Few labels maintain a coherent sonic identity across a roster of artists after a full decade of existence, but Tri Angle Records did just that. From 2010 to 2020, Robin Carolan was founder and head A&R of a deeply influential and uncompromising bastion of independent musicians. The noise artists, innovative beatmakers, ambient composers, and wondrous singer-songwriters that composed the Tri Angle roster shared an obsession with unnerving ambiance, and they spread their distinct sound through the worlds of pop, rap, and experimental music. The news of its closure is dispiriting, but the label leaves behind both an admirable legacy and a memorable body of work. Though not an exhaustive list of the label’s discography, hopefully this guide sketches a portrait of Tri Angle’s distinctive sound.
Rainforest EP (2011)
For a while, the only “official” Clams Casino release you could purchase digitally was Rainforest EP. The rest of his genre-defining productions could be found on self-released mixtapes or undergirding songs by ASAP Rocky, Lil B, and others. Released the summer before his work on LIVELOVEA$AP made him a household name for music-lovers, the crushed soundscapes of Rainforest showed the brilliance Clams was capable of when he flew solo.
Kings and Them (2012)
In 2011, Evian Christ was Joshua Leary, a 22-year-old schoolteacher by day and beatmaker by night. He garnered his initial fans with a set of self-released tracks in 2012, yet he wasn’t even trying to get into music. As he told Pitchfork, he signed with Tri Angle after recognizing it in his inbox as the label that put out Clams Casino’s music. The free mixtape Kings and Them, technically his first for the label, gathered some of the hissy, hypnotic productions that first brought him attention, including “Fuck It None of Y’all Don’t Rap.”
Engravings, the debut album of producer Matthew Barnes aka Forest Swords, fell somewhere between a club night and a sound bath. Dub echo spirals and dusty samples meet in a slow-moving ballet that evokes ancient civilizations and forgotten rituals. After its release, Barnes went on to only expand the scope of his work, scoring music for films, video games, and dance performances.
The Haxan Cloak
Six years before he scored Ari Aster’s critically acclaimed Midsommar, Bobby Krlic was crafting albums that sounded like soundtracks to horror films that didn’t even exist. Excavation narrates a doomed journey through the afterlife with creepy, resonating synthesizers and mournful strings, which together form wave upon wave of the album’s oppressive atmosphere. While Krlic’s first Haxan Cloak album on Tri Angle was his only solo release on the label, he was a key member, producing for labelmates WIFE and serpentwithfeet and collaborating with Carolan on the making of Bjork’s Vulnicura.
Before he ever linked up with Ty Dolla $ign, blisters was Josiah Wise’s foray into experimentalism in the guise of serpentwithfeet, his musical alias. Produced by the Haxan Cloak, these five songs give Wise seemingly unlimited space to stretch out his immaculate vocal abilities. Underneath him, guitars become drones that pull back to reveal haunting violins.
One of the last full-length albums released by Tri Angle was Lotic’s official debut LP Power. The explosive electronic record—filled with mangled drums and moments of sternum-rattling bass—is also a deeply personal statement from the Berlin-via-Texas producer, who sings on their own records for the first time here. “Brown skin, masculine frame/Head’s a target/Acting real feminine/Make ’em vomit,” they whisper on the opening track “Hunted.” The echoes of these repeated whispers eventually mesh with coils of metallic percussion.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork