2020 has been a bit of a madness hasn’t it? From the lack of dances and being stuck in confined spaces to the rise of online collaboration, it most certainly seems like the general landscape for dance music has shifted into a realm we have never seen before. Some things however, do not change, one of those being that the UK just loves garage music. It’s a uniquely British genre, In its sound, it’s origins and the culture that surrounds it.
It’s a sound that we are genuinely proud to share with the world, which is what has spawned such an excitable resurrection of the genre across the last two to three years. There have been some incredible movements being made by some of the more established labels, you know, the Kiwi’s, The Four40’s, The Wang’s and the Nuvolve’s, even my own imprint of Southpoint has put some pretty popular bangers out there if I do say so myself.
Having sat down to look at the scene as a whole however, I thought I would put together this list of labels I feel have been somewhat under- appreciated across 2020, with the garage scene’s strength being so reliant on the more underground projects to supply the exciting new blood to drive the sound forward.
SO, without further ado, here is my list of the Top 5 most under appreciated garage labels of 2020
To kick us off, it is for me, the most underrated dance music label in the UK, PERIOD. From a fans perspective, it has been another truly exceptional year for the Strictly Flava team, who have continued to uncover and showcase an incredible array of UKG talent, with their roster constantly shifting and changing to accommodate as many releases as possible between their main label and smaller subsidiary projects.
Strictly Flava seem to catch the new producers right before they pop on a more UK-wide scale and we simply cannot wait to see what 2021 brings out of the label, both from their active roster and the likely array of fresh-faced newcomers.
This is a label we feel belongs on every underrated list under the sun. The Downplay arm of the Slime Recordings conglomerate have again impressed us over the full breadth of 2020, continuously delivering top quality recordings from an array of exciting artists, including the likes of Yemi, Kobe JT, Earthnut and more. There is something about the visual simplicity and corresponding purity in sound they seem to deliver time and time again, alongside some extremely well matched remixes that set them apart from so many other garage projects.
They represent the clean side of UKG and we are sure they will continue to impress as 2021 rolls ever closer.
As the newest formed project on this listing, we are thrilled to do our bit in shining an extra sash of light on Steppers Club, a label who since forming have kept up an incredible level of consistency within the releases they have landed. They have gone a long way in showcasing some of the scenes more underrated producers in Sensa, Minista and Zefer, whilst also landing an EP with the rapidly rising Oppidan, who has spent the second half of 2020 setting the scene ablaze.
They are a label with a truly bright future ahead of them and we are genuinely so excited to see what happens!
Having celebrated their first birthday only last week, to not include the GS Dubs name in this list would be criminal on our behalf, having seen them host some of the most exciting releases of 2020 as a whole. Beings a subsidiary platform of their parent label Garage Shared, they obviously have access to some of the most sought after names in UK Garage, but they most certainly do not waste this, with near enough every release this year proving to be a selection of absolute heaters.
The highlight would have to be Soulecta’s ‘Continental Bashment’ project, which felt like such a breath of fresh air at the time. Another highlight would have to be their recent remix-lead four tracker, which was released to commemorate a full year of activity.
To round off this list we have yet another new project to spawn across the craziness of 2020, this one forming under possibly the most established names in Matt Jam Lamont and Echelon. Even with that, their release schedule has been nothing short of excellent since their formation, with their introductory four tracker being one of the strongest garage releases to land this year in our eyes, featuring the likes of Shosh, Smokey Bubblin B, Yemi and Aki.
They have kept up this high quality approach to releases across the following three drops which for us sees them being somewhat under appreciated. However, we have no doubts whatsoever that what’s in store for 2021 will make a few additional heads turn!
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