NYC’s Cult Label Reissues Catalogue
One of the most exciting and era-defining labels in the history of dance music is now available digitally: New York City’s ZE Records.
Started in 1978 by Michael Zilkha and Michel Esteban in New York City, ZE Records quickly became the poster child of the Big Apple’s hip and alternative music scene, marking the transition between disco and punk happening at the time. The label’s sound became know as ‘mutant disco’ or ‘no wave’ and successfully crossed the boundaries between pop music and the avant-garde.
Legend has it that Esteban’s then-girlfriend, fashion editor Anna Wintour introduced him to Island Records founder Chris Blackwell - an encounter that resulted in a licence deal for the label and worldwide exposure for its diverse line-up of artists: Was (Not Was), Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Lydia Lunch, and Bill Laswell’s Material all released their first recordings though ZE Records, while the label also received input from more established players in the NYC music scene, such as John Cale or Suicide.
- Was (Not Was) - Born to Laugh At Tornados (ZE Records)
- Various Artists - Mutant Disco, Vol. 2 (ZE Records)
- Junie Morrison - Techno-Freqs - EP (ZE Records)
The label’s heyday only lasted for a comparatively short time: Michel Esteban returned to France in 1982 and ZE Records ceased operations just two years later. In 2003 Esteban relaunched the label from his new home in Brazil, reissuing many of the ZE Records classic recordings as well as new material (e.g. by Glaswegian band Michael Dracula), remixes and compilations.
Listen to selected highlights from the label’s catalogue below, or view all ZE Records releases.
- Material feat. Nona Hendryx - Bustin’ Out - EP (ZE Records)
- Sweet Pea Atkinson feat. Was (Not Was) - Don’t Walk Away (ZE Records)
- Was (Not Was) - Out Come the Freaks (ZE Records)
- JD Twitch - Contort Yourself (Optimo Mix) - EP (ZE Records)
- Junie Morrison - Tease Me (Arthur Baker Remix) - EP (ZE Records)
- James White & The Blacks - Contort Yourself - EP (ZE Records)
- Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Best Off (ZE Records)
- Teenage Jesus & The Jerks - The Closet - EP (ZE Records)
- Various Artists - NY No Wave (ZE Records)