Best New Artist-Run Label

Aerophonic Records

Critics' Picks

Once upon a time, when a label existed specifically to release a musician's own output, it was called a vanity label. These days, though, putting out your own music is simply a smart decision. Lots of Chicagoans are doing it, some with imprints of their own and many more through Bandcamp, Datpiff, or similar platforms—but Aerophonic, the label that Dave Rempis started last year, stands out in the crowd. It casts the saxophonist in a flattering light as an improviser, collaborator, and aesthete: the album covers all bear sharp, geometric artwork by Johnathan Crawford, and the six releases so far capture Rempis in an impressive variety of instrumental contexts, including his working bands the Rempis Percussion Quartet and Wheelhouse. Aerophonic's most recent titles are purely improvisational recordings with out-of-town players: the gregarious trio session Spectral features trumpeter Darren Johnston and saxophonist Larry Ochs, two important figures in the Bay Area scene, and the bracing duet Naancore (the label's first foray into vinyl) pairs Rempis with Norwegian noise maven Lasse Marhaug.