Know Your Label: The Beautifully Packaged, Experimental Umor Rex Records

It’s hard keeping track of record labels in these times we’re living in, especially when you are a fan of a specific niche genre, like drone, ambient, or other more abstract forms of music. Keeping up with what’s hot can be troublesome. Others, on the other hand, seem to not have trouble moving their music and building a strong following.

Label Umor Rex is in a weird situation: it’s both well-known and obscure. You see, not many people in Mexico (where the label is based) know about its existence, even many who would enjoy the sounds they put out. At the same time, Umor Rex is a household name in the international “experimental” scene, boasting a formidable catalog of talent hailing from U.S, Canada and Europe that sell out quickly, get rave reviews in respectable publications like The Wire and are sought after by collectors. Among the artists that make up the Umor Rex family are Berlin duo Driftmachine, L.A. analog synth explorer M. Geddes Gengras, Chicago abstractionists Good Willsmith and French sound collage practitioner Félicia Atkinson.

Not merely another label making homemade noise recordings available to the indefatigable completist weirdo, Umor Rex put quality over quantity on all fronts. The label usually puts out vinyl and cassettes in exquisitely designed packages that make for eye-catching objects; labelhead Daniel Castrejón designs the bulk of the graphic material (he also keeps a print branch focused on photography books).

Furthermore, a typical release by the label is made up of sounds that you mostly likely won’t find anywhere else; they range from soundscapes conjured from carefully built electronic instruments that push the boundaries of timbre and texture, to explorations that defy form, rhythm, and even “rules” of established avant-garde schools. Simply put, Umor Rex are presenting some of the most advanced sound artists in the world.

Started as a netlabel by Castrejón in 2006, the original inspiration was to put out music made by local artists without an outlet, like bedroom folk hero Molloy and His Bike, noise miscreants The New Parallelogramers, downtempo tweaker Drugs Made Me Smarter, and experimental flautist Wilfrido Terrazas. After taking a break of sorts in 2008, the label was relaunched to do physical releases, starting with White Thunder by German post-folk pop exponents The Human Elephant. Since then, the focus has shifted to an international roster (with exceptions like Cian, featuring former Parallelogramer Kevin Altamirano) that provides unique music for those tired of the same old.

With a distribution deal with cult Chicago label Thrill Jockey and praise from selected and influential voices, Umor Rex is a label that deserves recognition everywhere, and will probably become the stuff of legends if it keeps delivering this level of quality in vanguard music.