Join us for a listening session today 2-5pm featuring favorites from Ontario-based label Séance Centre.
Founded in 2017 by Brandon Hocura and Naomi Okabe, Séance Centre is an Ontario-based label, publisher, distributor, and record store “conjuring timeless music from the past, present and future.” They’ve reissued seminal classics from Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Eblen Macari, and MJ Lallo as well as released contemporary works from artists like Joseph Shabason, Museum Of No Art, and You’ll Never Get to Heaven. While most of the label’s releases exist in the quiet, meditative zones, they’ve never felt like a label confined to one sound and have recently even dabbled in modern, somewhat dance-floor friendly music. Check out the trippy, kosmiche-inspired, percussion workout “Fernweh” from a project “recorded across decades and continents” by Jon Iverson meets Prins Emanuel, Golden Ivy & Inre Kretsen Grupp.
We’ve been working closely with Brandon and crew for years now. In fact, Séance Centre was the first label to be featured as a labels we love pop-up during the fledgling days of our record shop. Back then, the “shop” was just a few crates of records hidden in a little corner of our listening bar in the Arts District. Naturally, Séance was an obvious pick to be a collaborator in developing our in-house collection at In Sheep’s Clothing NYC. Today, we’ll be playing some of our favorite archival and contemporary releases on the label from 2-5pm during our dedicated listening hours.
In anticipation of the listening session, we caught up with label co-founder Brandon Hocura over email to learn more about the label’s beginnings, inspirations, and operations in Picton, Octario.
What is your earliest memory of music?
I was sitting in my living room while my father recorded some of his records to a little cassette player which only had a small built-in microphone. We all had to be really quiet. It was my childhood Alvin Lucier experience.
How did the label first get started? Where does the name Séance Centre come from?
In 2017 I left Toronto and moved to the countryside north of the city. My first daughter was born and after nearly a decade of DJing and working with dance music it felt like time for change. I was surrounded by a new landscape (and lifescape), influencing my interest in different forms of listening. I also borrowed a pair of Tannoy speakers and a tube amp from a friend who temporally moved to Berlin which opened up a depth of sound I didn’t previously have access to in my home. All of these factors coalesced in creating Séance Centre, a hub for my all musical interests with a focus on marginalized sound cultures and collectivized listening experiences. The name was borrowed from an electronic music project I had at the time with my wife Naomi Okabe (who I co-run the label with)—we haven’t made music together for a long time, and we always liked the name, so we’re glad it has a continued life with the label. It’s a playful homage to the Ontario Science Centre, a place we loved visiting as kids.
Can you describe the ethos/approach behind the label?
We always want to create projects that we’d be curious about if we weren’t involved in them—and that keeps Séance Centre interesting for us. Whether publishing a book of poetry or releasing archival music from Zambia, there is a curatorial narrative that runs through the projects, even if it isn’t obvious. The balance between keeping things surprising, but conversant is the challenge for us. Another important element for the label is untimeliness; presenting archival and contemporary works side-by-side in dialogue with one another.
What's the day to day like for Séance Centre HQ being out in a small town like Picton, Ontario?
We love it out here. We live rurally, but are surrounded by a vibrant and creative community. We’re also right between Toronto and Montréal, and close to upstate NY which is great for record and book scouting. Balancing raising two small children, running a label, and academic life has its challenges and my days are mostly improvised assemblages of to-do lists; answering emails, cooking, cutting the lawn or shovelling snow, reading, writing, gardening, teaching, shipping records, dishes, bathing the kids —and if there’s any time (or energy) left, dreaming, listening to records, and working on creative projects.
A couple years into the label's existence you guys began to release new music. Was the intention to solely be a reissue label in the beginning or was it always open?
We always wanted to release new music, and actually, early on, Michel Banabila opened this world up to us when we approached him about reissuing his 1983 album Marilli. He agreed to the project with the condition that we release it as a double LP with an additional record of new material. I can’t imagine the release any other way now, and like his new material even more than the archival stuff. It grew from there with more and more contemporary artists sending us astonishing material. It really is a great time for new music right now, and it seems like the archival turn might be slowing down.
As a label owner, what are your personal favorite labels?
Historically; Folkways, Ocora, ESP-Disk, Saturn Records, Impulse, Black Jazz, India Navigation, Takoma, Shandar, Studio One, Brain, Lovely Music, Underwhich Editions, Nu Groove, Wackie’s, Kalinda, and Chain Reaction are some of the touchstones.
Recently; Príncipe, Nyege Nyege, Death Is Not The End, Hegoa, Spiritmuse, Blank Forms, Faitiche, Shelter Press, Sound Signature, FXHE, Mississippi Records, Numero, Digikiller, Hive Mind, Smiling C, Left Ear, Efficient Space, Förlag För Fri Musik, and Standard In-Fi. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, there are so many exciting labels right now. For fun, I’ll list my favourite publishers as well. Historically; Divers Press, White Rabbit, Something Else Press, blewointment, Tuumba, The Figures, and Burning Deck. And recently Hiding Press, XYA Editions, and Wry.
What is coming up next for the label?
Next up is another Shabason / Gunning collaboration record, followed by an archival collection of Princess Demeny songs. And then we’re releasing a large archival compilation of Mexican electronic music with Smiling C, something we’ve been working on for a long time. At least half of it is either previously unreleased material, or songs culled from obscure cassettes and CDs—very happy with how this came together and looking forward to finally sharing it.