Independent record label providing 'kaleidoscope of music'
Pete Clemons celebrates the brilliance of K.Scope
The Harvest records label, created by the EMI group during 1969, was once a major record label set up for bands and artists who, back then, were considered as boundary pushing or progressive.
Famously, it became home for the likes Deep Purple, Roy Harper, The Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd. Although towards the end of the 1970s it too had been touched by the punk rock phenomena and had signed up groups like Wire and The Saints.
By and large I felt the label was true to its initial aims which were to capitalise on Britain’s ever growing ‘underground’ scene.
But it is also fair to say that not all Harvest releases were a commercial success.
Fast forward forty odd years and the reason for mentioning Harvest Records is that there is, I feel, a new underground movement happening now and Harvest provides a close analogy to be used for another more recent label with similar aims.
Plus this label appears to be responsible for releasing an awful lot of albums that I have really enjoyed over the last ten years or so.
That label in question is K.Scope, and it began as an imprint to snapper records. And it seems like I am not alone in my judgement as one of the K.Scope’s more recent releases scooped the top prize for the album of the year at the 2013 progressive music awards.
K.Scope, now an independent company, was formed during the very late 1990s. It was Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree who thought up with the name which came from a play on the word Kaleidoscope. Plus, it reminded Steven of that old TV promoted budget label of the seventies, K-Tel, which also appealed to him.
Initially K.Scope was an outlet for the music of Steven Wilson’s own band Porcupine Tree. In fact the first release on the label was an album called ‘Stupid Dream’ by Porcupine Tree released during 1999. But the K.Scope label went dormant when Porcupine Tree signed up for Lava Records at the time of their 2002 album release ‘In Absentia’.
2008, however, saw the K.Scope name revived after Steven Wilson suggested that the label be opened up for new releases by new talent and allow the bands to develop musically. As such The Pineapple Thief became one of the first of that new talent to be signed up and the bands seventh album ‘Tightly Unwound’ became the first album released on the newly revived K.Scope label. The Pineapple Thief’s leader, Bruce Soord, was quoted as saying that ‘It was really Steven Wilson who got us the deal with K.Scope’.
Bands such as Anathema, Engineers and No-Man also signed up for K.Scope. And the label did not just restrict itself to U.K. based artists. Overseas bands like Anekdoten (Sweden), Lunatic Soul (Poland), Nosound (Italy) and Iamthemorning (Russia) have all had music released on the label over the last few years.
And K.Scope has continued to release what many would great quality music that others may consider as non-mainstream, or left field, music for want of a better phrase.
Going back once more to my Harvest records analogy, and particularly their ethos, the album when you think about it is so much more than just the music. The complete package including how the music is presented is just as important. Therefore, just as the artwork on those classic albums was revered back in the 1970s, K.Scope is also treating their releases with respect.
Their album releases are also lavishly housed with a great deal of care, attention and detail being taken over the product as a whole.
On early runs of some releases, for example, the album package may also include an extra disc such as a 5:1 surround sound version of the album or even an extra disc of bonus non album material. But at the very least, the CD is contained within a visually pleasing digipak.
Since 2008 K.Scope has released many critically received albums which, little by little, are beginning to have an impact on the album charts.
The last album release by The Pineapple Thief, ‘Magnolia’ peaked at number 55 on the official UK chart while Steven Wilson has had 4 top 40 success’s including his latest release ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase. which reached number 13. Even Anathema, who have had much success in just about every territory outside the UK have now achieved a top 40 album in the UK.
And it is hoped that the The Pineapple Thief’s forthcoming album ‘Your Wilderness’, due for release in August, does even better than its predecessor. The word from the record company itself is certainly encouraging. ‘It’s absolutely amazing!, a massive step up. The Pineapple Thief has arrived’, is the predicted forecast of one of my contacts in there.
Reading the early mail out’s promoting ‘Your Wilderness’ it appears that significant contributions have been made to the album by way of Supertramp’s John Helliwell, Caravan’s Geoff Richardson and, band leader Bruce Soord’s friend from Godsticks, Darran Charles.
And then there are the remixes of classic albums that also involve Steven Wilson. Remixing music is a distinctly different process to that of simply re-mastering music. This is where the master tapes from a particular album can be broken right back down to the individual instruments and having those individual sounds reprocessed through the modern equipment of today’s digital age thus giving it a clarity that could only have been dreamed about all those years ago when the album was first released.
So far, the music of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Tears for Fears and many others have benefited from this process. And it is a trend which is continuing to grow. These albums can also be found at the burning shed website.