The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

How the 1080p Label Created Its Own Strange World of Dance Music

For founder Richard MacFarlane, the mystique is the message.

If you want to understand Canadian cassette label 1080p, start with Bobby Draino.

Solo endeavors by the former drummer of post-grunge band Weed are a hazy gaze into Vancouver, B.C.'s esteemed house and techno scenes, whose common threads are 6 am underground parties, clouded synth pads and a holy devotion to kush. His debut album, a split with D. Tiffany as Xophie Xweetland called Chrome Split, crystallized this unique moment for Cascadian dance music via an abstract, acid-tinged sound all their own. And the cover, depicting a bosomed bong lounging on a plastic beach, is simply one of the best album covers of all time.

That tape stood out in the dance music underground by defying categorization, just like the label that released it. 1080p was founded in 2013 by Richard MacFarlane, an eccentric New Zealander who moved to Vancouver on a whim. In three years, the label has rapidly grown from humble beginnings, with a cheeky aesthetic, an emphasis on digital art and a focus on cassettes. The warm, analog sound of tape is a unique medium for uptempo, club-friendly tracks. To the underground dance music community, 1080p opened up a new channel for expression.

"In the context of getting music out there, tapes are a good way to negate the conventions of the music industry," MacFarlane says. "The mainstream industry is probably all digital [sales], because physical copies have failed them. 1080p, as a label, refers to how quickly things get outmoded, or the planned obsolescence of those objects or modes of production."

If a personal brand signifies cultural currency, MacFarlane is already a rich man. He's a self-effacing Instagram star, traveling the world in Tevas with socks, expounding a sincere love of Patagonia fleece and a curatorial ear for provocative, uplifting music. MacFarlane's vision sprang from his work with the Roze Quartz blog and defunct Pitchfork spinoff, the lo-fi, experimental pop-focused Altered Zones.

His experience as a music journalist provided a PR network to help MacFarlane launch 1080p. Early highlights of the label included the boho cloud rap of B.C.'s Young Braised and the liminal techno and ephemeral house of Portland's own Karmelloz and Auscultation. Recent releases count local R&B pranksters Magic Fades, Gobby of DFA Records, and Grammy-nominated CFCF as key movers of the 1080p brand.

Today, MacFarlane maintains a schedule of about two releases per month. Having recently added vinyl to the catalog, the release schedule is backlogged through 2016, with shipping bills regularly reaching $500 Canadian. MacFarlane says he tries to attach a "myth or image" to every physical release. It's a concept that's proven attractive to independent creatives from across North America and Europe, who are drawn into MacFarlane's overarching vision for what a DIY label means in this age of accelerated content.

With newfound hype, globe-trotting live acts, and unlimited potential, the 1080p brand uniquely inspires producers while consuming the attention spans of aesthete trend-seekers in electronic music. The label particularly excels at breaking female artists to a wider audience. D. Tiffany was the first of many esteemed women to make a mark through the label, which now houses Via App, Beta Librae, and Umfang of the all-female DJ collectives Technofeminism and Discwoman. Emma Olson of Umfang says she only heard of the label by word of mouth and "didn't know that Richard knew me" until he reached out through Facebook to release her debut album.

"The way I approach releases is going through friends," MacFarlane says. "Instead of having people self-release, this label has the purpose to help out, as an actually self-sufficient model. It gives people agency."


Nick Holder, "Feeling Sad"

Here is a Toronto producer that made most of his dope cuts throughout the '90s. Amazing skills when it comes to isolating beautiful sample loops and vocals. Extremely soulful vibes, really bouncy rhythms. Try not moving some part of your body to any of his tracks. Also responsible for founding dope label, DNH, on which most of his music was released.

Paul Horn, "Haida"

Not technically Canadian (born in New York in the '30s), Horn became a popular jazz flautist that eventually settled in Victoria, B.C., with his family in the '70s. He went on to compose a lot of really deep stuff recorded mostly in very echo-y spaces that hold certain spiritual importance. This is a recording of him jamming on the flute with a choir of dolphins hanging out in their aquarium.

Paul Serret, "Breathing"

Found this record in one of the bins at my favorite record store in Vancouver, Audiopile. Again, another "Paul" that isn't technically Canadian but has recorded three records in Vancouver. Emotionally profound and moving. It's like these pieces try to knit together all the beautiful sadness of life…or something. (Listen here.)

Bran Van 3000, “Drinking in L.A.”

Here's a track that has a lot of historical significance for Canadians in their 20s and 30s now, mostly because it was played everywhere and all the time here after its release in 1997. It basically became the soundtrack to all kinds of personal drama. It never really broke into the American market. To this day it still stands as Canada's only answer to PM Dawn's amazing "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss."

DJ Slym Fas, "Luv Music"

There isn't much out there about Tony Ollivierra. What I do know is that he's responsible for producing this really fresh piece of soulful, hip-hop house. Originally released on Terrence Parker's U.S. based label Intangible Records, the label reads "Made in Canada." Both tracks pack major summer vibes and lots of juicy loops.

Altitude, "Achernar"

One of the first techno-y records I bought was from a record shop right by my house called Beat Street. This track is actually the most techno of the lot on this comp. Minimal Chain Reaction vibe but with really deep atmosphere that keeps the groove floating. Altitude is Matt Thibideau from Toronto and he's been making electronic stuff since the late '90s.

Snow, "Informer"

This marked my first connection to Canadian content, having grown up in Dubai in the '90s. It was truly the dopest thing I had heard, and the song (and video) became something that I would bump with friends in high school on the regular. The name Snow also stands for "Superb Notorious Outrageous Whiteboy."

Pilgrims of the Mind, "Digital 4 A Groove"

Pilgrims of the Mind is a musician by the name of Stephane Novak who has been based in Vancouver for a while now (if not actually from here). I'm really into this floaty-ass style. It's a real slow burner full of amazing noises. I saw him at Beat Street a few years ago and wanted to say something really fanboyish but kept my cool. Power to him though. He deep.

Hollis P Monroe, "I'm Lonely"

Stickman is a really fun label for me and lots of other deejays here. The cuts are always in the dollar bins in most shops. The b-sides are normally where the juicy tracks are. This one, however, is the A1. A true bumper in the night with a burning 303 line that cuts through midway in.

Wagon Repair Records

This label was founded in Vancouver by techno producers Todd Shillington (aka Konrad Black) and Mathew Jonson and some friends. Strongly recommend listening to anything Mathew Jonson made in those earlier years, especially the Cobblestone Jazz stuff. Strictly burning.

SEE IT: Love in This Club's 1080p Showcase, with Bobby Draino and Auscultation, is at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., on Friday, April 1. 9 pm. $5 advance, $7 after 11 pm day of show. 21+.