The new Brussels record label By the Bluest of Seas is a safe haven for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in music and photography. Its first two releases are perfectly suited to decelerating times.
By the Bluest of Seas is the love child of Philippe Delvosalle and Beata Szparagowska. You ought to know the former from the small but wonderful Brussels label Okraïna Records, and the latter from her mysterious, enchanting photographs. Their new label fuses together their love of music and photography.
“I found it super exciting to translate music into images,” Szparagowska says about the photos that she took for the first two By the Bluest of Seas releases. For Trudge Lightly by Pak Yan Lau and Darin Gray, she wandered around the twilight zone in Sweden, while she was living there for a month. The pictures were taken entre chien et loup, that moment at which light and darkness devour each other. Premeditation by Yoshio Machida and Cal Lyall became Szparagowska’s soundtrack during commutes on tram 81 to Anderlecht. “It resulted in an idea about pictures that express movement, landscapes that blend into one another.” She dived into her archive of photos from the US, Italy, France, and Poland, where she was born.
The two albums, beautifully designed by Isabelle Vigier, are being released as double ten-inch albums with a photobook and gatefold sleeve. “That’s a fetish of mine,” Delvosalle laughs about the unusual format – between a single and an LP – that he also used for releases on Okraïna Records, with their colourful drawings by Gwénola Carrère. “It’s not too small and not too big,” he says. “The length of each side makes it possible for the musicians to develop a narrative, a universe.” “Listening to the music becomes an active and more intimate experience,” Szparagowska adds, “because you have to turn vinyl over more quickly.”
Active listeners will be rewarded, By the Bluest of Seas is a label for musical adventurers. The Japanese sound artist Yoshio Machida and the Canadian guitarist Cal Lyall extract welcome tranquillity from steel pan, slit drums, and banjo. The Brussels-based pianist Pak Yan Lau and the American bassist Darin Gray create a scintillating universe with prepared piano, double bass, and electronics. One moment you are in an industrial landscape and the next you might mistake yourself for a shepherd on the Mongolian steppe.
“Each release will be different,” Delvosalle says about the records, of which 500 copies are pressed. “The nice thing about this is that we are gradually building a universe the contours of which we don’t yet know. We will do only a couple of releases each year, we are a slow label.”
As was also the case with Okraïna Records, in finding the label’s name Delvosalle was inspired by the little-known Russian filmmaker Boris Barnet. “Like the great American directors of the studio era, he managed to make personal work within the Soviet system.” In the same way, By the Bluest of Seas also leaves its mark in a sea of music. “Barnet made about thirty films,” he laughs, “I can found a few more labels.”
Trudge Lightly (Pan Yan Lau & Darin Gray) and Premeditation (Yoshio Machida & Cal Lyall) are out now. More info: www.bythebluestofseas.com