Essential albums: Interchill Records

Canadian-based label Interchill Records has been releasing music since the mid-1990's and has trodden its own quietly idiosyncratic path. Nearly all the music is in one way or another related to electronic dance and its sub-genres, and co-founders Andrew Ross-Collins and Gordon Field have kept things varied...using quality as their filter rather than committing the label to any one strain of electronic downtempo.

Interchill Records

country of origin: 

Ambient, chillout, exotic dub, psychedelia, exotic lounge, downtempo

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential compilations: 

  • Magnetic Blue (1998, Interchill)
  • Interior Horizons (1999, Interchill/Instinct)
  • Infinessence (2001, Interchill)
  • Floatation (2001, Interchill)
  • Earth Octave Lounge vol. 1 (2002, Interchill)
  • Disolving Clouds (2005, Interchill)
  • Sanctuary (2005, Interchill)
  • Future Memories (2008, Interchill)
  • Interchill (2015, Interchill)

Reviewed by Mike G

Canadian-based label Interchill Records has been releasing music since the mid-1990's and has trodden its own quietly idiosyncratic path. Nearly all the music is in one way or another related to electronic dance and its sub-genres, and co-founders Andrew Ross-Collins and Gordon Field have kept things varied. Guided by their motto of "organic electronica for expanding minds" they've used quality as their filter rather than committing the label to any one strain of electronic downtempo. Listed above is the cream of Interchill's various-artist compilations to date.

Early years

In hindsight, the label's rise marked a significant new chapter for downtempo and chillout music in the global electronic dance scene. Interchill was issuing its first albums just as the first wave of U.S. indie labels devoted to ambient dance were self-destructing, e.g. Silent Records and  Instinct Ambient. It's no coincidence that in their death throes both of those labels abruptly changed direction from techno and trance-derived ambient to emerging styles like nu jazz, nu lounge and exotic dub...styles which helped build Interchill into a successful and much longer-lived enterprise. The incumbents sensed the winds of change but in the end they were too late. On the other hand, being a newcomer Interchill was in a more flexible position to accommodate any sounds in ambient dance at the time, both established and emerging ones.

The earliest compilation albums Magnetic Blue (1998), Interior Horizons (1999) and Infinessence (2001) are diverse and intriguing, all nicely mixing up Canadian artists with internationals and with sounds ranging from expansive drifting melodies to stuttering drum'n'bass grooves. Seasoned downtempo fans will recognise a few names like Sounds From The Ground and Legion Of Green Men. There is plenty of subtle fresh twists on now-familiar dub, tribal, nu jazz and spacemusic sounds - these albums often sound like they were released yesterday.

Beauty & diversity

Floatation (2001) and  Sanctuary (2005) are Interchill's quietest compilations and a good starting point for fans of more pure strains of ambient. They are not quite what you would call minimal, however; their sound is rather too intricate to be compared with the similarly quiet old-school ambient of Eno and company. Floatation is full of soft light and luminous colours; the tracks by Adham Shaikh and Mere Mortals particularly show a flair for gorgeous liquid melodies. Sanctuary is more of a DJ mix  - the opening trio of pieces by Adham Shaikh, Suns Of Arqa and Mere Mortals are superbly mixed and layered into a long, completely seamless Vedic journey through tamboura drones, native vocal effects and fantastic flute improvisations.  From there onwards the mix gently swings between beatless and gently rhythmic, with simple crossfades stitching the tracks together. Highlights include UK composer Ishq with his subtle, floating Zen-like meditation "Yu", and Gaudi's fresh and highly creative re-assembling of world music sounds.

Earth Octave Lounge volume 1 (2002) the first and strongest in a series that marks a move into retro lounge territory. It's superb, and covers the genre in a smarter and fresher fashion than most of the chillout lounge comps from Europe and the UK that were flooding the market in the early 2000's. There's dub, nu jazz, funk and Delta blues, and lots of warm sounds from saxophone, oboe, flute and harmonica.

For the first time on an Interchill comp, Dissolving Clouds (2005) embraces exotic dub for its entire length. Dub has become a wonderfully eclectic, elastic soundworld in the hand of modern electronic producers and this compilation shows how. Only few tracks still show a clear linage to Jamaica, with most tracks cleverly reconstructing the elements and adding exotic flavours. Intensity-wise, Eat Static is the winner with the huge, crunching sci-fi dub of "UFO Over Trenchtown". Ambient fans will enjoy the subtle ethno-dub stylings of Gaudi & Tripswitch's "Subdown" and Alex Theory's "Voodoo Dub" with its weirdly beautiful vocal wail. It's a fascinating collection of dubby downtempo with a healthy dose of left-field strangeness.

Later releases

Since the mid-2000's many Interchill compilations have tended toward either cold, glitchy digital beats, or towards dub in both its minimal and traditional reggae vocal guises. All styles of which, personally, I'm reluctant to recommend. However, there are still several Interchill comps from this period that embrace change without jettisoning melody or making your ears bleed.

The excellent Future Memories (2008) acknowledges the influence of the new millennium's ambient techno-trance champions Ultimae Records with exclusive tracks from three of its key artists: Solar Fields, Carbon Based Lifeforms and Cell. All three are in fine form, their contributions drenched in spacey harmonies and atmosphere. Complimenting these tracks are crisp, tuneful exotic dub and lounge excursions including familiar Interchill names Eat Static and Tripswitch. The eponymously titled Interchill (2015) is an exception to all the other comps listed above, in that every track is previously released on the label. But it sifts and selects them beautifully, giving us a wide-ranging snapshot of the label's best chilled-out moments from the period 2010-2015.

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