Mere minutes before sitting down to write this post, Dais Records announced its plan to drop reissues of Psychic TV’s Pagan Day and Allegory & Self—stone-cold classics of ’80s psychedelia—in July. This is exactly the kind of record nerd–salivating news I’ve come to expect from label co-founders Ryan Martin and Gibby Miller (who started the operation in 2007). On what feels like a weekly basis nowadays, they revive some long-forgotten synth/ambient masterpiece or a vintage industrial jam that’s exquisitely dark and dreary. If you’ve never soaked up Annie Anxiety’s Soul Possession, a fringe art-pop album from the post-punk era, prepare to have your skull cap unscrewed and brain turned upside down. (Seriously—“Turkey Girl” manages to sound like outsider hip-hop recorded inside an intestinal tract.) Same goes for Hunting Lodge’s Will. It may have been forged in the raging fires of Michigan’s ’80s industrial scene, yet its hell-encrusted hypnotism, stuttering bass thuds, and minimalist dread is so damn prescient, it may as well have been recorded yesterday.
Dais isn’t just an archival label, however. In the spring of 2017, the pair unleashed The Gag File, American noise artist Aaron Dilloway’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s Modern Jester. Easily a contender for experimental album of the year, it employs murky, surrealist electronics and violently contorted samples to capture the fear and loathing suffusing our Trumplandia nightmare. In addition to Dilloway, the Dais catalog features churning brutality from hardcore-troublemakers-turned-EBM-fist-pumpers Youth Code, and Sightings, the most important noise-rock band of the 21st century.
But not everything Dais puts out seeks to obliterate eardrums: on top of their taste for the ugly and abrasive, they have a deep love for the beautiful and sublime. To date, they’ve released two albums from Scout Paré-Phillips (pictured), a gothic singer/songwriter whose imposingly austere sound falls somewhere between folk music and art rock. At first blush, Drab Majesty’s gauzy and undulating darkwave feels worlds removed from Paré-Phillips’ guitar-driven theater, but when you sit down and spend some quality time with the former’s Careless and The Demonstration, it becomes apparent both explorers share a love for intricate songwriting with lyrics balancing the cryptic with the emotional. Quite honestly, most modern darkwave artists don’t even come close to touching Drab Majesty in terms of compositional originality. Then again, most modern experimental labels don’t even come close to touching Dais in terms of quality, so it’s a perfect fit.