Dolfin Records has a strong bond that I don’t see in many record labels or collectives. There’s an art in comradery, especially in the realm of creatives. That’s often at the heart of most collectives’ inception. They build a team, make connections, use each other’s strengths to their advantage, and share these benefits among each other. But often times, ego gets the best of these groups and that emits failure.
That’s not the case for Texas label Dolfin Records. Started by Ben Hixon, the record label feels more like a family than a business. They are localized and meet up to work on their craft, even if they’re not collaborating. The group is full of musicians, singers, producers, writers, DJs, painters, and probably pages of resume titles that I don’t even know.
Dolfin Records has had a phenomenal year, releasing around ten projects and singles this year holstering a roster of eleven. I wanted to showcase five of my favorite releases from this year to introduce the diversity of sounds and creativity of the Texas-based label.
Jon Bap’s Yesterday’s Homily
I first heard of Jon Bap through his Fresh Selects release, Let It Happen. It was experimental, but smooth. His song structures, drum patterns, and voice were unique and infectious. “Yesterday’s Homily” is an expansion of this sound. It’s 42 minutes long and blends sounds of jazz, folk, hip-hop and sprinkled with otherworldly sounds that your ears will find troubling-yet-satisfying. His compositions feel jazzy in the sense of its free-formed structures, but all of the vessels involved carry a huge weight of soul. From the electronic buzzes on “My House” to the exploding percussion on “Queen Chimera Pt. 2,” there’s something exciting for everyone and it’s a hell of a ride.
I’m not sure where to place RPBGV‘s Explorer. And that seems to be the (impressing) running theme of Dolfin Records members. At times I want to place him in the lo-fi acoustic soul box of Cody Chesnutt. At other times, the production opens up and starts to flirt with the likes of Bon Iver’s last album. I even hear a little bit of Frank Ocean a la Endless. But Explorer is what the name describes. It’s a rugged exploration by Ryan Gibbons (RPBGV) of all these sounds and where these sounds and his guitar grow towards. “Allah Lone” is a beautiful inception point as it’s brought in with what sounds like a fluttering space vortex. It showcases Ryan’s versatile talent in sound editing and chord progressions. The song escalates as it ticks on, building banging percussion and drawn-out vocal effects towards the end.
Liv.e‘s Frank is a clear showcase of Dolfin Records’ comradery that I mentioned earlier. The production on this seven track project includes various members of the label like Ben Hixon and Jon Bap, as well as credits to Felix for bass, tambourine and blunt holder (important). But in the spotlight of this album is Liv.e who carries a radiant soul with infectious vocals through hazy, swinging production. “93” is the first song to get me hooked. On this track, Liv.e’s voice swings back and forth like the boogieing her and Siifu sing about. The beat’s gritty (thanks to Ben Hixon and Jon Bap), with the bass line causing a constant head bop amidst a nocturnal vibe. I hope these seven tracks are only the beginning from her.
Rami‘s addition to the Dolfin Records’ discography is one of my favorite contrasts this year. Pyjama is an underground house release by the producer-songwriter that dabbles in house, electronica, funk on the lo-fi sound spectrum. A lot of the Dolfin Records crew helped out on this record too, including vocal help from Liv.e, Lord Byron, and Pink Siifu (he’s seeming like an honorary member at this point) and mixing / production help from Ben Hixon. “Consequences” is my favorite track off of this album. It’s a song you can relate to and a song you can dance to. The synthesizers splash smoothly along the constant hissing and bumping percussion as Rami serenades a loved one who he’d do anything for despite the consequences.
Lord Byron’s We Kill Cowboys, So Death Rides A Horse.
“Orange diamonds like Charizard/ Fuck college, get a smart car.” Need I say more? Yes, I will. We Kill Cowboys, So Death Rides A Horse. is the oldest release on the list, coming out in May of this year, but it is one of my recent favorites. Lord Byron falls somewhere along the clouds of art rap and trap and the couple letter difference really doesn’t matter because he’s rapping from another dimension. The production throughout is ethereal and experimental, but hard-hitting. Whether it’s driven by drawn-out synths, 808s, trap hats, or ambient pads, Lord Byron adapts and adjusts his vocal mixing to blend perfectly. Also I haven’t mentioned artwork yet, but all of these five projects have featured incredible covers with We Will Cowboys, So Death Rides A Horse having my favorite.