Click-hop. Micro-house. A gentle wash of tactile frequency trajectories. Ann Arbor, Mich. New Orleans. Berlin. At first glance, tourmates Dabrye, T. Raumschmiere and Telefon Tel Aviv seem to be coming from entirely different places.
But upon closer inspection, they are connected as part of a diverse network of aesthetically like-minded musicians. They function within a series of labels -- Chicago's Hefty, Ann Arbor's Ghostly International, Berlin's Shitkatapult -- run by artists with artists in mind. While the underlying elements that bind them do not travel in straight lines, they do fall within certain circles. And it just so happens that one such circle exists -- and overlaps -- here in Atlanta.
Along with touring for Hefty and recording for Ghostly, Dabrye (who also records as Tadd Mullinix and James Cotton) has released an EP on Eastern Developments, the Atlanta label co-founded by Scott Herren, who records for Warp/Hefty Records as Prefuse 73 and Savath + Savalas. Originally conceived by Herren with help from graphic designer Peter Rentz, Eastern Developments is manufactured and distributed by Hefty. The label's focus is on developing an outlet inspired by community labels such as Detroit's free-funk/bop fusion imprint, Tribe -- one that allows known musicians to work in unknown configurations.
Eastern Developments has grown to encompass three other Atlantans. Along with Herren and Rentz, label duties are split between Jakob Dwight (publicity), Videodrome owner Matt Booth (finances) and John Robinson (managerial; also a DJ under the name Gnosis). All are friends who've shared overlapping social scenes.
A circle of close friends may run Eastern Developments, but its releases fall in all quadrants of a circumference as wide as the label's origins.
"Atlanta is a terminus where seemingly opposing influences and tensions have eased into a fusion," says Jakob Dwight. "Atlanta's identity isn't too well defined, which is perfect for how we want the label and its artists to be perceived and developed."
Using the city they all call home as inspiration, the Eastern Developments crew has set out to make diversity its only concrete image. With just two releases -- Dabrye's EP, Instrmntl, and Hu Vibrational's Boonghee Music 1 -- the label has already established diametric paths of rhythmic exploration. Dabrye works within the hazy head-bobbing patterns of jazzy machine funk. Hu Vibrational's boonghee style is the sound of calloused hands -- a circular conversation between various organically derived grooves.
Indeed, Hu Vibrational and Dabrye sound nothing alike. Nor do they sound like Prefuse 73's hip-hop cut-ups or Savath + Savalas' electronics-flecked folk roll. Eastern Developments believes that the diversity of Herren's work may be a factor that will attract fans to the label -- and since it's diversity Prefuse fans appreciate, they won't approach Eastern Developments with any preconceptions. The focus is on the music, not the people behind the label, something the Eastern Developments hopes people pick up on.
"[Eastern Developments] isn't meant to reflect me as an artist," says Herren. "That's definitely not what the label is about. Like Kid 606's label [Tigerbeat6] -- that reflects him. Or Def Jux -- that pretty much reflects [label head/producer] El-P as an artist -- which is fine."
Among the label's upcoming albums (all planned for November release): a Kopernick full-length, which offers a cinematic sound collage strung from deeply bowed tones; a Daedelus EP that chimes and sputters with melodic clutter; and Ahamad Szabo's This Book Is About Words, folktronica that could appeal to fans of Greg Davis and Fennesz. Eastern Developments also is extending the community concept to the immediate community, throwing a series of parties starting Oct. 5, the first featuring Prefuse 73, Ocelot and DJ Ryan Rasheed.
"I think me and all the people involved with Eastern Developments, we're all into different things," says Herren. "What we have in common is liking things to be pushed. We'd like a consistency in originality, not genre."