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CPSmith CPU Records boss picks six stand-out releases ahead of their 100th

CPU Records has been leading the charge for UK electronic music since 2012. As they prepare to drop their 100th release, we took time out to speak to label boss CPSmith.

by DJ Tat

It’s almost a decade since CPSmith launched the Sheffield-based label Central Processing Unit records.

Since 2012 the label has unleashed some of the most forward-thinking artists and tracks in electronic music across a myriad of formats. Along with the striking black-on-white logo and binary catalogue system, the label has never stood still. Vinyl has been core to the label's ethos, and as it reaches its 100th record I asked CPSmith, the man behind CPU, to tell us about six of the label’s standout releases.

CPU Vinyl

Cygnus - Deep Analysis

Cygnus is from Dallas, Texas. I came across Phillip Washington via an online music forum and he delivered the first release on the label. The catalogue is all zeros, so he had the actual 'zero' release. One of the reasons I started CPU was that I knew there was a lot of talent just sitting there being unheard and Cygnus was just one of them.

He’s since gone onto doing other releases for us including a 7-inch flexi disc [via Now Then in 2014]. I’d say that probably Cygnus and Silicone Scally are the two most regular artists on CPU. I like it when artists come back, especially in the age of small labels who struggle to hold onto artists for multiple releases. Bigger labels can tie artists to the label, but it’s much harder for smaller imprints, so it’s good when they return for future releases.

This EP is Cygnus at his best. If you want to hear electro in its most radical, free-form state then get on this. It’s perhaps the most accurate representation of what CPU is about. I liked that it was melodic and soulful, electronic and I could tell he liked his synthesisers and drum machines – he knew them inside out, the quality of his production was so high.

Detromental

Detromental - Move (Rebuilt)

This was a genuine labour of love, rebuilding two legendary Sheffield techno tracks from 1990. I gave this release a purple sleeve as a cheeky nod to the famous electronic label [Detromental] were nearly signed to. Bleep ‘n’ bass is one of my main musical influences, and tracks like this are probably the reason CPU looks and sounds like it does.

I’d been speaking to Dean Marriott for a couple of years and trying to obtain the original DAT tapes of the tracks from him. Dean lived in London and he thought the tapes were at his parents’ house in Sheffield. I asked if I was okay to rebuild the track, and Dean was wary as techno cover versions never work. I needed Dean’s blessing to get this track properly done and Dean was really pleased with it. He said you don’t need the DAT tapes, as it was so spot on.

Mikron - Sleep Paralysis

When this demo dropped in my Soundcloud inbox I couldn’t believe my ears. Ultra-refined electro – it really doesn’t get much better than this. This came from brothers from Ireland, Ciaran and Michael Corcoran, who are two really lovely guys that just let the music speak for itself.

When it appeared, people just went bonkers for this record and everything they release does really well. CPU have put out three of their releases and they’re all really amazing. They’re quite dark and moody, but their production is of a level way beyond their years – a very mature sound. The latest release on CPU had a bit of a Boards of Canada feel about it, which I really liked. I receive a lot of demos but knew straight away that I wanted to release their music. Few demos hit me in the way their tracks did.

Tryphème - Aluminia

I’ve been a huge fan of Tryphème since her debut album Online Dating on CPU back in 2017. She’s really found her sound on her Aluminia EP. She seems to nail those nineties, ‘tug your heart’ IDM melodies that are throughout her tracks.

I came across her through another Soundcloud demo and I thought her music was very melodic and musical. It’s very experimental, but not the experimental racket often peddled by elitist music journalists. Tiphaine Belin has put out a couple of releases for the label and they’ve been very well received. I’d love to put out more of her music.

Baby T

Baby T

Baby T - I Against I

This was the first drum’n’bass EP on CPU by Brianna Price, aka B.Traits, aka Baby T. It was a great honour to host Brianna’s new musical alias and it was a stunning debut on CPU. I came across this as a demo from Brianna, who was a Radio 1 DJ for a few years, so she’s actually quite well known. I knew she was a fan of electro as she had featured CPU on her show a few years before. I used to send her promos from the label so I knew she was well aware of us.

CPU has been tagged as an electro label by others, but not by me. There are loads of other styles on it – IDM, braindance, techno, drum’n’bass – and this release just seemed to fit. I’m an old raver at heart and this track fits within the ethos of the label - it’s no single thing.

Noumen - Obscurium

Noumen was one of the first artists I asked to join CPU. His sound is very experimental and was exactly what I had in mind for the label. Several years later CPU steered more toward electro, but I’ll always have a soft spot for IDM and Noumen delivers that sound perfectly. He’s one of the closest artists (sound-wise) to Autechre in the CPU roster. His style is very close to their more melodic releases.

I came across him when I was still running Future Music internet radio, and one of the DJs there introduced me to Noumen, who is based in Ukraine. It’s great having international artists but I don’t really think about it. The entire world is your back garden when you’re on the internet.

CPU 100

The 100th release

I’ve got an incredible amount of superb music lined up, but that’s been hindered by problems with vinyl manufacturing and turnaround. This is mainly because Amazon has taken up much of the capacity to move into the vinyl manufacturing arena, so small independent labels are getting pushed back and having to wait several months to get their vinyl pressed. It’s too difficult to set up new pressing plants as most of the existing technology being used to press records is from the 1960s.

As part of the 100th release I’ve got some additional merchandise. Cygnus is the centenary catalogue number with a release called 100% Dope. I’ve also got a t-shirt which has that catalogue number on it, which is only available in the pre-order window of the EP. There’s also a metal USB flash drive engraved with the catalogue number and limited-edition slip mats with the same number.

Learn more

CPU sees the year out with forthcoming EPs from Splitradix, Blackploid and Meastrom+Fasme.

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