When Nick León began running Space Tapes in 2017, the Miami musician told New Times he hoped the record label would empower local artists who thought they could realize their creative ambitions only by forsaking the city.
“Most musicians feel the need to leave Miami for New York or L.A. I wanted other kids down here to have the opportunity I had," León said. "I want to help the people who want to stay and fight the good fight."
León inherited Space Tapes from Miami nightlife impresario David Sinopoli, who’d started the label in 2014 shortly after the first edition of III Points. As Sinopoli got busier with his burgeoning music festival, it fell to León to imbue the label with an identity and purpose.
Two years later, Space Tapes has not only made good on León’s initial ambition to spotlight Miami musicians, but has also helped foster a feeling of creative renewal in the city.
This past Saturday, April 13, the label released its second compilation, the aptly named Space Tapes Vol. 2, just in time for Record Store Day 2019.
Although the record leans heavily into an ambient and experimental atmosphere, León says Space Tapes Vol. 2 was assembled more around its contributors than any particular sound.
“It’s difficult to articulate, but there has to be more of a feeling for it than a specific genre,” he says. “I would like to say it was a conscious thing, but I feel that the cohesion of the project was purely off the magic of the intention behind putting something like this together.”
He adds, “I like the idea that the label and sound is just leading itself in its own direction; the less control over sound, the more it finds its own way.”
Space Tapes Vol. 2 features appearances from label regulars such as Sel.6 and opal°, as well as Miami artists known for their own projects, including Animal Collective collaborators Coral Morphologic and footwork guru DJ Earl. Despite its disparate sources, the record has a consistently ethereal sound befitting the label’s name. Jonathan Trujillo, who contributed to the compilation as Jonny From Space, says his percussion-heavy track “Bender” was named for the circumstances under which it was produced.
“I made that track on a flight to London coming from Dekmantel Festival in Amsterdam after three days of no sleep,” Trujillo says. “I was on a bender, but I had soaked up so much good music, sound, curation, culture, and food that weekend, that track just manifested from that experience... mixed with exhaustion.” The track reached its current iteration after Trujillo passed it along to León, who had been looking for new selections to rinse during DJ sets. “[León] called me one day and told me he was taking the track and putting it on the comp. It didn’t make sense at the time, and he didn’t even let me send him a cleaner version; he just wanted it raw like that. It’s Nick León, though — how can I say no to him?”
Trujillo has been involved with Space Tapes since its 2017 rebirth. As a longtime South Floridian, he says the label has helped cultivate a more creatively fertile Miami.
“Everyone involved with the label is always trying to push the envelope somehow, trying to bring something fresh to the table,” he says. “That kind of energy has spread outward into the city.
“Now everyone is trying to collectively do dope shit together, and that’s what it’s all about,” Trujillo adds, noting Miami’s music history has sometimes lacked “unification in the community.”
His sentiment is shared by other Space Tapes artists. Adam Ovletrea, who records as Bear and appears on Space Tapes Vol. 2 as half of Sun Defeater alongside León, regards the label as “a conduit.”
"I want to see the musicians in their rooms cutting amazing records have a chance to put together something they’re proud of on [the label]," Ovletrea says. He calls Space Tapes a "vessel that exists to carry the ambitions of a lot of people."
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Jose Lopez, who as Tidur contributed the track "Callisto" to Space Tapes Vol. 2, says the label has fostered a culture of "encouragement and support" among Miami artists.
“I don’t know if it’s coincidence, but since the emergence of Space Tapes, I’ve noticed the community working together a lot more, supporting each other, and becoming more and more productive and forward-thinking with every event,” Lopez says.
Now with Space Tapes Vol. 2 marking the label’s first physical release, León hopes to keep the label "South Florida-centric" for a long time.
“I see this project as a reflection of the diversity in art, music, and culture through the context of geography,” he says. “It's really about contributing to the community in the ways that we can.”