Back in 2008, a video popped up on youtube featuring a then unknown Lunice popping, locking and dropping (it) to a then relatively unknown Lazer Sword‘s “Gucci Sweatshirt”. The video became moderately popular at the time, making its way around various social circles and then fading into black like every other video from 2008 (except for this one). The song offered a sort of glitchy pre-amble to Lazer Sword’s later work, but is almost indistinguishable from Memory, the duo’s latest album. “Gucci Sweatshirt” was officially released in October of 2009 as the first release on Stones Throw employee Nate Nelson’s new imprint Innovative Leisure. Influenced by his time at Stones Throw and hardcore labels like SST and Dischord, Nelson set off to institute Innovative Leisure as a driving force in North American electronic music.
“Gucci Sweatshirt”‘s idiosyncratic mash of hip hop and off-kilter electro was a fitting start, launching Lazer Sword as a force to reckoned with. By the end of 2010, Innovative Leisure was firmly entrenched and had hosted releases from Mexicans With Guns, Hanni El Khatib, Nguzunguzu, Machinedrum and, strangely enough, Freddie Gibbs. In November of the same year, Lazer Sword released their debut self-titled LP through Innovative Leisure, pushing Low Limit and Lando Kal into international stardom. The release also solidified Innovative Leisure as a bastion of the most dynamic forms of North American electronic music.
2011 was a relatively quiet year for Nelson’s label, but saw it expanding into new territories and laying out an impressively variegated roster. That was the year Innovative Leisure trotted out bluesy as fuck whiteboy Nick Waterhouse‘s “I Can Only Give You Everything”, arguably the label’s biggest release to date. The Huntington Beach-native brought a brand new dimension to Innovative Leisure, one grounded in Motown and Van Morrison, far from the club-oriented music the label had peddled to that point. Not that club-oriented music is bad of course, but Waterhouse’s signing distanced Innovative Leisure from the hundreds of internet labels out there and gave it a distinct home in Southern California.
Without getting it too much, the first 11 months of 2012 have been absolutely massive for Innovative Leisure, seeing the label break the ultra-hyped Rhye and release Nosaj Thing’s first originals since 2009’s Drift. In just three years, Nelson’s label has gone from relatively unknown club outlet to one of the West Coast’s most divergent, groundbreaking labels. As a sort of celebration (culmination?), the label enlisted Low Limit to compile tracks from Innovative Leisure artists and associates. The result is Ouroboros, a 10-track opus that is as good of an indicator of North American electronic music as any release you’ll hear all year.
If names like Clicks & Whistles, Braille, Anenon and Obey City get you wet (not to mention the aforementioned Low Limit and Machinedrum) then this compilation is for you. If you have no idea who any of the involved artists are or what they sound like, but want delve deeper into North American electronic music, this compilation is for you. If you’re at a party and don’t know what to play, but want people to think that you’re hip to the newest trends (because, you know, that’s all that matters), this compilation is for you. So yeah, give it a spin below and grab that hard wax from the Innovative Leisure website.