After 6 plus years, the Cotton Goods label is saying goodbye with one final release scheduled for July 2015.
For those following the label, it’s been an incredible run and has yielded some of the finest minimal electronic music going over the past few years. And if the loss seems a little personal, that’s not incidental given that everything about a CG release felt personalized for the listener: the packaging, the hand-numbering (and that’s only when your name wasn’t actually handwritten on the package), but most of all, the music.
The first ever release for the CG label was back in February 2009 and it was another first as well: the very first full-length for the Humble Bee (aka label owner Craig Tattersall). Looking back, that first CG/Humble Bee release was a sort of calling card for the label and its personalized aesthetic. The packaging was built around some re-used book covers and came in a handmade cardboard binding with a hand stamped Cotton Goods seal. The music itself was just as personal — covered in a layer of tape hiss that would also become a hallmark of the label’s aesthetic.
To Tattersall’s credit and the listener’s benefit, that personalized aesthetic never waned across 6 years. As such, the labels work has continued to sustain an intimate relationship with its listeners. Fluid Radio asked a few fellow musicians, label owners, and artists from the labels own roster to discuss their highlights from the label’s output.
‘Projected Images’ by e + I – Bryan Ruhe
I vividly recall the night I heard these four tracks for the first time. I sat in my basement on the carpeted floor, in front of the false-woodgrain cabinet within which the stereo resides. The sounds that vibrated the air around me that night arrested me, not allowing me to move until the album ended. Since then, I’ve listened to this more times than any other Cotton Goods release, and I have heard nearly all of them. It has been, and continues to be, a much-loved soundtrack for my sleeping hours.
The first veiled whispers of “Latent Image” captivate, painting a watercolor memory of a landscape bathed in gold; a life-affirming sunrise on a bleary-eyed morning.
“Pearls for Alma” plunges the mind into the shallows of a shimmering ocean. Gentle sounds in the distance form beacons, illuminating underwater mysteries; close clusters of piano notes shift and reflect, like liquid caressing the inner ear and slightly disorienting vision. As before: a blur — eyes held wide open, yet yielding an imperfect perception of shapes in a pale blue and endless world. But there is no discomfort associated with the curious sensations — only a peaceful wonder.
A straining tape at the start of “Fogging Processes Plate” bleeds discord, introducing tensions that grow over the duration of the piece. Emmanuel’s strings gradually enter — the aural fog clears as his instrument layers over itself: a growing wind bringing with it a winter flurry of sorrowful chords, then swiftly decaying into a light snowfall, frozen in the dim yellow light of indigo evening.
“Wording Sounds” rings out for nearly 23 minutes — not a single moment extraneous, but rather every second lending to a deeply satisfying, past-present-future completeness —
Piano motif: a nostalgia for the past; a cherished understanding of the harmonic progression of events composing one’s life.
Brass: a preparation for the future; a shining warmth as comforting as the embrace of one dearly loved, as trumpets herald the very end of all things, finding the listener ready.
The humble bee — A Miscellany For The Quiet Hours — Emmanuel Witzthum
It is incredibly difficult to write about Cotton Goods thinking that it is about to end.
I met craig.. c.. right when he wrapped up the mobeer series and had begun the cotton goods label… I had fallen in love with his design and the unique pallet of his own and labels releases and wrote to him sending him my music.
There was (and is) a unique connection I felt between the small, shy, hidden, dusty and treasured sounds that he fashions and the design concept that makes cotton goods what it is… something hand crafted and singular. Every time I opened another package with another design and a hidden treasure inside I was almost overwhelmed with the artistry and craftsmanship.
At the time, I had for some years not written music and I wrote to craig to see whether we could form a collaboration and he would consider releasing a bit of my music.
Little did I know at the time but c was to become a soulmate and one of my closest friends.
So, when thinking about which release from cotton goods I would write about I could only write about Craig’s release. A release that epitomizes for me not only the sound and feel of Cotton goods — the atmospheric, gentle, analogue, dusty whispers of sound hidden inside the covers of books reminded me not only of the connection between design and sound but also about the connection between the tactile experience and the auditory one.
In addition there is a track in the album which formed one of E and I’s first tracks (section v light) — timeless and time…
In a world and culture in which everything is downloadable, mutiple/able, reusable, there is something incredibly special about cotton goods — the handcrafted releases, not one looking the same as another, all giving second life to covers of books that are about to fade away that brings us back to the essence of creation in which the how and the what connect.
Since my first email to craig so many years ago, he has released all of my music, we have shared many musical moments exchanging ideas, sounds and dreams. For me personally, cotton goods is much more than a label, it is a family, a friendship and music that grows enveloped in love and care.
I will miss the label, but can’t wait for c’s next journey:)
Ian Hawgood (Home Normal)
The work of Craig Tattersall as an artist and label curator has been a constant source of inspiration for me. Every release has a complete uniqueness, and through the music and packaging you can just get this huge sense of joy and love of the work produced. I’ve been in the fortunate position to have received works from Craig’s little universe time and again through the post, with each marked ‘Ian’ on it, beyond the limited number identification of each. To show how important these releases are; they were the only ones I packed in a suitcase to bring back to the UK after moving from Japan just yesterday. I flew back to Japan to collect these CDs and some cameras, arriving only yesterday, so that’s timing for you and shows how much they mean to me.
There are three releases which are basically very regular listens: e and i ‘an inch of air’, then dof ‘mycrocosmycs’, and the humble bee ‘morning music’. The one release which stands out for me has to be ‘morning music’ though as its a toss up between that or some Eno to get me up in the morning. I think the idea that Craig recorded these between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning, and that I am listening to the album usually then feels incredibly connected. But, quite beyond that, it is an album that is typically tender as all of Craig’s own work is, and just fits a sense of things beginning, or awakening so well. It is also one of my favourite releases by anybody ever, so there you go.
As a final side note I should just add that Cotton Goods, and all of the work Craig does, really is life-affirming in the most real of ways. He would hate me saying that, but it is certainly true. Cotton Goods has been an amazing part of his world. Thanks Craig.
John McCaffrey (Part Timer/ Scissors and Sellotape)
It’s kind of difficult to pick a favourite Cotton Goods release. Not necessarily because all releases are equally great, but more as a result of the fact that the back catalogue hangs together so perfectly well that it’s hard to consider such a consistently realised aesthetic (despite a disparate array of artists) as having been formed from individual releases. The catalogue almost demands to be considered as a whole. The same aural flavour imbues all the releases and creates a distinct label identity that is unmistakeable amongst a fairly saturated field. Of course this consistency is no accident and is clearly the result of a craftsman-like approach to curation on the behalf of label founder, Craig Tattersall. It is, therefore, probably no surprise that my personal favourite from the back catalogue happens to be an album of Craig’s own output; the humble bee — “morning music”. Across four discs, this album explores every last crevice of those themes that tie the whole label’s output together: disintegration, happy accident, antiquated technology, the details of the everyday, and a wistful melancholia. All the more impressive to me, is that, as the label website states “each cd contains 7 songs, one for each day of the week, one hour was allotted to write, record and document each song”. So, not only is this album a strong personal favourite of mine (not just from this label, but across the entire genre), but it was put together with such strict guidelines and on incredibly tight timeframes. Thanks to Craig for making such great stuff and for offering me the opportunity to contribute to the label myself. It’s been a rare pleasure.
Cotton Goods retrospective selection:
e and i — an inch of air
david newlyn — reconnection
ido govrin — the salon
ruhe — oral cues
the humble bee — 23 jan 2010
pawn — the book that is never read
astatine — Initial confirement
john supko/ bill seaman — the clicking
whisperer — shimmer
emmanuel witzhum — with strings v.2
relmic statute — tapeloop 2