Since 2011, the producer and DJ, Gunnar Wendel (a.k.a Kassem Mosse), from Leipzig, Germany has operated as part of the Ominira label – a loose collective of artists and friends that functions as a focal point for hard-to-define sounds.
Thus far, the group has released EPs and tapes by artists such as Move D, Beatrice Dillon, Throwing Shade, and Kassem Mosse himself – as well as under different aliases, such as The Siege Of Troy. Stylistically, there has been a focus on electronic sounds, from house to techno, as well as disparate elements of drone, noise, ambient, folk, jazz, and experimental. Its artists are equally as hard to pinpoint as its sound, with Ominira often releasing projects by newcomers, or one-off forays into different territories, typically by artists wanting the shun the limelight.
For this month’s Carhartt WIP Radio Show, the Ominira collective turned in a mix that mirrors the many different facets of their unconventional, free-spirited label, with a sonically diverse show that rewards considerate ears and listeners who want to dive deep into the music. As usual, we also asked them some questions, to help us gain a deeper insight into a label that typically likes to let the music do the talking.
Hello Ominira folks, can you tell us what the name of your label stands for?
Ominira: It’s a misconception that Ominira is a music label. We produce and distribute objects that happen to include music. Really, Ominira releases ideas. All our releases are the materialization of someone’s ideas and thoughts, particular interests and fields of study. Music is a medium that binds these releases together across formats, but often the music is part of a something else – be it the relations between us, or the material form of the recordings. That is also why most releases are not available in digital format with the exception of a few where we believe it makes sense to spread them beyond their physical form. We’re not making it easy. We’re making it hard for people. We run a website and that’s it. If you want something you have to make the effort of writing an email.
What did you feature in the mix and why?
Ominira: The mix includes tracks from all our original releases. Most of these tracks were never reissued and aren’t available digitally, so the request for a showcase seemed like a nice opportunity for us to give people a more general idea of our sound.
Kassem Mosse has released music under several aliases on Ominira like Paid Reach and The Siege of Troy, do you like to create completely new musical identities so people listen to the music without bias?
Ominira: Paid Reach is not really an alias but a sub-label. There should be more Paid Reach in the future. TSOT actually was Kassem’s project, but it was really based on the idea of creating an artefact so it made sense to use it as an approach of its own. Even beyond our label it has come to a point where people sometimes suggest a release is produced by Kassem although it isn’t. We think this is an interesting dynamic.
Ominira is an ongoing field study into ideas that were, at some point, considered dead ends. There’s a sense of exploration in many of the label’s releases.
Do you use a smartphone? (Saturnonroam tape features an old phone on the cover, I was wondering if it was yours?)
Ominira: Burners are good for taking to the club, but it’s 2018 and some of us use smartphones of course, also smartphones are good for filming cops.
You have created a very unique, distinctive sound with the label although the releases couldn’t differ more from each other. Do you find it interesting to reach a certain aesthetic atmosphere with different genres and approaches?
Ominira: A thing that combines the releases on the label is that they are often concept based. So the production technique, the source material, the visual presentation and the final medium are all intentional. The IMG_6502 album samples from the web, it draws on cheap and heavily compressed audio and video. But in its physical form it comes as a CD-R in a fancy outsized jewel case packaging. TSOT was an acid project recorded on tape and released on tape. People approached us for a vinyl reissue, but this was refused because it would dilute the idea. Working like this makes sense to us. Ominira is an ongoing field study into ideas that were, at some point, considered dead ends. There’s a sense of exploration in many of the label’s releases.
What is your relationship with Honest Jon’s like? Kassem’s Disclosure album was easily one of my favorite releases the last years, do you think it would have worked just as well on Ominira?
Ominira: The people at Honest Jon’s have good ethics and they firmly believe in what they do. If we’d be pressed to think of a store who gets us, it’d probably be HJ’s. Disclosure would have worked on Ominira as well because it’s a solid album and HJ’s distribute our vinyl releases.
How did you get around to releasing via FXHE? You are the only one on the label who is not from Detroit right?
Ominira: There’s this guy, Patrick Sjeren, from Sweden on it as well. I’m not sure if Nite Jewel is from Detroit? But arguably it’s not a lot of people. AOS had a copy of the original 578 and got in touch with Kassem through Myspace because he wanted to remix it and put it out on FXHE. He’s a big fan so this was pretty fantastic. They hung out, ate ribs and gyros, rode around in a Subaru and recorded music at night.
Do you feel like people expect a certain sound from you when you DJ or play live?
Ominira: We did an Ominira showcase at OTO – Oiseau Danseur was playing diverse GBM styles and then there were percussion and electronic soundscape performances by Molto & Kareem. It’s hard to say. There are some die-hard collectors who have been following the label since the beginning. In general, we need people to be open to new ideas.
The graphic identity of the label works really well with all the different sounds on the label since it has this DIY spirit. Who takes care of the artworks and how important is the graphics for the music you think?
Ominira: The DIY approach was one of the reasons Ominira had no logo in the beginning. That only started around the release of our first full length LP (The Midnight Episode). We stuck with that because it works well with our sound and aesthetic. Often the artists supply images or artwork to be used. Sometimes we work with friends that do graphic design. Kay Bachmann and Will Bankhead have helped out at some point. It’s a natural process and it’s different for each release.
What do you think of the record industry nowadays?
Ominira: We have no interest in the record industry. Regarding the music industry and how we relate to it: we believe music does not require a commercial value to exist and be meaningful. For some of our artists music is a practice and a means of research, you could even say that about the mixtapes. Some releases are more musical, some are more academic. We enjoy both.
Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects and ideas?
Ominira: There’ll be some more tapes – a live recording from an ambient group called ZIGTRAX and a banging mixtape by Oiseau Danseur. Hopefully new material from The Midnight Episode once she gets her synth fixed. It’s a slow process. Everybody is involved in their daily lives and business and there’s no need to rush on our side. Ominira is about waiting for something better to happen.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do and what is your creative process like? What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
Ominira: Most challenging? Making it work on tiny budgets, producing something that meets our standards without losing too much money. Paying bills is challenging. Our creative process is about doing the best under adverse circumstances.
We have no interest in the record industry. We believe music does not require a commercial value to exist and be meaningful.
Can you still identify up to today with the albums you released between 2006 and 2013?
Ominira: 100%. We wouldn’t release something we wouldn’t believe in 100%. Longevity and integrity is more important to us than whatever the current sound is.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Ominira: Realizing there are people who support us and believe in what we do. And realizing that other people don’t believe in what we do at all. It’s fine.
Ominira: Walking. Engaging with the world. The wind. Plants. The incessant hum of ACs.
Who you can imagine listening to it?
Ominira: Gorgeous people who read lots of books and are good listeners, rather than talkers.
What's the best and the worst thing about the music scene in your town, Leipzig?
Ominira: Music scenes are awful. We don’t see Ominira as a localized label. Our group is based in France, the US, the UK, Japan, it’s all over the map really. Ominira is uncharted territory. Music scenes rule.