In our interview with Hush Hush founder and label head Alex Ruder, he referred to the artists on the label as a family: "I suppose, in a very international, very stay-in-our-bedrooms, very admire-each-other-from-afar type of way. We’re all pretty shy." Reclusive and introverted as they may be, the artists responsible for the work on Hush Hush's 100+ releases represent a wide-spanning network of musicians striving to capture a moment, a feeling, a spiritual relief of some sort. To celebrate Hush Hush 100 and all the outstanding releases which came before (and after), we reached out to Hush Hush artists past and present to offer a few words on some of their favorite releases from the label's still-growing history.
"There's been a stack of great Hush Hush releases but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be Dznt's Circle of Life. The first thing that hit me about this release is the cover – it's stunning and evocative and speaks to the atmosphere of the music on this release. I love the style of electronic music that Dznt follows on this album, it's warm – so warm – from the synths to the samples of nature that provide a context for the music – predominantly sparse – to live in. The beats are stronger than a lot of Hush Hush records, but they drive the music along steadily but gently, rather than slamming it into your ears. What's also remarkable about this release, given how strong and clean the production is, is that it's come right out of left field. Dznt is part of a scene in Kansai that contains a lot of talent, Kafuka & Metome being obvious contemporaries, but also producers across other styles of electronic music such as Seiho, Yuri Urano, and Dznt's music sits well alongside these names. I only hope that we can hear more from him soon."
"The releases that immediately come to mind are TZECHAR's Ancestor EP and Sax G's Lullaby of the Forbidden Dancer. Ancestor has this great Hans Zimmer drama mixed with Cex IDM intensity and a great pop satisfaction. It feels a lot like a record I could have made and inspired Dream Alone. Lullaby is an EP I got to work on with Sax G. Like Ancestor, it's a super tight package. A really condensed showing of Sax's groove and minimalist sensibility."
"I met Alex virtually through another Hush Hush artist and college friend, Nuri Orman. At the time I had around 40 tracks and was starting to try to compile them into a cohesive album. Alex listened to them and together we whittled them down into what became Habitatual. Alex is an amazing label curator. He has a fantastic energy and clear vision that make him well suited for running a diverse, collaborative record label. I feel very lucky to be involved with the myriad artists and nationalities represented on Hush Hush.
One of my favorite albums on Hush Hush is She Swims by Serafim Tsotsonis. It's a stunning and cohesive work of orchestration. It cascades back and forth from dark noir into shimmering choral sections. The live instrumentation really shines and it creates such a lovely passive haze while listening and moving around in the world
Another favorite is Nuri Orman's Mattress Alcove. I had the fortune of hearing some of the songs as they were born and the final complete album is a leviathan. Sad and deep and wide and so beautiful. The melodies and vocal harmonies blow me away."
"The whole catalog of HH releases are pretty much all hidden gems, but if I had to choose one favorite, I think I'd have to give the crown to NAVVI for their album Omni. It has an overall theme very reminiscent to the Drive soundtrack. It's as if the synth group Survive collaborated with the vocalist from Chromatics, and made a magnum opus. The chemistry is truly great and makes you want to keep listening. Very big supporter of these two and hope they tackle the world soon."
"My favorite release from Hush Hush is Kid Smpl's Silo Tear EP. If you want to feel the cold mass of digital space in real life, just look at the cover art for this EP while listening to the first 30 seconds of the title track. The term "cinematic" gets thrown around a lot when describing music with a lot of space/patience, but I really do think it's appropriate here: the soaring pads, hovering static, hydraulic percussion, and distorted voices together describe a moving image as much as any visual composition would. Having been a fan of Kid Smpl from early on, I would also say that this EP marks the moment of maturation into the conceptually rugged physicality that characterizes his work today. I think if you had a brain jack installed and connected your brain directly to the internet, there would be some euphoria involved, but I also think there would be an emotional price to pay. The music on this EP helps describe what that experience might be like."
"My introduction to the Hush Hush music catalog begins with Kid Smpl. I’ve always had an appreciation for ambient and/texture music dating back to the late 90’s when I first came across Aphex Twin and even earlier during my days in Europe as a child zoning out to Bryan Eno. Smpl’s Armour hinted at those times for me. Very impressive body of work.
One day, Alex introduced me to Cock and Swan. They became my heroes. Secret Angles, on vinyl, is masterful. Johnny has this analog polish that ads charm to everything he does, while Ola’s haunting voice is the perfect amount of pretty.
My album, Lullaby of the Forbidden Dancer, was so therapeutic for me. Struggling to finish art school, I would write short stories and paint every day when I’d get home. I was afraid to make music at the time because I wasn’t sure if it had elevated the level of skill of my other talents. Analysis paralysis. One day, I decided to lay out all my short stories and paintings, as some sort of eye candy or muse, and I dedicated the day to chopping records. Most of my work from that day became Lullaby of the Forbidden Dancer."
"There are so many records I could have chosen, but went with one that feels relatively underappreciated, Slow Year's II. II blends noise, re-amped drums, and ASMR textures with unexpected moments of beauty and re-configured pop-music climax. There's an unpredictable quality to the track structures too. In a way, it synthesizes a number of different strains that shoot through the Hush Hush catalog.
Other personal highlights:
Kid Smpl - Silo Tear
Eaves - Hue
Mutual - A1017
MICHAELBRAILEY - Pericardial"
"I’m going to have to go with Lushloss' asking/bearing; from the very beginning, you can tell you’re about to hear something special. There's a certain vulnerability to that album that is really striking throughout. It’s so emotional and heartfelt. Also, the production: there are a lot of moments that only happen once in the tracks – like a certain sound or texture. That’s something I really admire in an artist. Asking/bearing is particularly special to me because it’s actually the first Hush Hush release I heard. But, honorable mentions to Cock and Swan’s Dream Alone and Ocean Hope’s Rolling Days!
To be honest I haven’t heard a Hush Hush release that I didn’t love."
Hush Hush Records label-owner Alex Ruder chats with KEXP about how the label has grown, the people and artists who influenced him, and what it takes to run Hush Hush.
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