July 17th, 2013 | by ROBERT HAM Music | Posted In: Outer Worlds

Outer Worlds #13: The Return of Union Pole Records

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The text at the top of the Union Pole website reads, simply, "A tape label from the 1990s." 

They are telling the truth there, but it seems like such an understatement considering the wealth of weird and wonderful sounds that the Portland/Olympia label unleashed on unsuspecting ears. 

The imprint's initial run of 76 releases included the wobbly art-rock of Irving Klaw Trio and Trumans Water as well as amorphous explorations by Jarvik VII, Jackie-O Motherfucker, and Climax Golden Twins

Placing it solely in the '90s makes sense, though, as the label quietly disappeared at the beginning of the new millennium, partially due to owner Jeff Fuccillo's move to Tokyo. 

The header on the site is quickly becoming misinformation, however. Just last year, Fuccillo decided to digitize the label's many releases, inspired by an interest, he says, "in how the Internet works. Not just how you post to a site that has a backend that deals with it, but how you can do it yourself." 

True to the spirit of the label, he set up his own website, using the open source tools provided by Portland's own CASH Music and selling digital copies of the entire Union Pole back catalog. 

The news of the label's return spread quickly online among fans of far reaching sounds. Not only because it meant hearing bruised and blemished classics like the skronk jazz outfit Charlie Parker's The Gospel According To... and the well-titled Explicit Catharsis by Seattle experimentalists Blowhole again, but also because you could score the entire run of 76 cassettes for as little as $1. 

"The real intent was to make all the music available for free with an option to ask people to pay-as-they-wish in order to pay for the costs to rent the server and pay for the domain," Fuccillo writes via e-mail. "The CASH Music platform - which is awesome, by the way - connects to PayPal, which doesn't allow for a free or pay what you want option. So I thought, 'How about just ask for a dollar and see what happens?'" So far, he's brought in just over $300. 

Inspired by this new distribution model, Fuccillo is now releasing new material through the Union Pole brand, starting with "people that are closely connected to the original label and to folks that I'm closely connected to now," he says. 

The first two new efforts are from Eric Ostrowski, a former member of UP band Noggin, and ASUNA, a Japanese artist that specializes in reedy, ear threatening drones. He's also looking to bring out material intended for release in the '90s, including works by prolific UK composer Richard Youngs. 

And Fuccillo's plans for the future of Union Pole? 

"To get Royal Trux back together permanently. As a touring band. Full time. Opening for Blood Stereo." 

 
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