Founded in 1984 by Renaat Vandepapeliere & Sabine Maes in Ghent, Belgium, R&S is currently being run out of London where it’s managed by Andy Whittaker and Dan Foat.
R&S has had several subsidiaries over the years – the house flavoured Global Cuts, Mike Dred’s acid driven Diatomyc, the mysterious TZ and several others including ambient/electronica offshoot Apollo which released Aphex Twin’s classic Seleced Ambient Works 85-92. I’ve not checked it out yet but they’ve also recently launched a new rock music label – Planet Function.
Renaat and wife Sabine actually started things a year earlier with Milos Music Belgium in 1983 but the label had just one release, a euro disco 12″ “Big Tony – Bubble Up” before in 1984 they renamed the company as R&S Records. Renaat and Sabine were both very keen horse and car enthusiasts and used the Ferrari insignia as the label logo, with Ferrari’s permision (apparently so long as they stuck to music and didn’t move into the car industry). In 1989 the Ferrari lettering was dropped from the logo leaving only the now famous horse design to try and put a stop to people referring to the label as Ferrari Records.
In 1987 when the legendary Boccaccio Club in Ghent brought New Beat to the fore, R&S dropped it’s first vinyl release from B-art closely followed by Code 61′s chart hit Drop the Deal at the start of 1988 (one of the very few new beat trax to crossover commercially). Several other releases followed with most of these being the work of Renaat himself working together with producers Maarten van der Vleuten, David Morley, CJ Bolland & Cisco Ferreira on projects like Space Opera and Spectrum.
David Morley is a British producer responsible for the recording studio in Ghent during 1988 and 1989 when the label and sublabel Limited Edition Club released over 50 New Beat records (DM page up soon).
CJ Bolland was just 16 years-old when he started to work in the studios in 1988, which at the time were located in Renaat’s flat. “I used to fall asleep on the couch there at about eight in the morning and Sabine used to wake me up at one or two with some breakfast. I was just round there all the time getting on their nerves but it was a very warm friendly atmosphere in those days”.
At the end of 1989 following the release of his Nu Groove EP – Forgotten Moments, a young Joey Beltram got the call to visit Ghent and the result of his co-operation with Mundo Muzique as Second Phase was Vortex and then Mentasm. His worldwide breakthrough and defining moment came with the release of Energy Flash in 1990 and while the influence this record had and still has can never be overstated it was actually Mentasm that gained most of the attention with a seemingly neverending stream of raved up imitations hitting the record store shelves for several years after. By the end of 1992 musical differences between himself and Renaat resulted in a mutually agreed separation which was followed by a 2 year absence of Beltram releases until his awesome Caliber 12″ on Warp hit the shelves.
R&S by this time was at the very forefront of the European house and techno movement – innovating not imitating – with a slew of groundbreaking releases by CJ, Outlander, Hell, Beltram, AFX, Golden Girls, Jaydee, Jam & Spoon & Dave Angel and licenced imports from the likes of Mr Fingers, Derrick May, Suburban Knight & Juan Atkins. R&S was a “buy on sight” label for many years and it’s regular series of round up compilation albums “In Order to Dance” were like a who’s who of techno, at least until volume 6 hit the shelves featuring purely Jungle & Breaks but we’ll forgive them that since 1994′s Volume 5 remains my no.1 compilation of all time.
To celebrate its tenth anniversary in 1994 the label set up a pirate radio station, Radio Republica which for a whole week aired broadcasts by key label artists Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, CJ Bolland, Robert Leiner, Sven Väth, DJ Morpheus and many others. You can listen to Kevin & Derrick’s shows right here…
As the label flourished, so came the inevitable disagreements. German trancers Jam & Spoon and Aphex Twin both left the label feeling that Renaat could not fully serve their interests then soon after CJ Bolland came to the same conclusion and signed for the short lived FFRR offshoot label, Internal.
Sometime around 1997, following almost a decade of cutting edge productions and classic album releases from the likes of afore mentioned artists plus Derrick May, Kenny Larkin, Dave Angel, Source/Rob Leiner, Stacey Pullen, Model 500 and so many more (it’d be impossible to list them all here) the label appeared somewhat to lose focus and like many others of the time (and like so many lesser labels have done since then) musical trends took over with Renaat discovering a love for Drum & Bass which to be fair was at it’s musical & commercial peak back then. In 2000, following several years of mainly hit & miss releases in an increasingly over saturated market the label took a hiatus. Renaat & Sabine were apparently put off by the ever growing commercial elements in the music industry and for nearly six years R&S lay dormant, though its legacy never decreased. It became and remains one of the all time classic techno labels, one that djs, producers & collectors alike will talk about for many a year.
R&S was relaunched in 2006 with releases by new talents like James Blake, Pariah, Space Dimension Controller, Untold, Blawan, Vondelpark & Radioslave aswell as heralding the return of Model 500/Juan Atkins. Whilst it’s current output hasn’t yet grabbed my attention in the same way as those early 12s it’s gaining huge support from the new generation of dubstep / deep techno lovers aswell as receiving critical acclaim worldwide and featuring highly in the usual suspects year end label charts. Just as it did the first time around it’s become a buy on sight label for a new generation.
The Archives’ All Time Top 10 R&S Floor Fillers
1: Mantrax – Scarlet Circus
2: Fingers Inc – I’m Strong
3: Zeta 3 – Zeta 3
4: Jam & Spoon – Stella
5: Source Experience – Elektra
6: Mike Dred – Macrocosm
7: Ravesignal – Horsepower
8: Kenny Larkin – Catatonic
9: Point Blank – Mengs Theme RMXS
10: Outlander – Vamp (orig + kms rmx)
The Archivers’ Top 5 R&S Albums
1: Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92
2: Kenny Larkin – Metaphor
3: Various – Order to Dance Vol.5
4: CJ Bolland – The 4th Sign
5: Model 500 – Deep Space