Frijsfo On Ice

At International Orange we’re great believers in the underdogs – the artists and labels firmly entrenched in the underground and pursuing a creative vision without getting due props from the established channels of hype and buzz. Frijsfo Beats is a prime example of what we mean – Dave Oslek’s label has doggedly carried left-swerving, multi-step bin botherers from lesser-praised operators with a penchant for playfully weird twists on the dubstep and garage tradition. We were saddened to hear the news then that the twilight of 2020 will see the final drops on this truly dedicated outpost, calling time on a label that embodies everything fresh and inventive within the UK underground.

Frijsfo was established in 2008 with a various 12” from lesser-spotted operators (we’d heartily recommend Lewis Hunter’s ‘Cut From The Wreckage’ from that particular release). The follow-up single from Sully helped launch that more widely recognised maverick’s career, and then came EDMX (aka DMX Krew) taking a break from electro and synth pop to dabble in an idiosyncratic vision of dancehall and grime. At a time when dubstep’s volatile creativity was splaying ever outwards, the Frijsfo style was garishly colourful and steeped in production verve, supported by a cluster of artists pushing this idea in increasingly intriguing and original directions.

Now Frijsfo bows out with a fittingly comprehensive summation of what the label is about, calling on some of the key players to rework classic back catalogue material and drop some new heaters. The One Offs and Remixes series calls on label mainstays Geiom, Point B, Sully, Atki2 and Kuoyah, delivering exactly the kind of hybridised electronics that keep things interesting when monochrome moodiness can all too often be the common denominator. Check out all five releases:

Oslek is candid about his decision to call time on the label, citing the years in his 20s given over to running the label as a one-man-band and foregoing a ‘normal’ life in pursuit of the music he wanted to support and present to the world.

“There are plenty of factors involved in my decision to call time on the label, but basically, I realised the time, effort and financial investment required would not be worthwhile either for myself or the artists. I think fans nowadays are more keen to support artists directly, and the scope for managing their output themselves ad hoc across social media and Bandcamp sounds like a more fun and natural way for artists to reach listeners, rather than joining a label-managed release schedule.”

It’s worth paying heed to Oslek’s words about the realities of running a label – something it’s easy to overlook from a listener’s perspective. When the label started, Frijsfo vinyl sales were still relatively sustainable to move from release to release, albeit at the expense of all his spare time and paid annual leave. However, as sales dipped in line with the industry as a whole, the shift towards new models of promotion didn’t match Oslek’s outlook.

“I’d been resistant to social media and the increasing focus on it, because it didn’t really suit me and I also had no clue how to use it to my advantage, or even what the point in each of the different platforms was. My promo ‘tactics’ – basically pressing up vinyl and emailing some heads and writers – had worked quite well for me before and it wasn’t anywhere near as time-consuming, but it became outdated very quickly. From 2015 I became more focused on making my own music for a bit, plus always trying (and often failing) to keep up with Frijsfo’s never-ending admin and accounting needs.”

Alas, Frijsfo geared up for a renewed run in 2020, with Geiom and Erra’s Aura Of Bizabelle: Remixed release coming out in late March right as the world was turned upside down by the first peak of the Coronavirus pandemic. Not the best time to announce a grand return. And so, the decision has been made to wrap up the label, and in typical fashion it’s brought renewed interest back to the music at the 11th hour.

“Ironically, sales have risen substantially since I decided to call time on the project, specifically since I put together these Artist x Frijsfo compilations on Bandcamp. These turned out to be a hit with fans, to the point I’m now almost selling out of titles I’ve had overstocks of for 10 years. Over a third of Frijsfo’s all-time Bandcamp sales have come in the last month. It’s a really nice way to finish things up as it has been years since Frijsfo pressed any vinyl, let alone sell hundreds of copies in one month, and it means there’ll be some money to give artists at the end of a very difficult year.”

So Frijsfo bows out on a resoundingly positive note, which is how it should be. Oslek is keen to point to the future for all the artists involved. Geiom is looking to revive his mighty Berkane Sol label (one of the greats of the mid-late 00s dubstep era), Point B has just dropped a new album as Frond, Kuoyah remains prolific as one half of Dadub, and Oslek himself has a track out as one half of Raven Cru on a forthcoming Don’t Be Afraid 10th anniversary compilation. Fortunately, music this incandescent remains as relevant now as it did back in 2008, so the legacy of Frijsfo ripples out into the wider bassweight landscape in a shimmering salvo of bold square wave lead lines and fractured drum machine patterns.

Here’s toasting one of the greats – so long and thanks for all the beats.

Screencap from Aura Of Bizabelle