Label Showcase: Hypnus Records

The man behind one of the leading modern deep techno imprints steps up for the first time and gives us a lengthy insight on label’s history, vision and work.

Founded in the suburbs of Stockholm in 2013, Hypnus Records was started by Ntogn, real name Michel, as a platform to release music with a focus on deep and hypnotic techno inspired by mythical lore as well as his surrounding nature.

Today, half a decade later, Hypnus has evolved into one of the leading labels of modern deep techno with over 40 vinyl releases up their sleeve. The Swedish label’s releases have been derived from a group of artists who give the impression of peculiar visions and at the same time, their unique aesthetic is altogether enforced by beautiful vinyl records, creative artworks, and alluring track titles. Operating under the full moon release concept, Hypnus has been an outlet for a new generation of musical minds such as Luigi Tozzi, Korridor, BLNDR, Feral, Skymn, Primal Code, and Birds ov Paradise.

Label head Michel describes the sound of Hypnus “as deep and adventurous atmospheric techno, utilizing electronic music as an expressive medium to create escapist experiences with an authentic sound.” The label’s discography ranges from hypnotic, deep techno to floating ambient excursions, with plenty of nuances to be found in between. “Every record is curated with a meticulous passion for details and some take multiple years to complete,” he adds.

With a constant stream of new and talented artists coming through the label each full moon, Ntogn was given the chance to develop his idea of Hypnus and also to channel it in its sibling label Kabalion, which is known for releasing projects from Claudio PRC, Antonio Ruscito, Yuka, Fjäder, and Periskop. Operating with two labels linked together, Ntogn also started his own music imprint Tome, a platform only for his own productions.

“Driven by curiosity and a devotion to explore the boundaries of modern electronic music as well as our own shrinking limitations, Hypnus strives to innovate constantly while spreading positive vibes along the way,” explains Michel.

To get to know more about the label and its vision, we had the chance to interview the label honcho himself. Besides sharing an insightful and honest story regarding his imprint, Ntogn delivers an exclusive one-hour only label mix, consisting of tracks from last year as well as coming releases of this year.

What inspired the creation of Hypnus Records?

It was a series of events back in 2013 which eventually led to it. Early that year I started a podcast series titled Incognito where unsigned Soundcloud users were invited to share their tracks which then were used to make the featured mixes. The series included artists such as Acronym, Modvs, Antonio Vazquez, BLNDR, Alume and more.

Later that year I made a trip to the Ozora Festival and fell deeply in love with their Dome stage. It was at this particular place that the first visions of the Hypnus sound came flashing. It was something that combined the cinematic atmospheres of Ultimae Records with the deep techno sound pushed by Prologue at the time, all sprinkled with some quirky psybient elements.

When summer was over I was invited to the house of Ida Matsdotter (Fjäder) who at that point was a dear friend of mine. That evening I was introduced to Fabian (Korridor) and Jakob (Skymn) and was eventually alone in Fabian’s studio for a few hours, browsing through his vinyl collection and falling in love with the format. I remember being specifically hypnotized by the Do Not Resist The Beat! records. Before that, I had never played a vinyl record in my life.

When I eventually lost my job in December that year and was given a rather large severance pay, all the above-mentioned dots were connected and I simply asked some off- and online friends if they wanted to make a record. That’s how Mayfield came about and here we are.

How would you describe the involvement of archaic and mystic imagery and symbolism in your label’s identity?

When Hypnus was founded it had been less than a year since I was released from a 2,5-year-long prison sentence (drug-related offence), during which time I read well over a hundred books on topics related to your question. This shaped an inner world which was later used as a creative cornerstone when the chance to start producing music of my own was finally given (which resulted in the bizarre occult techno-novelist Ntogn project). As time progressed and the idea to form a label solidified; it was natural to include these elements as they were central to my creativity at that point.

Since then I’ve progressively moved away from these aspects in regard to Hypnus’ trajectory and identity as I’ve personally found new sources of inspiration over the past five years. It still lies at the core of everything though and always will.

What are you trying to impart with the full moon release concept?

Well, it’s basically an old habit. I did an interview with a “leader” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses nearly 15 years ago and remember being amused by their refusal to celebrate traditional holidays (even birthdays). Instead, they adhere only to traditions explicitly described in their doctrine. So eventually I stopped as well, giving a lot of thought to what would be more meaningful events for me personally to celebrate. Thus the solstices and equinoxes became personal holidays and still are to this day. Together with the revolving moon, they make up a sort of seasonal clock in which I can see our planet change in tandem with myself. Their pattern also brings order to my life by setting a pace and rhythm which I cannot control. Instead, I try to flow with it which is soothing while it also connects me to the external world. When this is extended through the impact of my creative projects it gives an even deeper sense of connection as I get to follow this rhythm with like-minded people around the world. Much like the feeling sometimes shared on a dancefloor.

How do you think your label’s sound has evolved since the first record from Modvs, Mayfield?

It’s probably more de- and refined now than it was back then. These days we all have a better understanding of what we are striving for and can communicate and realize our visions more competently. Today, more focus is given to our cinematic potential. You could say that my (highly unofficial) ambition is to create the Studio Ghibli of electronic music [laughs]; a place where epic adventures are laced with a deeper meaning for those interested in looking a bit further. For the rest, my hopes are that our records at least offer a smile and some inspiring entertainment.

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Tell us about your role as the label manager. What does your day-to-day look like?

It’s a composite of roles where I’m responsible for basically everything that you see (and don’t see). A lot of time is spent uploading files, making videos, posts on social media, packaging orders and going to the post office, answering emails, listening to demos, promos, feedbacking new releases, planning them as well as podcasts for The Memoir, developing artworks, bookkeeping, writing promo-texts, preparing releases for shops and pressing, taking photos of the records and so on. All of this is done more or less routinely by now and in parallel I have a long checklist of creative ideas that I take every opportunity to implement. So you could say it’s half maintenance and half creative development with an average close to 70 hours per week (counting studies, the label and sporadic paid sommelier work).

Hypnus and sibling label Kabalion started around the same time but the latter hasn’t been active since 2017. What are the plans for it?

The idea for its future has been clear for a while now although there simply is no time to realize them. We’ll see what happens next year after my graduation from university. There are quite a few other projects in store as well and it’s hard to say at this point which will have precedence.

When you’re looking into potential new artists to sign, what are some of the qualities you look for?

First of all, besides conforming somehow to our sound, the person’s music should have an immediately gripping sensation of authenticity. Exactly what that means is hard to put into words, but it should sound familiar yet new and inspiring.

Equally important; the person should be humble and have his or her heart in the right place. From the very beginning, my vision of Hypnus has been to create a label which not only fulfills the producer’s dreams, but also connects people through genuine compassion and friendship. I have fought against depression a large part of my life and today I just want to be happy. These guys all help me with that and without them, I wouldn’t make it through the year. I hope that by sharing their music and the fruits of our mutual passion this energy may bring some smiles to others around the world.

When you sign an artist, do you tend to get involved in their material that you’ll release, or do you leave that up to the artist?

I am very much involved in most tracks and definitely the shape of the records. As we’re all friends and nerds, in the end, we naturally share both our music and thoughts about it. We all have different skills and qualities that we take advantage of collectively to help each other excel in our creative endeavours.

What are currently your main challenges and ambitions in terms of your approach to the label work?

My main ambition is always to innovate what we do and challenge our perceived limitations by not getting trapped in a safe-zone. Right now it’s a big challenge for me to pull off our new sleeve design as it’s quite an expensive, delicate and intricate task of synchronizing two artists’ more or less abstract visions into something so explicit. All the while maintaining an understandable, relatable and inspiring narrative for our supporters. Another central piece in development is the Serum series which I have a lot of faith in. Also, I am hoping to somehow be able to support more female artists in the future.

You stated through both your personal and label pages that music is a tool for higher states of consciousness. How do you look at it in this aspect?

It’s about breaking loose from thought and finding something there which is free from our daily obsession of concept and self-identification.

What do you think of the current techno scene worldwide? How do you think it’s evolving?

I’m not very up to date to be honest as my own projects have taken so much of my time and attention during the last few years. Some well-curated festivals and labels seem to be popping up here and there which is great. Hopefully, we’ll see a resurgence of live music and a steady growth of the scene so that organizers can make more elaborate and frequent events.

How is the Swedish electronic music scene? Does Hypnus represent any particular sound or vision related to its base?

Again, it’s hard for me to say as I live my life quite isolated in Bålsta. I’m mostly hanging out with Gaia (my dog) and grandmother when I’m not working like a whipped minion here in the crypt. It’s remarkable though how few bookings we have in Sweden given we’re based here. Plans are in the making to start hosting various events of our own in order to push our sound, values and ideas in new contexts. I’m limited by time at the moment but we’ll get there.

What can we expect from Hypnus Records in the future?

You can expect us to do the best we can to innovate our sound and projects. Right now the Serum series has some extra focus on my end as I’m trying to figure out how to develop this idea and usher it into something purposeful, inspiring and fun.

What is the idea behind the mix? How did you choose the records in it?

It consists of tracks released last year up until today and forward with some coming material as well as drafts which might or might not be released. It kind of gives a picture of where Hypnus is today and it’s made a bit like a testament for myself to look back on in a few years to see how we’ve grown.

I’d like to recommend the people reading this to also have a listen to the label mix I did for A Strangely Isolated Place last year.

Tracklist
01. Primal Code (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
02. Illuvia – Deeper In Love
03. Primal Code – Country of a Thousand Hills
04. Illuvia – D’Arc
05. Illuvia – The Night Beckons
06. Birds ov Paradise – Tutor
07. Birds ov Paradise – Wall of Bones
08. Illuvia – Chains
09. Primal Code (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
10. Birds ov Paradise – Blossoms
11. Birds ov Paradise – Wild Growth
12. Feral – East Slope
13. Primal Code (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
14. Feral – The Caves
15. Luigi Tozzi (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
16. Luigi Tozzi (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
17. SERUM3 (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
18. Primal Code (Unreleased/Forthcoming)
19. Illuvia – D’Arc (Xaltation)
20. BLNDR – Transilien

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