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Palette Cleansing with Tasty Morsels

Written By: 
Lauren Fay Levy
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The dreamy UK label of friends tucking free music away in the crevices of the internet.

Maybe it’s the profession, but as a music supervisor chasing down labels and publishers for song clearances, whenever I browse Spotify for pleasure I inevitably find myself scrolling down to the copyright, curious to know the label and excited when it’s unfamiliar.

One day while listening to the artist known as infinite bisous, I found myself intrigued by two little words: “tasty morsels” – the intentionally lowercase copyright. Wondering the who/what/where of these self-proclaimed scrumptious tidbits led me to their beautiful website – a paradise for OCD music collectors. Colorful, striking album covers pop out at you from a periwinkle ombré background. The scrollable, seemingly infinite stream of releases displays the uniform album covers, each perfectly encased in matching “TST” spines, like neat little presents wrapped in bows.

Then there is the highlight of the website experience: each tasty morsel release is available as free downloadable .zip file. While it is common for indie music blogs to offer album rips and free mixtapes (regardless of the law), it is somewhat of an anomaly for a label to offer an entire catalogue of free music online.

Explore at your leisure, horizontal-scrolling deeper and deeper as you time travel from their most recent 2020 infinite bisous release through the entire history of tasty morsels. You’ll end up at their inaugural release: the 2013 compilation life on wheels: music to play tony hawk to.

A collective of friends who have been pals since their teen years, the UK-based anti-label “label” issues its releases with little fanfare. They simply put the music on the Internet and let it speak for itself. Like unmapped hot springs hidden in plain sight, the publicity-averse approach makes the organic discovery that much more rewarding.

Besides infinite bisous (best known for touring with Connan Mockasin) the label is home to similarly intimate, soft, sensitive, minimal, and alluring sounds of the lo-fi/bedroom variety by (lowercase) creators including naran ratan, h hunt, water feature, and d shutt.

The common thread from album to album is a conjuring of wonder, and a thick haze of nostalgia for some sort of universal idyllic childhood. It’s as if the label’s signature piano and synth tones plug us into a collective consciousness of shared memories. In the tasty morsels memory bank, we’re all splashing in the same rainy puddle and crunching in the same autumn leaf pile.

The releases lean towards instrumental and ambient, though sometimes feature gentle vocals. It’s music for escapism, cloud watching, mindful gardening, jigsaw puzzling, making snow angels on a shag rug, or taking a bubble bath with those spongy little dinosaurs that grow instantaneously into giants in the water.

Tasty Morsels co-founder Rory McCarthy (AKA infinite bisous) recently emailed with In Sheep’s Clothing about the label and its aesthetic. His work is featured in the end credits of the indie film Straight Up on Netflix.

How did the label first get started? Who is currently involved and what are their roles?

The first thing we put on our website was a compilation we all made called life on wheels: music to play tony hawk to. Our average age was probably 17/18, and we used to hang out at each other’s parents’ houses playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. We had a running joke that all the crap pop punk on there should be muted and replaced with kind of straightforward hip-hop, so we made a load of that. There have been a number of people involved, and it changes, but it’s a small group with a few people doing most of the stuff that keeps it going.

When listening to the entire tasty morsels catalogue, the artists and albums flow right into one another like an excellently curated menu of wine and cheese pairings. Are there are any key records or artists that inspired the cohesive sound of the label?

It’s one of those things people say, but it isn’t on purpose from our side. Most of us grew up together so there definitely seems to be a crossover of sensibility, but I’m just excited by what my friends are making personally, and I’m happy to release that stuff, there’s not really a grand scheme behind it or an idea of coherence in sound. 

Describe the label's sound in 5 words or less.

Some people from the countryside.

How has the art of playlisting (most likely specifically Spotify) helped disseminate the music of the label vs. traditional physical album distribution? Do you press vinyl, too?

We have pressed 3 records on vinyl at this point – both infinite bisous albums — and an upcoming vinyl pressing of h hunt’s Playing Piano For Dad. We only ever make a physical version if people really seem to want it, which all works within a semi-accidental approach we’ve ended up taking: Leaving things without promoting them, and responding to how people receive them in due time. So, in a sense, we function like a reissue label sometime, s since it can be years after the initial release.

What is the story behind the title of h hunt’s album Playing Piano for Dad? Are these really songs he would play for his father?

Harry (tasty morsels co-founder, AKA artist h hunt) and I were in Studio Ferber (Paris) doing something, I can’t remember exactly what. He told me his dad played piano and is a fan of jazz, and he didn’t know Harry could play. So he wanted to record himself to give to his dad as a Christmas present. The piano in Ferber is probably my favorite piano, so I set up some mics and left him to record it.

He sent me it after he’d given it to his dad and it was very obvious to me we should release it. I love it and I know plenty of others who do too. It’s a bit like seeing a non-actor in a film, it’s so shocking because sometimes actually being normal and not “acting.” He really at no point in the process realized we were making an album, so it really is very sincerely not trying. That’s extremely rare, I think.

Did you know that h hunt was included in Ryuichi Sakamoto’s playlist for New York restaurant Kajitsu, which was featured in the NY Times?

 I knew and found it nice that he included that. It’s no exaggeration to say he’s in my top 5 musicians ever. Speaking of those formative years of tasty morsels, YMO was a total revelation to me. I was making music with synths but didn’t really like any music made with synths until I found YMO. Sakamoto’s first album, Thousand Knives, remains very exciting to me. I think Harry and him emailed a bit after he put it in the playlist. So yes we’re aware and flattered. 

Where is the label based? How is the local scene in this location?

Well, we mostly came from an area in England called Charnwood, but we’ve since nearly all moved away from there. The scene there was – I don’t think it’s unfair to say – non-existent. Growing up, being ‘a musician’ was definitely not one of the options you were presented. 

And, in a way,  that’s why very few of us actually consider ourselves ‘proper musicians’ or something, even some of us who do only music now. I personally feel very grateful to have grown up in the countryside, which, especially in terms of not having a particular ‘scene’, can be very boring at times. Getting bored was a great reason to make stuff. 

I get the sense that there’s really a tight-knit tasty morsels family… like everyone on the label is a friend. Curious what the A&R/artist signing process looks like!

We don’t sign anyone, and I’m still not sure what A+R is. We really have never functioned as a label, and in some sense do what we do in order to avoid labels and a lot of what comes with being signed to one. We do everything ourselves, and for 90% of the stuff that needs doing, it’s a very small group. I love it that way.

Do you see the label growing over time, or is the nuclear family feeling one you would like to retain? 

I’m happy to see where it goes, but I don’t see us releasing music from outside of our circle of friends. 

Your website is gorgeous. What is the philosophy behind offering free .zip downloads, and have you found this approach successful in its mission?

There really was no mission. When we started the website, streaming either didn’t exist or wasn’t at all popular. Most of us collected .zips or RARs downloaded from blogs in the middle-of-nowhere-internet, so it felt normal to us to just allow people to do that. In all honesty, today I think it’s a very small number who go on the website and do that. People would often (it seems) use a streaming platform because it’s what they use for everything else. I personally don’t really mind, but I’m still one of those zip-downloaders, so we’ll keep that option there — for me if nobody else.

What are the label's plans for the year? Any upcoming releases we should get excited about?

Unless we have a backlog of finished stuff to release, we don’t plan anything. The great thing about being a small group who does everything ourselves is that we can say ‘can we release this in two weeks?’ and the answer’s usually ‘yeah why not’. There’s a few things which aren’t finished yet that we’re mutually excited about, but I’m also personally still pretty excited about the chain of releases we just did (notably Ob – Doth, Parish Council, Water Feature).

What was the last movie you watched, last live show you saw before lockdown, and/or last great book you read?

The last time I went to the pictures was probably to see Phantom Thread by Paul Thomas Anderson, and I was so excited about it that I went again the next morning. Otherwise, I’m not a big film-watcher. The last great book I read was The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. And I honestly can’t remember the last show I saw.

How do you typically listen to music? Do you have a home/office area set aside for deep listening? 

I have speakers in my living room where I make music, but I almost never listen to music there except for what I’m making. I also have a record player in my kitchen, so I’ll put something on if people are over, otherwise I don’t really remember to put music on. But when I do, I realize I really like music!

For me ‘deep listening’ has little to do with audio quality, setup or anything like that. Sometimes when I hear music that I truly love, I am blown away by it, all the more so when I haven’t listened to any in a long time — that can feel quite ‘deep’.

What are you currently listening to, or what is one song everyone should listen to?

I just listened to a Stray Cats live concert because I thought about how the ‘50’s were cool again in the ‘80’s. It was funny. I wouldn’t recommend that to everyone, though. The last song I personally got very excited about was one called “Daybreak” by Olchey.

Keep up to date with tasty morsels releases below (and per tasty morsels, “we’re pretty content-light so don’t be afraid of bombardment if you follow”):

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Website

Here is a playlist of the morsels we found tastiest:

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