York and London, you can build a career based on who you know. In Texas, its harder to do that. In addition, the amount of artists that have bootstrapped their careers through sweat and diverse output sets a great example for new artists looking to experience something similar.
Are there any particular countries or regions that you get a lot of response from?
We do. Mexico seems to love Harmonious Discord. Maybe it’s the abstract nature of our releases. To be honest, I haven’t really figured out why that is, but I love the support we get from Mexico. We also see interest from places where tech-house is more mainstream (Germany, London, Spain).
Although most of your catalogue is digital, you have vinyl in your discography. Is this something you would like to dabble in again?
I really wish that all our releases could be vinyl as an avid collector, but more so because I feel that the work these artists are creating deserves a physical medium. I won’t go into all the detail about why we don’t put out more vinyl, but to summarize, it’s still expensive, distribution shipping from the states is complex, and it would limit our ability to experiment with new artists and projects. We put out a vinyl product for our first four releases and our 30th release and will likely press a couple more special projects in the coming years.
What artists have you done the most releases with over the years?
Our most featured artists on the label include Brad Dale (Molecule, Ishi, Echo Conscious, Dorian), KiloWatts, Vegenaut, JDN (Chakaharta) and my own project, PointBender. We have a new generation of artists that are filling out our releases for 2018 and beyond, and they include artists like Jeffrey Tice, Jeff Scroggin, Daniel Allen, Tobor Rellik, Josiah Fontenot and JV. Not so surprising is that every artist mentioned here either lives currently in Texas or grew up in Texas.
What is new with PointBender?
2017/2018 have been surprisingly productive years for me as an artist. The ideas have flowed really well for me, and years of tinkering with workflow in the studio I feel are finally paying off. I released my third full-length album under the PointBender moniker last year called Dusk Frontier, where I really pushed myself to try some things in the studio that had always interested me but were harder to execute, like recording live clarinet and bass parts and pushing myself to explore my hardware tools deeper.
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I had a three-track EP come out on Denied Music shortly after and another remix EP of one of the title tracks off my album, where I featured a different take on the original. In March, I have a remix coming out on Harmonious Discord of a Jeffrey Tice song. I loved the original and felt I could bring something different to the project. I am really happy with how it turned out, and it’s featured in the mix.
What releases do you have coming up in 2018 for the label?
2018 promises to be our busiest year in my memory. We have four great releases queued up, and they are all exceptional. In February, we have a heavy single from Houston-based artist Litex with remix support from Jeff Scroggin and NY’s Menahan project. After that, we have a lighter four-track project from Jeffrey Tice. We then have a great Dallas-based project featuring an original track from JV with remix support from Dorian and Hands Free. Looking past the first half of the year, expect to hear a lot more from artists like Litex, Josiah Fontenot, Steve Balance and Tobor Rellik.
If you would like to find out more about these artists, many of them have bios at hdrecordings.com.
PointBender — "Dusk Frontier (Murr Remix) [HD049]"
Jeffrey Tice — "Haruspex [HD052]"
JV — "Every Time (Dorian Remix) [HD053]"
Jeffrey Tice — "Once Again, My Friend (PointBender Remix) [HD052]"
Pablo Del Monte — "Emperor [HD050]"
Jeff Scroggin — "New Dubs [HD044]"
Litex — "Vessel (Menahan Remix) [HD051]"
Litex — "Stepping Stone [HD054]"
Litex — "Vessel [HD051]"