KITE0080 did a recent article on his Ten Essential Vaporwave Netlabels, and I wanted to give my input! The ones KITE0080 mentions include many of the first names you should know, as they have a long list of artists who have worked with them thus far. I will not go over any of the ten he has a segment on, but I will say I love No Problema Tapes, Hiraeth Records and V I R T U A 94, as well. ♥
I’ll split this up a little bit, starting with the genre most familiar to the audience, here. Join our Discord and never miss a post!
For vaporwave netlabels I have quite a bit of input, so this will be the largest section. There are many talented netlabels out there, and if one isn’t mentioned here, it’s just because I have a list of literally 140+ (AND COUNTING!) that I monitor. I’ll cover roughly a third of that now, and possibly do another of these, down the line.
Vaporwave Tapes Brazil has been around since at least 2016, and has built a great deal of variety in artists, styles, and love. They have released mallsoft, barber beats, future funk, slushwave, several mixtapes, and are one of the names that you should get to know as far as vaporwave labels. They aren’t the most famous, but they are among the respected workhorse labels in the scene.
These are two separate netlabels, but ATMO™ is a sublabel of Vaporwave Tapes Brazil. Both are run by default.cfg, with Z.E.R.O assisting on ATMO™. They’re also the two of the founding labels of the iconic Latin All-Stars Festival.
The sublabel, ATMO™ has a history of being there for other labels, either through attention-based support, or even raising money with labels like their The Tomorrow Is Now or There Is No Problema fundraising albums. I don’t believe they are restrictive in subgenre, but do seem heavy on slushwave, its offshoots, and leans into dreampunk.
Both of these labels have built a decent level of esteem in the scene, and should be places for you to learn about talented artists.
Underwater Computing has designed some of my absolute favorite tapes in the scene. They make beautiful tape artwork, and have a worked with huge selection of artists worth loving. They do minidisc, cassette, vinyl and CD, and have released plenty of loved works across Slushwave, Signalwave, Barber Beats, Mallsoft, and plenty more. It is a netlabel worth watching, due to the beauty of their physicals, alone, plus they work with so many great talents.
AGAPE is a netlabel started by Traipse in late 2020, and is based on the word ἀγάπη, meaning love or goodwill. It has only a few submissions so far, and is on hiatus, but I have the DROIDROY ゴールデン街 cassette, the SkyTwoHigh Onset of Winter cassette, and the AGAPE Volume I compilation, and it has had some great stuff, already.
I also don’t know if he still does it, or not, but at one point, he would send incense and tea with tapes, which is a sweet gesture.
I think one of the very first physicals in the scene I purchased was from the netlabel Coraspect Records. Barbwalters‘ Pleasure was one of the albums Pad Chennington suggested to me as a place to start collecting, based on what had vinyls available at the time. Thus, I can credit Coraspect Records as one of the places that opened the gate of vapor collecting for me. Leaning Future Funk, this is a good early label to check out.
Run by TV2, Frequency Sub-Zero is a netlabel focused on signalwave. It already has a nice variety of artists, including friend and fellow Visual Signals contributor, Origami Vato. This is a decent place to start for people looking to get into one of the more esoteric regions of the wave scene, and a personal favorite subgenre. TV2 is also one of the two people who runs the Signalwave Discord.
Lost Angles and its sublabels have been at this for a while, and cover quite a variety of formats and artists. Strudelsoft was the netlabel who created the first floppy disc album I ever owned. Baudway Video has covered some of the biggest names in the history of the genre. The duo who run it know everyone, it seems.
NeonCity Records might be the biggest future funk netlabel on the web. They’ve worked with Macross 82-99, Sixtroke, Fibre, DUCAT, Superflat, ev.exi, Yung Bae and more. Plenty of people know NeonCity, and they’ve built a pretty big name and niche for themselves with one of the most mainstream-accessible divisions of vaporwave.
Not one of the names that usually rises to the top of a discussion in the scene, and I am unsure why. The Expanding Earth is a netlabel which has some remarkable releases from huge names, and, recently, has made some absolutely gorgeous cassettes. I see a bright future for this netlabel, even if their catalogue is only 15 strong as of writing this (January 31, 2022). The variety in so few releases thus far is across a fair share of Vaporwave, too, with Late Night Lo-Fi to Signalwave to Slushwave and back.
Aquablanca 音楽レーベル is a netlabel whose Signalwave releases may be the most well known, at the moment. They aren’t limited to Signalwave, it is just one thing they’re pretty decently known for.
Aquaoscura 音楽レーベル is a parallel/sublabel of theirs, whose variety overlaps a lot, but they are two separate pages worth exploring. I have bought several pieces from both of them.
Hairs aBlazin’ is an underrated label with some good music, nice tapes, and an eye for potential. They give artists small a chance, and work with more familiar faces. They also have made some snazzy tapes, and I have been told from people who submitted to them, that they are great to work with, which is always good to hear.
Based out of Mexico, and with a goal of finding artists from around the globe, Virtual Soundsystem is a three to four year old netlabel with a fairly decent roster. LIFE2979光 and Zadig the Jasp on the more well known side, and plenty of smaller artists who deserve love all of their own. I always enjoy the opportunity to discover something new, and this is one of those opportunities.
Aloe City Records has become the focal community for the nascent Barber Beats subgenre. The netlabel isn’t solely focused on such, but has become somewhat of a hotspot as of late for those seeking those chill, rhythmic beats. They’ve been in the Vaporwave scene as a whole since 2015, so they have some experience to their name, and should be recognized for their dedication.
Kawsaki Audio Space is run by a guy who I have nothing but praise for. Kawsaki is a super nice guy, who has always been encouraging to me, and I presume the same is true for those he’s worked with. There’s only a handful of albums and singles on the netlabel thus far, but I hope to see more in the future, because I like the guy who runs it, and the music already on the label has been pleasing.
NeoMotel is a smaller netlabel with some great Future Funk and Lo-Fi Hip Hop. The owner is a nice person who sent me one of the cassettes as a gift, once. They have worked with some fairly well known artists in the Future Funk world, and design some good merchandise. I think they deserve more eyes. I do always have a love for the bright and colorful, and this label really digs the same a e s t h e t i c.
Waters End [sic]
Presently on hiatus, though they state in their farewell compilation that this is not goodbye forever. Their 20 releases so far have some pretty decently well known names, from Neckbomb to Phorme. Their physicals are nice looking, and I do hope to see them come back sometime. Even while they are on hiatus, feel free to give their releases some love.
Vaporwave’s Largest Digital Label
This is the netlabel with ALL the Vaporwave. Not literally, but they have over a thousand releases to date. They have lots and lots of media to their name, yes, but it is also of quality and worth a listen. Exploring their catalog can lead to new discoveries of niche micro-microgenres and a good deal of nostalgic visuals.
Comprised of a bunch of Future Funk artists who all seem to be good pals, kind of their own circle, this netlabel is run by Fibre and Discoholic. In 2020, they did the Wave Pool music festival, which was the first webconcert I ever attended. They also have a nice grasp on quality, and they make some good music, as well.
It is a pretty big deal to get a release on Geometric Lullaby. They make some very high quality, special runs of fairly major names. I have a couple of the mallsoft releases to come off the label, and I must say, I can see why they have the reputation of quality that they do. Further, the names they’ve picked up over the years says a lot about their respect.
Wave Racers Collective is another name that people know, but I haven’t seen often discussed. They’ve worked with a lot of people, and have a lot of great physicals, but seem to be occasionally overlooked when it comes to names in the scene. They have worked with larger artists and some that may be well known, one day.
This may be the only netlabel willing to go through the painstaking effort to create something as unique as true-to-life reel-to-reel albums. I plan on one day having one in my collection. I missed the Limousine album Bizarre Bazaar that would have been an absolute prize for me. However, they have done several reel-to-reel albums by now, and one day, one will be mine.
While we are on the subject of unique physicals, OasisLtd. has the equally strange Game Boy Advance cartridge albums. I have yet to be fast enough on the draw to buy one, but I am very intrigued by the concept. They have also done VHS releases among more common physicals, but have worked with plenty of significant names, and are generally worth giving a look!
Dreamshore Tapes is another label that has worked with pretty well known talent, but I don’t often hear mentioned in label conversations. They’ve been at this longer than I have been in the scene with any level of activity, and were a distributor for one of New Dreams Ltd.‘s albums, Sleepline. That’s a pretty significant name to have worked with, indeed.
For those that don’t know the qurikiness of Qingdao Market, they have made a niche of creating bootleg-style releases of popular Vaporwave albums, complete with some level of distortion, and kitschy off-brand style artwork, often with broken English, mistranslations, and things like quality check stickers or price dot stickers printed onto the design.
I am less familiar with dream music, as I focus more on what is often called “Vaporwave” when it comes to netlabels. However, I do know a few labels I respect and recognize.
LONG LIVE THE UNDERGROUND
Definitely my favorite label in the Dreampunk world. The VOID series of albums are favorites, and they do collectible cards of a couple varieties over the years. Their album art and overall attention to quality is really worth commending. Everything feels crisp, professional, and thematic. I highly recommend them.
Another big Dreampunk label with some giant names on it. They release some cassettes in rave cases, which are a unique thing to have. Their Pure Live festival and Ambient Punk compilations are pretty well known and celebrated parts of the Dreampunk scene. They’ve worked with some large names, and have fantastic sound and artwork.
A very recent netlabel, but already hitting things out of the park with gorgeous tape designs and great music, Mobile Suits is a netlabel worth keeping an eye on. I have a feeling the future of this label is very bright, as the quality of their releases is already remarkable.
Solarpunk finds its home in the realm of Global Pattern. They have not done solely that, but have come to adopt the genre as their pet focus. I have a few of their cassettes, and I am sure I will get more in the future. If you like ethereal and futuristic, this is one to check out.
This is Dreamtone
DreamSphere is probably the biggest label focused on the genre of Dreamtone. They are probably the place to start when learning of the genre. They are pretty active in getting attention on the artists who work with them, and seem to be working hard to make Dreamtone a subgenre. This is the place to seek peaceful, shiny music.
Greater NeoRetro Netlabels
I wanted to include at least a couple other genres of NeoRetro netlabels, because I know some I have shopped and love, that I think some readers may enjoy due to the crossover appeal of NeoRetro.
Data Airlines has a lot of awesome chiptune music, including beautiful releases from one of my favorites: Master Boot Record. They have also distributed merchandise for other artists I love, and their design for their vinyls is original and clever. I heavily advise people check out the media from this netlabel.
This netlabel has published Chipzel, possibly one of the biggest names in chiptune. They also work with other game musicians, including a childhood musical legend of mine, David Wise. The musical talent on this roster is seriously worth noting. They’ve also done compilations with multiple artists, which is always a treat. Be sure to check them out.
A Bit of Chiptune, I am slightly cheating to include. They are actually an artist collective, but the difference is mostly down to distribution, I believe–and in an era of digital-only netlabels, that line is very, very thin. They have several names under their umbrella, and would be a decent place to find new chiptune for your collection.
Eye Witness Records does synth music well, having picked artists like Betamaxx and Rosentwig. They also worked with HOME, who made one of the NeoRetro staples, Odyssey. If you need a synthwave fix, this is probably a good place to look. I have the aforementioned Rosentwig‘s self-titled vinyl, and it was a great purchase.
Seikomart is a netlabel that covers Hypnagogic Pop, Synthwave, as well as Vaporwave and its subgenres. There is some nice variety, and plenty of artists to browse. There’s a pretty large catalog by this point, and plenty of music, by extension.
Midwest Collective is a netlabel with quite a long history to it. It has been at this for nearly a decade by this point, and it shows. They have made compilations with a wide, wide variety of artists, as well as publishing quite a few artists’ solo projects. Interestingly, they, too have published HOME‘s Odyssey–here, though, as a digital release.
Other Indie Netlabels
I also know one or two netlabels that cover stuff outside this weird NeoRetro electronic niche we call home. These still dabble somewhat in music at the very least tangent to the NeoRetro classification, but all release things that may not be deemed that niche.
I actually discovered HALLEY LABS a small bit of time into my Bandcamp days. I bought, I think, the entire discography during one of the first Bandcamp Fridays I partook in. I love the high energy electronic music that the label has to offer, and think it is a name others should know. A lot of these albums are done by the label owner, but I do believe it is more than one person’s media.
Needlejuice Records has put out a couple vaporwave albums, but has covered a wide variety of music from rock to rap vapor. They’ve worked with 猫 シ Corp. and Mega Ran, that’s quite a range, and the kind of variety that is hard to mange well, yet they do it.
Vaporwave and rock, a rare blend. I put it down here for its rock connections, but it is interesting to see this combination looking through netlabels. I haven’t seen it anywhere else, so I have to point it out, here. They also have been working on a Signalwave collection, recently (January 31, 2022), which is always a way to catch my eye.
Kind of Blue Records is a small netlabel that has lofi hip hop and rock under its belt. I don’t know a ton about them, except that they facilitated two absolutely amazing cassettes for ビクター ＭＫＩＩ, and I think that’s a decent reason to give them a look. They’ve also worked with Farragol on an album whose tape I only wish I owned.
This seems mostly to be an independent rock label, but they did these remarkable heliotrope vinyls of Super Mario Bros. sprites on a couple times in the past. However, they also provide some rock bands you may not know, but may come to love.
Do not forget, plenty of other netlabels are out there, and you should absolutely go discover one or twenty of your own! There are also thousands upon thousands of artists who are immensely talented, and completely self-publish. As such, never let your library get stale. There’s always something new to find! — Tails_155
Looking for more NeoRetro media? Check out my review on some of the many visual artists in the NeoRetro scene!