OSCILLATE CD RELEASE PARTY featuring SOL AZUL, ANDY B, MARCUS, FREEDOM, GERALD BELANGER, K2 and many more, Saturday (August 24) at Surface (12 Brant). $5, $15 with CD. www.nicesmooth.com
Gerald Belanger has a lot on his plate right now.
In addition to hosting his weekly radio show, Unfortunate Sonic Casualties, on CKLN, he DJs at local events as well as at European clubs and festivals.
He still finds time to run eclectic local record label Nice and Smooth and writes and produces music with Kinder Atom. Nice and Smooth has also had the good fortune to have recently signed Chicago house legend Roy Davis Jr. to a worldwide deal, excluding the U.S. His most recent venture has been to set up the sub-label Oscillate to focus on the local drum 'n' bass scene.
Oscillate's first release is a self-titled compilation of mainly local talent, ranging from established Toronto legends like DJ Marcus and Dave Whalen's Visionary project to relative unknowns like Subrythm.
The overall quality of the production is top notch, but what really impresses is the diversity of the d 'n' b. From the jazzy bossa-nova-influenced rhythms of Sol Azul to the dark, brooding beats of Otis & Toxic, all the major offshoots of the genre are represented.
Although Belanger's DJ style generally straddles many electronic genres, the success of the Metro Breaks series that preceded Oscillate has meant that he sometimes plays ambassador for Toronto's d 'n' b scene.
"As often as I can, I get booked to play freestyle," explains Belanger over coffee. "That's been the style on my show for the 12 years at CKLN and the three years before that on another station. There's always a certain type of vibe, whether it's drum and bass or electro or whatever -- it's a deep, psychedelic sound.
"Sometimes I'll get booked for a rave in Germany and I'll be expected to play hard drum 'n' bass. They've put Toronto in huge letters next to my name on the flyer, so I'll go there and play a set of dub plates from local guys that they haven't heard. In those cases, I'm there representing Toronto, not me."
Belanger has been running electronic music labels since 91, when he founded the now-defunct DOV label. He's seen the industry change and evolve several times but has been struck by how much music is being distributed electronically these days.
"We get a lot of traffic through our digital distribution partner, Emusic. We've distributed a lot more music through the Internet than through selling CDs. Emusic is a pay site, so when people download it there we actually get money. If a lot of people download a song, we can make much more money with that than if we manufactured a 12-inch record.
"We still make records and sell them to DJs, but it's a money-losing proposition from the beginning."
Unfortunately, many of the MP3s of Nice and Smooth releases floating around the Internet are easily available through file-sharing networks that don't reimburse the company for its work.
"People under a certain age don't believe in buying music any more. Our stuff was all over Napster when it was up. Now it's all over Soulseek and Kazaa. I guess in a sense it's good that there are easily half a million people somewhere with an MP3 of ours on their computer."