The music label that calls itself Bribery Corporation is awfully keen on giving away its goods. There's nary a buy-off in sight. The Miami-based music-cum-fashion-house recently released its second compilation, the appropriately named _002, alongside a zine by creative directors Maciel Vargas and Luzalma Gonzalez, as well as a look-book spotlighting the label’s sartorial offerings.
Released in partnership with the dubiously legal peer-to-peer file-sharing entity BitTorrent, the compilation features a who’s who of synthwave artists, ranging from genre figurehead Mitch Murder (who, fittingly enough, was on the soundtrack for the half-horror/half-action videogame Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number) to Mux Mool, a longtime fixture of Adult Swim’s beloved interstitial bumpers. The compilation also features a number of Miami-born and bred artists such as ROOMS and PRJCTN.
It makes sense that a label peddling synthesizers and the ghosts of electronic clubs past would emerge from the Magic City: Miami bass isn’t dead; it just had a little too much to smoke and accidentally fell asleep with its Giorgio Moroder record spinning at 33 1/3 rpm. As with the first compilation, _002 shows Bribery Corporation to be a label indebted to the past but with its eyes on the future. In presentation and sound, the label resembles Italo-disco revivalists Italians Do It Better — that is, if they traded in cocaine and old Playboy magazines for Xanax and Tumblr porn.
“Bribery’s aesthetic came about organically; I think the theme was always sleazy and seedy,” Steve Vaynshtok says. Vaynshtok, who represents one-third of the label’s management and contributed to the compilation under the moniker AbdeCaf, has been very deliberate about shaping the label’s image and tone. “The name alone implies what our general vibe is, and we’ve just kind of expanded on that naturally without thinking about it too hard. It’s dark and luxurious, but with amoral activity and cutthroat tactics.”
For as unscrupulous as the label's name sounds, the process of _002’s assembly was honest and straightforward. The result of contributions from Bribery artists and musicians who share the label’s retro sensibilities, the compilation — though rooted in and suggestive of Miami — is a signpost of where synthwave as a whole stands in 2017. Given the propagation of the genre thanks to cultural ambassadors such as Drive and Stranger Things, the sonic innovations glimpsed on _002 — whether they be the house-influenced chords on “Akuma II” and “Family Tree (Rooms Remix) or the unsettling drones of “Natives” — are exciting developments in a style often cramped by its debt to what came earlier.
“I chose the 'Family Tree' remix because I feel like it shows another side of my production style,” Chris Weisson, AKA Rooms, says of his contribution to the project. “I was listening to a lot of Four Tet at the time and was very into minimal house and sampling. When Steve reached out to me for another song for the compilation, I was superexcited to finally put it out.”
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"The grittiness of the label and its respect to the culture is what I appreciate the most," adds Prjctn. The artist, who identifies only as Buddha, respects the creative freedom that working with Bribery has allowed, because "it's difficult finding anyone that's actually here supporting what a true artist is pushing to do."
Having already released statements through clothing, art, and music, Bribery Corporation is now intent on expanding its reach into Miami’s live venues. But most ambitiously, Vaynshtok hopes to build Bribery into an institution worthy of the title “beloved indie record label.”
“I’d like to be able to create the best situation for my artists using Bribery Corporation as a platform,” Vaynshtok says. “As far as I’m concerned, my only goal is creating the most exposure for my artists while fostering creative projects and partnerships that can help generate income. There are no plans for the zine to become its own entity, but if it naturally grows, that would be cool. For me, it’s more about building the brand as a whole and using it as an umbrella for our various undertakings, all of which we will put 110 percent into. I want to be the XL Records of synthwave and retrowave.”