At the end of 2020, Reform Radio partnered with the Youth Music Incubator Fund to give seven young creatives a paid opportunity to run their label, Rhythm Lab Records, for six months - and those six months have flown by. By handing over its operational reins amidst the pandemic, Rhythm Lab Records sought to reaffirm itself as a space for Northern creatives to collaborate, learn and push each other out of their comfort zones at a time when new connections were difficult to find. Daniel Williams from Youth Music offers “Youth Music’s Incubator Fund exists to create these important opportunities for collaboration and to support the next generation to learn and earn through real industry experience. It’s been incredible to see these young artists and music professionals adapt and work together throughout lockdowns, and for the project to culminate in such quality releases. With talent like this breaking through Manchester’s music industry has exciting times ahead”
By January 2021, now with a team of young people in place, Mike Burgess (AKA Sound with Mike, Reform’s music industry project partner) began work on crafting roles for each young person and training them on the skills they would need to move forward - leading to the group’s development of their signature release series, ‘Sonic Synthesis’, which saw two artists that had never worked together create singles independently of each other, then swap their audio stems to rework each other’s tracks into a unique new work/remix. Mike Burgess offers; “the group came up with a fantastic project concept very early on in the process and I’ve really enjoyed supporting them to bring their ideas to life - many of which have achieved the seal of approval from well respected industry guests, which as the facilitator, has been the icing on the cake.”
The group’s first release, ‘Sonic Synthesis: STEMS’, featured Northern-based industrial pop artist CURRENTMOODGIRL and alternative R&B artist Yelena Lashimba, with both artists (independently of each other) exploring agency and toxicity in their work, commenting on the difficulties and the triumph of finding your voice in environments that wish to commodify, objectify and ultimately strip that agency away from you. A message that resonates with many cis/trans women as well as non binary people the world over.
Most recently, during ‘Sonic Synthesis: ROOTS’, artist duos Sindysman/China Lilly and Micco/Elias crafted a soundscape based around a theme of dreams and sleep, focusing on the escapism that dreams provide us as the only lockdown-friendly means of travel and the paralysing effects they can have when you’re stuck dreaming and forget you’re asleep, taking centre stage, creatively.
Sporting an added bonus track from artists Callum Hultquist and LINTD, ‘Sonic Synthesis’ is a 9 track digital compilation that celebrates the openly collaborative space that Rhythm Lab Records have carefully curated in Manchester over the past six months. The bonus track, titled U ‘n’ I, is an electronic folk ballad, brandishing a smutty but intimate rap feature, that juxtaposes the feelings of tension associated with joint experience, with the playful tensions of sex and rebellion. The instrumental by Callum is soulful and hypnotic, allowing both artists to flourish their unique vocals and add to the trance-like state the track induces in the listener. On the journey that the seven young people operating the label have been on as developing music industry execs, current label manager Hannah O’Gorman offers; “I came into this role knowing very little about what it took to run a successful record label but the creative freedom and trust that was given to the team and I has made this the perfect learning opportunity. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done and feel confident pursuing a music industry career with the experience, training, and new contacts I’ve made.”
‘Sonic Synthesis’ may be coming to an end, but Rhythm Lab Records itself has no intention of slowing down. As the world opens up and the needs of the Manchester music scene expands and transforms, the young Rhythm Lab team will be certain to keep up with these needs. Five of the seven young people who began work on the project in December 2020 have now been retained for a further 6 months via the Government’s new ‘Kick Start’ initiative, which Reform Radio is particularly excited about. “I am so proud of the team! They have met and exceeded our expectations time and again, and have done so working quickly and remotely. We are beyond excited to work with them in person and to have them carry on the legacy of Rhythm Lab Records as a space for young Northern artists to find and express the roots of their sound. I know the label is in good hands.”. Reform Radio director Jemma Tanswell
Sonic Synthesis: is released on June 9th and has been made possible by support from the Youth Music Incubator Fund.