Ballerino, aka Robin Paul Braum, is quickly becoming known for his innovative approach to Electronica, thanks to hypnotic double releases like ‘Love’/’Concentrate’ and ‘Wet’/’Coward’. He’s also a founding member of South London collective squareglass, itself gaining a reputation as one of the capital’s most exciting imprints. With squareglass’ first anniversary fast approaching, Ballerino shares how the collective, and he himself, has evolved over those initial twelve months.
A focus on production is a defining feature of squareglass, and has very much been the driving force for both artist and collective, as Braum explains: “Ballerino started kind of more conceptually than it is now. Now it’s more of a dance thing, but it started off being very much, as the whole of squareglass did, exploring the relationship between production, music production as a creative tool, rather than just as a means to polish what you’ve already written”.
A Berliner by birth, swapping capitals to come here and study music, it was the “musical community” of squareglass that made him stay in London. “We were all kind of working on each other’s music as well, and then we decided that it would be nice to use it as an umbrella and as a public space, and that’s when we started actually releasing music through it, and it turned into a label.”
It may have only been going for a year, but squareglass has already seen some pretty rapid growth and development: “In the beginning it was just us three and now it’s six of us. I think it’s gotten a little bit more free because it started off being held together by these conceptual approaches, whereas now it’s not a must-do any more to stick to a strict conceptual scheme. We are all basically from that background and always work within that but we are now a lot more free to just experiment and do what we want to do.”
In that relatively short space of time Ballerino has hit a few personal high notes – releasing ‘Love’/’Concentrate’ in the summer to critical acclaim, playing the first ever live gig at Dalston Superstore in October – but he is clearly very proud of what he and the other artists have managed to accomplish as a unit. “The very first release was very overwhelmingly good, that was the Semi Precious release because that got a lot of really nice exposure in The Guardian for example, and then as we went on, the Bunki release last January was also amazing,” details Ballerino. “We had an amazing night about half a year in at Power Lunches when we launched a squareglass compilation. We went really bold and literally put everybody on one night, and it worked out incredibly well so I think that was the live highlight.”
The next big milestone is of course the anniversary, which squareglass will celebrate with the special release of a limited edition series of square vinyls, featuring tracks from Bunki, Semi Precious, Leiik, Daniel Cherney and Ballerino himself. “It was important to pick a track by each artist that released through it within the first year and then we basically just cherry picked the songs”, he explains. “Each artist picked his personal favourite that he released up until this point.”
To accompany the vinyls, squareglass will also be dropping some intra-label remixes. Doing remixes within a label family isn’t exactly uncommon, but that collaborative approach and ethos means so much more to Ballerino and to squareglass: “In the very first place it’s because we’re all involved in each other’s lives, so we are constantly involved in each other’s music. But then it is also interesting to pick up each other’s music as a part of each other’s projects, which is what happens when we remix each other. Yeah I mean I think the communal and artist-run aspect is what makes squareglass different from usual record labels, and that’s why I really like doing all these remixes internally.”
Of course, it’s not a birthday without a party, and the squareglass crew have aptly chosen Birthdays in Dalston to host their first anniversary show on December 1. Ballerino was happy to reveal what they’ve got in store for us: “It’s the very first gig of this new band called Tryptych, so that should be really exciting. Emperor Yes! should also be amazing, they do great stuff. It’s a really comical, humorous take on really big topics, it’s really funny and musically it’s massive; super synth-y. Myself, I’ve got one or two new tunes ready for this one, and then of course, the vinyls will be launched and then afterwards there should also be a pretty banging Bunki DJ set.”
As well as being a celebration of the past year, the Birthdays show will also be a look to the future, as next year squareglass will start a bi-monthly residency at the venue, although he was a little more cryptic with the details for those gigs: “It’s still in the planning so it’s not entirely set. There will obviously be a lot of squareglass acts and squareglass label friends playing, and then we are looking into using it to invite new acts to play in that circle as well. The booking hasn’t entirely been finished yet, so I can’t tell all of it but just a lot of exciting acts really.”
Beyond that, Ballerino envisions yet more growth for squareglass: “So far all of our releases have been, in terms of size, quite small; mostly double singles or EPs. I think the biggest one was just six tracks, which was the ideal thing to do to start with. Basically every artist on squareglass had his first release within the last year. As squareglass grows and each of the artists find their identity more and more, I think we will start putting out larger releases and maybe aim towards putting out albums in the next few years.” There are exciting things in the pipeline for him as well, as he has a brand new project in development. “I’ve been working on a collaboration with another squareglass mate”, he revealed, “a new collaboration project that probably will be out as a double single or an EP some point in 2016.
It’s been quite the year for squareglass and their artists – they’re very much marching to the beat of their own drum, doing things on their time and on their terms, which is resulting in some incredible music – and the good times look set to continue into 2016 and beyond. Pick up the stunning anniversary vinyl package here, and be sure not to miss their first anniversary party at Birthdays, Dalston, December 1.