It was an extinction level event — a chain of bankruptcies by vinyl distributors that blew up some of the greatest record labels in electronic music from the late 1990s to early 2000s.
Among the casualties was Molecular Recordings, a techno label founded in the UK by Marco Lenzi and Marco D’Arcangelo in 1994. In the label’s heyday, Molecular had released records from Claude Young, Mr. G, Kelli Hand and the first label releases from DJ Bone (appropriately titled “Electronic Birth“) and Inigo Kennedy (“Urban Society“).
More than a decade after the label vanished, Molecular returned, that thirst to find the best new talent in the underground intact and driven by Marco Lenzi’s “dedication to delivering high-quality, boundary-pushing techno.”
I love the new music Molecular has released in the last few years, a lot of them by names I was unfamiliar with. While reissuing their back catalog in digital format, Molecular has continued to dig deep and extract gems from producers early in their musical journey, including Ma Haiping, Linear System and Decoder. The latter (featured in 5 Mag Issue 194) released “XX 12” in the Spring of 2023, the latest in Molecular’s fascinating “XX Series.”
Over the years I’ve written a bunch of comeback stories about record labels resuscitated from the grave with the best intentions. I don’t know what my overall record is on this, but a few of those comebacks have turned out pretty grim. A label’s past reputation often suffers as they jump on trends, confuse popularity with talent and start shoving product out the door to match the breakneck pace of the digital marketplace. They also start using words like “product” and “digital marketplace.” Sometimes a classic label’s return is just about a founder’s personal brand, before dull & uninspired A&R make us forget what we ever thought was classic about it.
It’s worth pointing out the exceptions to this trend — the labels that released as much good music in 2023 as they did in 2003. Molecular is one. I talked with Marco Lenzi about what he calls the label’s “hibernation” and rebirth.
The label sheet was pretty informative about the early days. Why did the label go on hiatus?
The label went into hibernation for over 10 years due to a series of challenges. One of the main reasons was the unfortunate bankruptcy of the distribution company that handled the label’s records. This left the label, along with several others, in a difficult financial situation, with insufficient funds to produce new releases. Around the same time, our record shop, Eukatech, also closed down. Moreover, during this period, my personal life took a significant turn as I became the father of two beautiful girls. I made the decision to prioritize the role as a parent and took a break from the music industry.
What were some of the best times of the label during its first iteration?
During the late ’90s and early 2000s, the techno scene thrived, becoming a golden era for the genre. The label expanded its roster, releasing music from various artists and contributing to the growth of the techno scene. Notably, it played a key role in releasing artists such as Inigo Kennedy, Chris Liebing, DJ Bone, Kelli Hand and many others showcasing their unique talents and styles. Vinyl sales were particularly strong during this period, allowing the label to generate a little profit from its releases.
5 Mag Issue 209
Out September 2023
SOUNDS OF THE UNDERGROUND: This was originally published in 5 Mag Issue #209 featuring Alinka, Laseech, Being, Marco Lenzi, the sordid story of the Goldman Sachs CEO’s DJ career and more. Help keep our vibe alive by becoming a member for $2/month and get every issue in your inbox right away!
Out of the catalogue, what are your (personal) favorite records and why?
There are too many favorites from the catalogue and every one of them means something for me. Otherwise I would not have released them. But if I really have to pick then I will say the The LG series: 3 x 12 inches with 32 locked grooves, loops each one. I wanted to do something a little bit special and limited, being an avid record collector myself, and also they are very good DJ tools and fun to play with.
How are you finding and selecting new material?
I carefully listen to each submission and assess its quality, originality, and fit with the label’s sound and vision. But most of the time it is connections and starting to build a relationship with the artists and doing collaborations. Once we find potential tracks or artists, I go through an evaluation process that considers various factors such as musical quality, production and alignment with the label’s sound direction.
Are back catalogue tracks coming? Do you still have the ability to reissue those or are you tracking down new permissions & such?
I already started to re-release a bit of the back catalogue, such the first 5 “XX” that were only available on vinyl. The plan is to slowly re-release the old vinyl catalogue in digital format.
I still have the rights of most of the back catalogue, but I always ask permission the artist to re release it. There are some real gems to be re issued.
What is the common thread in terms of sound or aesthetic between the first years of the label and the music you’re putting out now?
It is a commitment to quality techno. Throughout its existence, Molecular has been synonymous with innovative and cutting-edge techno music. This commitment to pushing boundaries and exploring new sounds has remained consistent over the years. The label continues to release music that embodies the spirit of techno, featuring a fusion of forward-thinking production techniques, deep and immersive soundscapes, and a focus on creating a captivating and unique sonic experience.
While Molecular has evolved and adapted with the times, its dedication to delivering high-quality, boundary-pushing techno remains a core aspect of its sound and aesthetic.
How did you meet Decoder? He’s one of my favorite new guys and probably the youngest artist we’ve written about.
Gautham and I met through Facebook. I started to send him the new promo releases and after a few messages Decoder sent me his demos. It was quite hard to choose as he sent me so many good tracks. At the end we released it on the “XX” series. I only realized that he was very young when I asked him for his bio and pictures for the promotion of the release. But he has been doing good techno for a few years now. Young but already making his mark in the techno community. I have another EP coming out soon from Decoder.
From your perspective, what are you most excited about musically today? Anything: format, technique, software, platform, specific artists, specific events, specific labels, anything.
From a music record label perspective, some exciting aspects today include artist discoveries, creative collaborations, pushing the younger generation, some vinyl releases again, label showcases and events and the increasing accessibility of music production. The accessibility of music production tools and software has empowered artists to create and experiment with their own music, leading to a diverse music landscape. This accessibility fosters creativity and allows for a broader range of artists to express themselves and contribute to the ever-evolving music industry. Techno = Technology.
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