Micro Get-to-Know: Biblioteka Records

Micro Get-to-Know: Biblioteka Records

Micro Get-to-Know is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we interview micro-label owners about their goals, hopes, ethics, struggles, and of course, their music. Micro-labels are defined by Counterzine as labels with small operations teams (and often just one individual) that specialize in digital and/or limited run physical releases. Our subject for this edition is Sofie Mikhaylova’s Biblioteka Records.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


Sofie Mikhaylova: I’m good! Always.


CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.


SM: My name is Sofie Mikhaylova and I’m a DJ and experimental electronic hardware musician based in Toronto, Ontario. I started and run Biblioteka Records, I have two cats, and my favourite colour is pink.


Sofie Mikhaylova, owner of Biblioteka Records


CZ: In a broad sense, how would you describe Biblioteka Records?


SM: Biblioteka Records is a haven and family of artists creating experimental and left-of-mainstream electronic music. It’s a record label focused on not-so-radio-friendly tunes, but tunes that are still beautiful, meaningful, and interesting. It’s a way for artists around the world to release music they love and believe in with a small, tight label that believes in them.


CZ: What inspired you to start a label?


SM: Biblioteka Records was originally just Biblioteka. I used the name to throw parties and events in Toronto. I was working on more of my own music at the time, and was looking to release an EP. I wanted to self-release it, but somehow tie it into the Biblioteka name. I ended up dropping the events-exclusive vibe I was going for and adding the “Records” bit to operate exclusively as a record label. Essentially, I wanted to self-release a project but still ‘own’ it and have a type of ‘label’ backing.


Sofie Mikhaylova performing as Sonja


CZ: What are some of your favorite labels going today?


SM: I’m a huge fan of CODEPENDENT, Orange Milk, Forged Artifacts, my friends at Bare Selection, DESKPOP, Warp Records, Planet Mu, and All Day I Dream.


CZ: You recently just released your label’s first vinyl release, Golden Grey’s “One” 7”. Out of all your releases up to this point, why did you feel this was the one to take the next step on?


SM: Before Golden Grey joined the team, the label was still pretty new. I had brought up the idea of physical releases with a couple of other artists I felt strongly about, but neither of us were ready to take the leap. Golden Grey’s album was complete, beautiful, and reflected what I wanted 2019 to look like for Biblioteka Records. We had started talking in November 2018, signed officially in January 2019, and pushed the vinyl out in April 2019, so it was a lot of work and timing. Originally, I wanted to release track “Three” off the Numbers EP as the single on vinyl, but Golden Grey felt confidently about “One.” Obviously, I agreed; nothing really felt more fitting than our first release together, as well as Biblioteka Records’ first vinyl release, to be called “One.” I’m really happy with our choice.



CZ: How was your first experience with releasing vinyl and do you plan to release vinyl regularly moving forward?


SM: It was expensive! But it was also a lot of fun. I worked with local vinyl pressing plant Liquor Donuts, who were a pleasure to work with and gave me a fair rate. Since I was new to the whole thing, I had a lot of questions, but J and team were really patient with me and answered and addressed all of my concerns. It was also a lot of work. We had to master the songs for vinyl, get the proper artwork done, put all the right information on the artwork in the back (copyrights, barcodes, etc). But holding something I helped make and have a real, physical, tangible THING representing Biblioteka Records in my hands… I can’t explain the feeling. It was surreal. It still is, every time I look at a record.


CZ: What are some of the struggles you face as a label owner in 2019?


SM: I mean, money is a huge one. I really want to do more physical releases and I see the struggle with, like, paying for them. Also selling them. Running an indie label with more experimental music presents its own set of challenges.

I also run Biblioteka Records 100% on my own. I don’t have a budget for PR or anything like that; everything is funded by me. I vet all the artists and do all the emails and read and listen to all the submissions. The PR I can do, I do, but I definitely feel like sometimes I’m not doing as much as I could be for the artists. It’s hard to do everything myself, from social to admin to bookkeeping to A&R and management and scheduling. I do feel a bit burnt out at times and feel the need to take a day away from the screen.


CZ: How is the electronic scene in Toronto?


SM: It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always felt that people were really supportive of each other, especially in the hardware electronic scene. If you’re looking for raves, dope parties, and the techno/house scene, I think Toronto has a good amount of parties and events for that as well.

I’ve been trying for a while to get more involved and be more ‘known’ in the electronic dance music community in Toronto, and I think people have been willing to let me into their circles and teach me things and show me the ropes. In addition, Toronto hosts a lot of panels and educational workshops for emerging musicians and those focused on the business side of the music industry, which is really awesome and I try to take advantage of those as much as I can.



CZ: You run an event series called Grandma’s Secret Spices. Could you tell us a bit about that?


SM: Yeah! Grandma’s Secret Spices is an electronic hardware performance night in which I try to book more women and LGBTQ+ folks who play weird, fun, different, and experimental music. The second one in the series will be June 13th (today), and I’d really like to do them every 2-3 months going forward if they do well. There’s so much dope talent in the city, and it would be really cool to have a night dedicated to highlighting some wonderful hardware music. I also try to make it end late, as it runs on a school night (Thursdays), and I know not everybody wants to be out till like 1 or 2 a.m. on weeknights.

Last time, we had Korea Town Acid and Bachelard perform, and this month I’m looking forward to welcoming autotectonic, Leucrocuta, and 3Hands4Milo (a Biblioteka Records artist!) to the stage. I’ll also be playing a small live show with Eurorack in the beginning of the night.

Ideally, I’d like to be able to highlight hardware music while also having at least one Biblioteka Records artist on the lineup for each event. I realize, though, that this might not always be possible as not all of our artists are based in Toronto, but a girl can dream! Who knows what the night will grow into?


Graphic for Grandma’s Secret Spices II


CZ: What are some of Biblioteka Records’ most recent projects?


SM: We recently signed a bunch of new artists that I’m really excited to work with, and we also put out Carter Fox’s first single from his upcoming album. “Cartercraft” is a song I’m really proud to have on the label, and the accompanying video is just as stunning as the track. In addition, you know about Golden Grey’s 7” single, but his EP Numbers was also released in May, and it’s a wonderful listen as well.




CZ: What’s on the horizon for Biblioteka Records?


SM: A new Carter Fox single titled “Cavediver” coming June 24, as well as a visual/audio experiential single release calendar from a new artist on our label, Dame Cook. She’s an electroacoustic Toronto-based artist whose sound is really unique, and I’m very excited to work with her. We’ve also signed soon-to-be Atlanta-based musician and producer Taja Nicholle to the label, and we’re looking at late July/early August for some of her releases as well. Finally, Otherworld, another new artist (I told you there were a lot!) is working on a special commissioned project for us that’s going to be very horror movie soundtrack-inspired. I’m looking to release this as a physical in October 2019.

Of course, there’s always so much going on, but I can’t give away all of my secrets!






CZ: Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve with Biblioteka Records?


SM: I want to do more events and hire a staff member to help me out, if possible. It’s getting busy and it’s not that easy to do everything myself. I also really want to focus on putting out more physical releases, including cassettes with smaller runs for some future releases. Also, a two-year anniversary party in October would be something that I’d really like to try,


CZ: We asked you to make a mix as something of a label sampler. Could you explain some of your picks and why you chose them?


SM: I started off with “One” by Golden Grey to open up the mix and highlight our new song, and then moved on to two unreleased songs from Dame Cook and Carter Fox, respectively. Going forward, I chose to focus on some more chill songs that are in my favourites playlist that I don’t really get to play out much when I DJ and wanted to share. “Shaker Hymns (Bensen Coffee & Cigarettes Remix)” by Dry the River is a tune I absolutely adore, and that I thought fit well with the rest of the Biblioteka Records tracks in the mix.


The Biblioteka Records Mix:


Featured songs (in order):

  1. “One” – Golden Grey
  2. “Bovine Visions” – Dame Cook (UNRELEASED)
  3. “Nethergate” – Carter Fox (UNRELEASED)
  4. “Free” – Kidswaste
  5. “Last Lights” – Diskay
  6. “Sunday Glide” – Kermesse
  7. “Give It to Me” – Plucando feat. Emie
  8. “Shaker Hymns (Bensen Coffee & Cigarettes Remix)” – Dry the River
  9. “I’m Into You (Monkeyneck Remix)” – Chet Faker
  10. “All Cried Out (Kulkid Remix)” – Fink


To learn more about Biblioteka Records, you can check out their website, Instagram, Facebook, SoundCloud, and YouTube.

Micro Get-to-Know: Genjitsu Stargazing Society

Micro Get-to-Know: Genjitsu Stargazing Society

Micro Get-to-Know is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we interview micro-label owners about their goals, hopes, ethics, struggles, and of course, their music. Micro-labels are defined by COUNTERZINE as labels with small operations teams (and often just one individual) that specialize in digital and/or limited run physical releases. Our inaugural subject in this new series is Kurvine Chua’s Genjitsu Stargazing Society.


COUNTERZINE: How are you today?


Kurvine Chua: Hello! I just got back from work. Life has been pretty hectic lately, but thank goodness for music. Without it, I don’t know how I’d survive.


CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.


KC: My name is Kurvine Chua. I’m a 24-year-old musician and filmmaker based in the Philippines. I have a solo project on Z Tapes called Memoryville. I’ve got other musical projects too—selective hypnosis and agsit, to name a few. I work as Music Curator in a vinyl record store. I also founded the Genjitsu Stargazing Society!


Head of the Genjitsu Stargazing Society Kurvine Chua, performing as Memoryville (photo credit: Iya Forbes)


CZ: In a broad sense, how would you describe the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?


KC: The Genjitsu Stargazing Society (or the GSS for short) is a DIY tape label and arts collective inspired by nature, existentialism, and punk rock. Most of us are based in the Philippines, but we also have musicians from Sacramento (killuv), Brazil (Linearwave), and Argentina (Rosedal). We’re a bunch of artists helping each other out. Our releases focus on cassettes—it’s a format we stand by.


gss cassettes
The Genjitsu Stargazing Society’s cassette catalog


CZ: What inspired you to start a tape label?


KC: I’ve always been a believer in the physical format. There’s something about it you can’t get from streaming. These days, a lot of folks can’t listen to an entire album, EP, or song anymore—I think that’s sad.

Since high school, I knew I wanted to start a music label of some sort; I just didn’t know how to go about it then. When I discovered the appeal and viability of releasing on cassette, I was hooked.


CZ: What are some of your favorite labels going today?


KC: A lot of tape labels have inspired the GSS. Z Tapes, one of my all-time faves, will forever be dear to my heart. Inner Ocean, Galaxy Train, Struggle Records, Doom Trip, Seikomart, Constellation Tatsu, and Get Better Records have been releasing tons of great stuff. Topshelf, Sarah Records (RIP), Tiny Engines, and Count Your Lucky Stars are record labels I highly look up to. There’s so much more; too many to mention!


CZ: How did you end up connecting with United Cassettes?


KC: I run United Cassettes Philippines! Filip Zemčík, who runs United Cassettes in Europe (the only branch at the time), had been online friends with me for some time. At first, we’d have casual chats about Z Tapes and music in general—it was only after a while we started discussing about expanding United Cassettes outside his country.

Everything we release on the Genjitsu Stargazing Society gets stocked in United Cassettes Philippines. I mean, it makes sense, because I’m handling both. I just try to keep the two brands separate from each other.


CZ: You ended up organizing the Philippines’ first-ever Cassette Store Day. How did that come about?


KC: Record Store Day is a thing here; I’ve always wondered why Cassette Store Day wasn’t. So much record stores have been popping up all over the Philippines, and that’s amazing! It’s like vinyl heaven here. As far as cassette tapes go, though, it’s only been vintage tapes, and that’s kind of frustrating. It’s like we forgot modern cassette culture was a thing. There’s always been underground labels here in the country releasing new local music on tape—Middle Finger, Nine Iron, Aklasan Records, etc. In terms of distribution though, it’s scarce.

I wanted to let people know modern tapes, both locally and from around the world, are still being made. In partnership with United Cassettes Philippines, the GSS invited some of our tapehead friends to sell new cassettes—an amazing local band called Twoshiba sold their new release, my friend Escuri sold his Japan-funded tape, my friend Francis of Struggle Records was invited, etc. etc. It was amazing! A lot of people showed up. Aside from the selling, we had artists with tape releases play their music live, too.


Poster for Strange Attraction, the Genjitsu Stargazing Society’s Cassette Store Day Philippines 2018 event (design: Mika Manikan)



CZ: What are some of the struggles you face as a label owner in 2019?


KC: The greatest obstacle right now is money. I know what I want, and I have fuzzy ideas of how to go about those things—it’s really just the budget. If I had unlimited funds, I’d right at this moment increase my tape production quantity, promote our artists bigtime, fund tours, organize more gigs, etc. I guess I should take things one day at a time. I’m trying my best to make things work, in spite of a limited budget. A lot of what I earn from my day job goes into the GSS. I get hella excited every time we put out something new!


CZ: What’s the climate of the independent music scene in the Philippines like, and how does it impact the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?


KC: The music scene here is amazing! You’ll find all sorts of genres—punk, shoegaze, jazz, soul, electronic, hip-hop, you name it. Everyone here seems to know each other, independent or mainstream. There are also gigs happening everyday, and fans are passionate about what they love. I guess what I don’t like about the music scene here is the toxic politics/abuse (things you’ll find in other places too, sadly).

We consider the GSS counterculture in the sense we want to keep things as pure as possible. We’re here for the music, and music just is. Human politics can really suck sometimes. A lot of people here treat art like it’s some sort of competition, and at times, the noise gets too much. It’s not unusual to see an artist in the country lose sight of what made them begin in the first place.

Another issue rampant in the music scene here is harassment, sexism, and backstabbing. Those are things we want to stay away from. The GSS does not tolerate any of that shit.

We also want to be as inclusive as possible. We want to promote more women and LGBTQ artists (but that doesn’t mean we’ll exclude good men, too).


CZ: What are some of the Genjitsu Stargazing Society’s most recent projects?


KC: We recently organized an EP launch for one of our lovely artists, .wendil! It was held in Mow’s, a popular gig space in the local indie scene. A lot of our artists played for the event, too.

Aside from .wendil, we also recently put out tapes from Valiant Vermin, Pamcy, and Marty McFly. They’re all amazing acts you should check out!


Snapshot from .wendil’s EP launch event at Mow’s





CZ: What’s on the horizon for the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?


KC: A lot! We’re going to be on a plane to Cebu in a few days to further promote .wendil’s Nighttime Fire EP.

This month, we’re also releasing a new album on tape from a lo-fi/psychedelic artist. We’re also working on a new zine, launching sometime this year! More gigs, too. We’ll also be reissuing some of our sold out tapes.

Most importantly, we plan on trekking in nature soon—it’s one of our means to stay connected with the universe.



CZ: Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve with the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?


KC: Getting our artists heard more is an important goal! We want to eventually distribute what we release worldwide, and that’s gonna happen soon. We also want to hold regular gigs showcasing our roster.

Probably in the future, we could hold a GSS Festival of some sort. Maybe bring in some of our artists from abroad to play in the Philippines, along with everyone else. That’s a big dream, but who knows?


CZ: We asked you to make a mix of some of your favorite songs on your label along with a couple others. Could you explain some of your picks and what they mean to you?


KC: The playlist ended up with 14 songs. I wanted to capture the general vibe of the GSS in terms of music. We’ve released stuff from genres like lo-fi, emo, math rock, shoegaze, chiptune, and synthpop.

I threw in two non-GSS songs, too: tracks from Everyone Everywhere and the Hotelier. They’re two bands that have played huge roles in our lives. Both bands’ songs are nature-influenced and emotional—those are things that really connect with us.


The Genjitsu Stargazing Society Mix:


Featured songs (in order):

  1. “Love Language” – Twoshiba
  2. “Shiver” – Ozzga
  3. “Pink-Haired Rebel” – Memoryville
  4. “Lucid Dreamer” – Washington Drama Club
  5. “I Wanna Know” – Killuv
  6. “Maturity” – .wendil
  7. “Coochie Cringe” – Valiant Vermin
  8. “The Future” – Everyone Everywhere
  9. “Enin” – TIM ÄWÄ
  10. “i thought it would be nice to write you a song” – savedhistory
  11. “Opening Mail for My Grandmother” – The Hotelier
  12. “Coastline” – Pamcy feat. NiMa & Daniela
  13. “Alfonso: The Call of the Void” – TCKLDMNKS
  14. “Countless Times” – Brandon Cueto


This mix is also available through Spotify:


To learn more about the Genjitsu Stargazing Society, you can check out their website, Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vimeo.