Late last year, a new label released El Sueño De Hyparco`s Ambientes Hormonales. An album of chilled Spanish Electronica that Basso at The Growing Bin had hipped me to. They followed that up with a piece of obscure electro-acoustic treasure, in the form of Carlos Maria Trindade & Nuno Canavarro`s Mr Wollogallu. A record that had been on my wants list, since I heard it included in a mix put together by Spencer from Visible Cloaks. A little bit of digging confirmed that the label, Urpa i musell, was based in Barcelona, and attached to a terrestrial shop, Discos Paradiso. So I put in an order and tagged on a message, asking the founders / owners if they fancied answering a few questions, and perhaps putting together a mix.
Aqui esta, here it is.
Featuring Catalan Folk song – it doesn’t get any more Balearic than that – their mix moves Cosmically through the organic and the electronic. Accordion, Classical picking, percussion and reeds. Woodwinds, Rock riffs and arpeggiated b-lines. A Dylan-influenced lyrical flight. A Post-Punk Samba. Prog, Pop, and Euro-Disco. New Wave rap, Flamenco-fused Sleaze, and Electric-Boogaloo. Blurring borders like the traveling Roma.
I haven’t been to Barcelona in over twenty years. But it`s a city that I`ve always loved, and talking to Urpa i musell`s Arnau, Gerard and Ignasi, made me feel like jumping on a plane. Escaping the Nagano snow for its Mediterreanan climate. Chasing my youth through Las Ramblas, and Gaudi Park. Hunting down memories of nights full of good food, and music. Streets and courtyards busy til sunrise with conversation. A bar packed with colourful characters, and the chance of adventure, on every corner.
Where are you from?
Urpa i musell is a label based in Barcelona. It was founded by three members: Arnau, Gerard and Ignasi. The three of us come from cities close to Barcelona.
Where are you based?
Arnau and Gerard, the owners of the record store, Discos Paradiso, are based in Barcelona. Ignasi, nowadays, lives abroad, in Munich.
How did you meet?
Ten years ago, or even more, Gerard used to work in a Barcelona record shop called La Ruta Natural. Arnau was a regular customer, and they got to know each other. They became friends, and decided that they wanted to have their own record shop. After some deliberation they opened it in 2010. Although Ignasi also came to La Ruta sporadically, it was at Discos Paradiso that he really got to know Arnau and Gerard. After being friends for some years, and curiously just after Ignasi moved to Germany, we, all three, decided to try and start a record label.
What inspired you to start the shop?
Well, having a record shop is a typical dream for lots of music-loving people, and we were the same. We wanted to work in something that we loved, and being surrounded by records the whole day sounded amazing. Gerard was already working in a record shop, so we could see first hand that the dream could become a reality. We had examples in mind of the kind of record shop that we wanted. These places were perhaps common in other cities, but not in Barcelona. We imagined a shop with a a wide range of music styles, with new and old stuff side by side. Although at that time lots of record shops were closing, we believed that the kind of shop that we had in mind might be viable. To be honest, it was tough for a while, but we’re still open, and now it’s working well and we’re very happy about it.
The old music we have in stock can be reissues or used records. Although new and used records are somehow two different worlds, we try to work with both of them with the same love and care. Everything is music, and we`ve always felt that we don’t want to close the door to any options. On another level, selling new and old stuff is necessary for the viability of the shop, at least in our case.
Can you give me three current big sellers or recommendations?
Here are three recommendations, although choosing is always difficult:
Vasco Martins / Universo Da Ilha (LP, Canela En Surco, 2018)
This is a great reissue made by two good friends of ours, Breixo and Edu. It’s a lovely Cosmic Ambient work recorded in Cape Verde in the mid-eighties.
Dreamcast / Floral Peace (7”, Peoples Potential United, 2018)
This is such a dreamy single, and in big demand in the shop. We weren`t surprised by its success, as we are big fans of PPU’s output.
N.D. / Visitor (CD, Anòmia, 2018?)
This is a record, which hasn’t been released yet. We’ve been waiting for its release since we heard the advance promo. Another friend, Arnau Sala, is behind the label –Anòmia. The CD pulls together five years of home-recorded guitar music, exploring melodic and harmonic depth using minimal structures. We are sure that it won’t disappoint us.
What inspired you to start the record label?
We can’t say there was a moment, or a specific reason, for starting the label. We felt that somehow we wanted to get more involved in the world of music. We wanted a deeper knowledge of it, also.
Our curiosity aside, through the shop we were discovering amazing new music projects, that through lack of visibility and support, were being completely ignored. We were also uncovering old records that no one seemed to know of care about. We felt that this was a real shame, and something we could help to address. With this in mind, we initially began work on a compilation. However, we quickly realized that this was going to be impossible. It’s funny though, because this frustrated project helped us a lot to shape to the label idea, and it also motivated us to look seriously for other projects. It didn’t, and doesn’t, matter how realistic they were, and are. So, little by little, we are somehow entering to this world, looking at the same time for fun and disciplined work. Both objectives aren’t always compatible… but we are happy enough with our tiny path for now.
How did you discover Mr Wollogallu? I first heard it in a mix that Spencer from Visible Cloaks put together for The Lake Radio.
It’s difficult for us to remember, when we got to know Mr. Wollogallu. For sure it happened after finding the Plux Quba reissue and exploring Nuno Canavarro’s output. There’s no big story, records surround us, and these things just happen. We can only say that we feel very fortunate and thankful that we could have the opportunity to work with Carlos M. and Nuno.
Do you DJ? If so do you have any regular gigs or residences?
None of us is a DJ, or DJs regularly. We do something sporadically, but it’s very amateur, and it’s always somehow related to the shop and / or label activity.
Do you make music?
No, we make no music. So, as you see, the shop and record label were perhaps the only way we could do something actively within music.
Where do you go to chill out?
If we want to relax we stay at home with a nice record, book or film. But it’s also nice to have a coffee or a beer. In a city like Barcelona it’s great, because you don’t need to think about things like this, as each corner has a bar. Part of relaxing is doing things without much planning.
Do you have any favourite bars or coffee shops that you could recommend?
We can recommend, for different reasons, three places nearby the record store:
Bar Agustí (c/ Ferlandina 32)
This small bar / restaurant is on our street. It`s a familiar and unaffected place. Being there one would think that Barcelona hasn’t changed in the last three decades, but it has! They have a lunchtime menu with tasty home-cooked food. Part of its charm comes from the owner, Carles, the son of Agustí – who gives his name to the bar – and everybody working there, who are really nice and easy-going people.
Bar Muy Buenas (c/ del Carme 63)
This is a refurbished bar from the beginning of the 20th Century. The original Art Nouveau decoration has been respected, and the result looks great. Apart from the space, which looks refined and welcoming at the same time, the food they serve is wonderful. They offer Catalan old receipts, combined with local wines and spirits.
Casa Almirall (c/ Joaquim Costa 33)
This is just 50m away from the shop, and it`s a great place to have a drink. It’s one of the oldest bars in Barcelona – it was founded in 1860 – and you can feel its historical relevance as soon as you enter. Moreover, we admire the owner, because of his involvement in the Underground music scene. For years and years he has supported the musicians of Barcelona, and has a close relationship with bands, like Perucho’s, Koniec, and Tropopausa, to name only three.
Where do you go to dance?
We are in contact with the dance scene of the city everyday. Lots of friends are deejaying every week. Others are promoting parties, running radio shows or labels, etc. The scene right now is very lively, and a good proof of this is that some interesting clubs have opened recently in the city, and this is great. However, we have to admit that we don’t go out very often. Nowadays none of us is a regular partygoer, but we should go out more often.
Are there any local artists and DJs we should look out for?
We don’t want to talk about DJs. Since lots of our friends are doing a great job and it would be impossible, and unfair, to single any out. We feel too close to them to have the necessary perspective. We can only say that if you ever come to Barcelona, visit us in the shop and we will recommend to you the best parties going on, and we’re pretty sure that some of these great DJs we aren’t able to list will be playing there.
There are also lots of interesting local artists. Here it would be also unfair to talk only about some of them, but we have to admit our devotion for a couple of music projects, close to us, which have recently released records.
The first of them is Ubaldo’s La Pèrdua De L’estat. He released the record last year and we have recommended it to people thousands of times. We are very happy, because it’s a great album, and at the same time a long-seller in the shop. Ubaldo is right now living abroad, and he is constantly touring. Check his dates, he won’t disappoint you!
The second project is called Ha Koo. This record has passed possibly unnoticed and we haven’t even talked about it with other people. It’s pretty unknown, because only 40 copies of it were pressed, and it’s not available digitally. It was pressed on demand, so before pressing the record you had to contact the musicians. This is an improvisation / contemporary Jazz album by Jordi Santanach (clarinet and bass clarinet) and Guillem Callejón (guitar and effects). Both the concept and realisation are great. It’s a really nice and interesting record, but at the same time it’s also somehow a shame about its inaccessibility. If you want to know more about their music, the best and easiest way is seeing them play live, where most improvisers like them feel at home.
What`s next for the shop and the label?
It’s a bit difficult to find specific targets for the shop, as it’s more a day-by-day job. But, if we have to list some objectives, they would be (1) trying to optimize the work by computerizing all our stock and (2) doing some necessary repairs in the shop, like painting walls and floor. Let’s see if we can achieve both of them next year.
The “next” for the label is much easier to explain. We released Mr. Wollogallu in January 2018. So it’s been nearly a whole year since then. There’s a third release planned, that we’ve been working on for more than two years. It’s a box set of 4 LPs, pulling together the music made by a band called Molforts for the Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra. We don’t have a release date yet, but it will for sure be next year, and as soon as possible. We’re happy, because the long mastering process is nearly done – perhaps by the time the interview is published it will be completely done!. This is our most ambitious project so far and we hope people will enjoy it, when it comes out. Apart from this release, we are working on other projects, but we can’t give away any details of them yet.
Your mix is pretty special. Can you tell me something about the concept behind it, and the music contained in it?
The “unmix” here was thought of as a game, where we had to build a path with different “stages”, connecting quite different moods and genres. We tried to achieve a result that would be interesting and enjoyable, but also a little disorienting. When listened to track-by-track, step-by-step, it may show logical relationships between adjacent tracks, but when listened as a whole – or just looking at the track list – one may find the set disassembled. As already said, we were looking for a path, always straight ahead. Although sometimes the route might feel like a zig-zag, or even moving back and forth, the premise –achieved– or not was to avoid standing still, or going around in circles.
We can say that we love each track, and stage, included – from Breton accordions played in the Pyrenees to Tyrolean Synth Disco, from Folk meets Electronics meets irony in Eivissa to the TV-presenter, without complexes, meeting the best musicians in Spain, etc.
We hope that you enjoy the “unmix” as a whole, or at least some of its stages.