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Label Feature: PAN

Click here to listen to the PAN radio show.

For the first Carhartt WIP Radio show of the new year, we welcome PAN, the multifaceted Berlin label founded in 2008 by DJ, producer, and artist Bill Kouligas. Forward-thinking and conceptually fluid since its inception, its early output included experimental electronics by US-American conceptual artist Andy Ortmann, as well as British noise duo Blood Stereo, long-standing industrial, avant-garde project Das Synthetische Mischgewebe, and Swedish noise artist Sewer Election.

In the past decade, Kouligas has continued to widen his label’s scope, releasing music by zeitgeist-defining artists such as German “klang” architect Rashad Becker, British musician and DJ Lee Gamble, his compatriot and former Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey, American experimental music producer Yves Tumor, and Chinese artist and musician Pan Daijing. Stylistically the output covers experimental drone sounds, sonic collages, futuristic takes on club music, and mesmerizing forward-thinking electronics. In addition, PAN has garnered a reputation for its striking, conceptual artworks that accompany each release, created by Kouligas himself and creatives like visual artist Kathryn Politis, German photographer Daniel Sannwald, the cloud-based design and research cluster PWR Studio, and the iconic German photographer Thomas Ruff.

In recent months, PAN has released ambitious, timely records by the likes of German artist Anne Imhof, Venezuelan multihyphenate Arca, New York-based musician and performance artist Eartheater, and UK producer Beatrice Dillon, whose debut album Workaround was one of the most stunningly unique, rhythmic experiments in 2020. As PAN considers itself not just a record label, many of the label’s ventures go beyond releasing music. Last June, the Berlin-based, Finnish electronic music duo Amnesia Scanner published Tearless – a concept album that PAN describes as “a sonic reflection of how it feels to experience Earth at a time when collapse is emerging as the prevailing narrative”. It was meant to be part of a bigger plan: a theatrical live performance with visual animations and a surrealist costumed cast, which sadly never came to life due to Covid-19 and the collapse of live music culture. In pre-Covid-19 times, PAN events took place at clubs like Berghain or museums like New York’s MoMAPS1, offering live shows, performances, talks, and installations, as well as additional contributions by artists like Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Terre Thaemlitz.

Shortly after releasing Cicatriz by Brixton based British-Chilean producer Kamixlo – an album that synergized industrial, reggaeton, and hardcore – and right before publishing a gentle yet deeply emotional, string-laden record by Los Angeles-based cellist and composer Patrick Belaga, Kouligas put together a Carhartt WIP Radio show that spans almost two hours. Exploring almost twelve years of PAN music, it unites older tunes by the likes of Afrikan Sciences with more recent music by Beatrice Dillon, Elysia Crampton, and Crystallmess.

As our upcoming RELEVANT PARTIES podcast, released on January 15th, will feature Bill Kouligas speaking to British journalist Chal Ravens about PAN’s history and more, we skipped the typical in-depth interview with our host and simply asked Kouligas five quick questions on how he selected the music for his Carhartt WIP Radio show, PAN’s future plans, and when he feels most at peace.

Hey Bill, how did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Radio show?

Bill Kouligas: The mix is quite a wide selection through the years, moving through many different moods, styles, and times. It is more of a sonic diary throughout time trying to showcase a big part of what the label represents.

Can you describe the relationship between your work and your identity?

Bill Kouligas: It has been hard to distinguish one from the other. The label emerged out of my music and general cultural interests and has remained my main vehicle for it. Working with so many different artists and collaborators has been a major learning curve and I have always tried to keep my curiosities in conversation with theirs.

What future projects is PAN working on right now?

Bill Kouligas: Lots of new releases and new publications that we didn’t do before, like some books and a more elaborate web project. We have been also working on a new membership model that will hopefully surface very soon.

Does the unpredictable future harm your enthusiasm for releasing more inspiring music?

Bill Kouligas: The music landscape and the economic situation around it have been in crisis long before Covid-19 hit. The enthusiasm is still there and thankfully there’s still a lot of amazing art being made every day. We urgently need to take risks on new models!

When do you feel most at peace?

Bill Kouligas: When I’m at my apartment in Athens. It’s my safe space, where I go to decompress and mostly read. I left exactly 18 years ago and it feels incredibly grounding to reconnect with the city I was raised in.

PAN discography