Wonder Stories is a vinyl and digital label for left-field house, disco, and techno. While their sound is eclectic, many similarities can be heard in the ethos of the music. It’s earnest, forward-thinking, and danceable.The label was started in Brooklyn, NYC in 2011 by producer/DJ Aimes as an outlet for his own music. Now with 35+ releases by 50 artists under its belt, the label is going strong. Their tunes have received support from Pitchfork, BBC Radio 1, Mixmag, and DJ Mag, plus regular support from some of the world’s best DJs like Andrew Weatherall, Francois K., DJ Harvey, and Jimpster to name a few.
Label boss Aimes returns to his home base with a double track ep of chugging acid-tinged left-field techno. Both tracks implore multi-dimensional existiliast lyrics combined with cosmic leaning production. Here is his Times & Tunes:
Aimes aka Aman Ellis is label boss of Wonder Stories and he returns home at the end of this month to the label with a double track EP of chugging acid-tinged left-field techno. We talk to the DJ and studio wizard ahead of his new release.
Can you tell us where you’re from?
I’m originally from Alabama but spent time in NYC before landing in Denver, CO.
How did the label start?
Wonder Stories started as a party I did with a buddy in NYC. It slowly morphed into an outlet for my own music. Eventually people started sending me demos and I started releasing music I thought was interesting and it picked up from there.
You’ve had some great artists on the label, how do you go about signing them?
A lot of times people send us music they think would be a good fit. Other times I reach out to people whose music I like. Sometimes it’s friends or friends of friends.
How long have you been involved in music?
I’ve played guitar and piano since I was a kid and have been in bands my whole life. I started getting into music production and DJing about 15 years ago. I’ve always had some sort of hacky home recording set up, even before I started making electronic music.
Were you a DJ before a producer?
Nope, other way around actually. I always leaning more towards the production side, but a few bookers started asking me for DJ gigs before I started DJing so I quickly learned and fell in love with it. I’ve always been a lover of vinyl records, so it made sense. That’s how I learned too, two turntables and mixer. Once you learn that way, CDJs are a breeze.
When did the label start and why?
Really just as an outlet for my own music and to make sure I kept all the rights to my music. I slowly started releasing music from friends and it sort of took off from there. I really started to notice things pick up when we did our first vinyl release (WS017).
How would you describe your style of music when you play?
I generally like playing stuff that has a syncopated bass in some fashion and 16th note hihat patterns. This combo really drives the groove and has a lot of energy. I hate to say the cliché of telling story with the tracks, but that is really the job of the DJ. That and playing interesting music that hopefully the audience hasn’t heard before, with maybe the occasional classic.
Is your taste the same for your productions?
Yea I think so. I go through phases of music tastes. Sometimes I’m in more of a Balearic mood, sometimes more of a techno mood, but generally I’m trying to make something that is original, unique, has a good sound palette, and interesting melodies.
Do you still buy records?
Of course! Lately I’m buying more albums for home listening, soul, 70s prog, etc. but still buy the odd dance 12” from time to time, usually if I find something cool in my local shop.
Are you precious about what format you play?
No, who cares as long as you and the crowd are enjoying themselves. I enjoy playing vinyl but it’s a pain in the ass to carry around. If I do a local gig I might bring some records. I do like the dynamics of vinyl, it does sound better that way. It comes down to the mastering process. For digital, the music is squashed and there are no dynamics. Vinyl mastering is different and there is no digital limiting so the dynamics are persevered. This can really come across on a good system.
Where’s your secret spot to find gems in the world?
The Thing in Brooklyn, NYC will always be the best spot. To this day I don’t understand where they get their records but you can find some true gems there.
Three records that mean something to you.
Manuel Göttsching -- E2-E4
As someone who started out on guitar, was heavily influenced by jazz, and moved to electronic production I feel a strong connection with this record. It’s also the quintessential lesson in repetition with subtle variations in melody over a longer period of time.
Dusty Kid -- A Raver’ S Diary --
Such a great record and a great example of an album written as whole, rather than just putting together some random tracks. When I listen to this I’m transported back to that time period when I first moved to NYC and I started going to see amazing DJs, it’s really nostalgic.
Atlas Sound – Parallax
I got into electronic music to expand my pallet from guitar, but this record really shows how you can do just that with just a guitar and delay pedal. The sound design on this record is outstanding.
What do you think of the music industry right now?
I think when an artform becomes an “industry” of any kind the art will suffer. I try to ignore any sort of music business when possible and focus on making music I like. I’m not really concerned with making a profit from our releases, as long as we break even and put out cool stuff.
Do you think the industry needs to change at all? In what way?
I’d like to see vinyl produced with recycled wax to reduce our carbon footprint. I’d like to see the big DJs flying around the world reduce their carbon footprint somehow, I’m not sure what the answer is but maybe they could donate to plant some trees for every flight they take or something… It would be easy enough to include that in the riders.
Do you use Spotify? Does it have a place for you?
I do use Spotify. I think SoundCloud has the best algorithm for music discovery, but I do use Spotify a bit, mostly for albums.
Is there someone on Spotify who’s playlist you follow?
Not really to be honest, just Release Rader and Discover Weekly.
Who do you think is hot at the moment? Who should we watch?
Lately I’ve been loving the output of Timothy Clerkin, Rigopolar, Dawn Again, Man2.0, Alex Aguayo,
Do you have a female DJ/ producer that you rate?
Been loving Zozo’s sets lately. She first came on my radar when she played a Wonder Stories track at her Dekmantel set last year (shout out) and a buddy sent me a video. She’s a great digger and selector.
Favourite place/ country/ club in the world to play?
Bali for the vibe, Vancouver for the dancers.
What can you tell us about your new release?
This release was really an exploration in psychedelia for me. I wanted the tracks to have a certain… interstellar vibe with a tinge or quirkiness and grit. For me, that’s what music is all about anyways, exploring new frontiers.
What’s up next for Aimes?
I’m taking a pause from remixes and singles to finish up my second album, I’m hoping to have it done some time in 2021 out on Wonder Stories with a limited edition vinyl release. I’ll be focusing more on song writing with shorter less-dancy versions on the LP, but with extended dance mixes and remixes out later.
I’ve also got an EP out on Tusk Wax due sometime later this year and a track on Insult to Injury’s upcoming compilation.
Aimes releases ‘A Star… In The Sky’ on Wonder Stories. The release is blessed with remixes by Hardway Bros Sean Johnston, Massimiliano Pagliari, Que Sakamoto & NT. It’s out on 3rd April