“It started in the late ninties when I was listening in pirate radio. There was a radio station called sunset FM and Jay Ahern had a show called The Ambient Ether Sound System. I really started to appreciate electronic music but it was the ambient music that I warmed to the most. Then I got my own radio show on Jazz FM. I had always dreamt of working with these international artists that I’d been listening to. I dreamt of someday even releasing their music. I ended up releasing music luckily enough from artists like Mixmaster Morris and Richard Kirk and Roedelius from legendary kraut rock band Cluster, who influenced Eno who then went on to influence U2. It was through the radio that I began Psychonavigation Records in 2000, releasing music from both Irish and international artists”.
Psychonavigation’s label head Keith Downey explains where the concept for the label came from with the energy and enthusiasm of a music industry rookie. No doubt it is this relentless passion for music that motivates him and his small team to work on the seemingly endless collection of releases in the label’s back catalogue, 87 physical releases and counting, (excluding it’s numerous off shoot labels) exhibits an nostalgic love for physical format and a driven ethos to not allow tangible music and artwork to become extinct.
Remaining always slightly under the radar is a comfortable place for the Psychonavigators. Releasing everything from quiet ambient classical music from artists unknown to Irish audiences such as Bruno Bavota (pictured), Lorenzo Montana and Stefano Guzzetti to abstract electronica from Japanese artist Hakaboune and has become somewhat of a cornerstone for the label. Yet it has occasionally been attracted by the allure of mainstream success with certain projects, working with Dublin heroes The Pale by releasing their album Lonely Space Age in 2002. Organic Sampler by R.S.A.G. (Rarely Seen Above Ground) meanwhile was nominated for the Choice Music Prize and was a surprise hit with critics and alternative music fans. Remixes by Autechre, The Black Dog and Lackluster also saw the label which has been consistently run on a shoe string budget since it’s inception, come to the attention of a broader loyal fan base.
With CD runs and profits margins shrinking for labels both major and indie, Downey decided to diversify the services of Psychonavigation as a way of keeping the music alive-literally. Over the years various off shoots have been spawned including Nippi Records, designated specifically to Chill-out and Off Shoot, designed for house and techno releases while Vital Force, the label’s newest branch, is dedicated to hip hop. Eire Supply on the other hand, is a new division of the label offering unsigned artists and bands the opportunity for their release to gain worldwide distribution through the label’s existing network of contacts.
Fourteen years after the launch of its debut release in Whelan’s, Psychonavigation Records, like its competitors, has dealt with immeasurable changes in the music industry landscape. But while some greet change as an obstacle, others view it as an opportunity for transformation and innovation. It is this attitude combined with a grass roots ‘labour of love’ approach that will see this Irish label around for a long time to come.