Milwaukee's Vaporwave Label CLLCTIVE is Dropping Music Left and Right This Summer
Stream new releases from CRLSS and Linus' Blanket, along with the latest label compilation
is full of small coincidences, but truly significant
coincidences are few are far between. Ryan King and Ryan Hinkel meeting in the
same Wisconsin minimum security correctional facility was one of those rare, life-altering coincidences.
The two didn’t just share a first name, they shared a background: Both came from similarly comfortable upbringings before falling into drug addiction and landing in prison, and both
shared a passion for music. The two bunkmates were fated to be friends.
They passed their days talking about music. While in prison Hinkel had acquired a guitar, and he'd become quite good at playing it. King’s mom would send them tab sheets. They listened to the radio constantly, seeking out FM 102.1’s Sunday night “Indie Soundcheck” show in particular—“That show kept us alive for a long time,” King says—and 88.9 Radio Milwaukee whenever they could get the signal. And though King’s sentence ended a year before Hinkel’s, the two promised they’d reunite and record music together when both got settled, and they did. Last month they released their first single together as Linus’ Blanket, Blanket EP, two tracks of twitchy, beat-heavy dream pop.
Linus’ Blanket will be King’s main musical outlet going forward, though while biding time until Hinkel’s release he tinkered with a solo project, CRLSS (pronounced “Careless”), which also posted a release on Bandcamp this summer: illuminati, an album of electro-acoustic pop that King recorded alone on his computer. Only slightly less elusive than its title, it’s a foggy window into King’s eclectic tastes, with drifting, Deerhoof-esque soundscapes interrupted by splashes of bombastic art-rock in the mold of Talking Heads and Wolf Parade.
King released both projects through the label he started this year, CLLCTIVE, which he formed around a community of artists he’d discovered mostly over Soundcloud, where like-minded artists and producers network and critique each other’s work. “I notice a lot of these collectives started popping up with the idea that you’re much stronger as a team than when you’re trying to go at it alone,” King says. “So basically the collective is a launch pad for unknown artists. I like them to be from the Milwaukee area or the Midwest, but that’s not a mandatory thing.”
So far the label has released three compilations of Internet-born music. The latest, V3, is representative of the label’s wide net, collecting 17 tracks of electronica, hip-hop, trap, soul and other styles tangentially connected to vaporwave, a vaguely defined genre of producer-based music that leans heavily on filtered sounds.
Some of the acts on the label are still teenagers, “but they’re putting out amazing stuff,” King says. “What I told all these artists that a lot of the collectives and labels out there seem to be this cool kid club, clicky, where you had to fit a certain box or sound a certain way, or had to have the 124 trap drum beat on every song. And what I really promoted was that in this collective you do whatever you want, and whatever inspires you. I will embrace it, because I don’t want anybody to go into the project submitting for the mixtape thinking, ‘this is what they want.’ It’s about whatever inspires you. That’s what a lot of the kids are attracted to about this; I don’t have any rules or regulations.”
You can stream the label's V3 compilation, along with the latest mixtapes from Linus' Blanket and CRLSS, below.