It's hard to believe it's been two years since local label Sort Of Records issued its first release. (It's also hard to believe that's exactly how long as I've been writing this sort-of column). And if Sort Of's current expansion is any indication, as major labels' financial woes make headlines month after month, it's a good time to be the little guy. "Selling CDs isn't easy these days," says founder Raymond Morin, "but it's very rare that people aren't psyched on what they've seen of what we're doing."
Morin moved to Pittsburgh from Boston in 2005, and it seems to have stuck: He and his partner bought a house on the Penn Avenue arts corridor this past summer. "There's no way to make people in Boston even still understand the kinds of things you can jump on out here," he says, "the kind of opportunities that are constantly presenting themselves."
The building houses Morin's office and workshop for assembling the label's distinctive handmade packaging. Part of the way his business has stayed viable is that Morin does "freelance" duplication for artists who aren't on the label: You've probably seen his work for local indie groups like Boca Chica, Lohio and Magic Wolf, who have taken advantage of Morin's ability to produce artistically satisfying, idiosyncratic packaging in extremely short runs -- a service giants like Disc Makers can't match.
"I used to do everything in a real kinda crafty way, here at home," Morin says. "But I've developed some new packaging designs and been able to get more stuff done and better quality stuff." While Sort Of releases were initially done in runs of 250 digipaks, "now it's easier for me to do 500 or something like that."
He has a busy spring planned for the label, culminating in "official" second-anniversary shows that will be held May 10 at ModernFormations and Brillobox. But before that, Daryl Fleming will be releasing his new record in mid-April, and the avant-acoustic showcase WoodLab, curated by Dave Bernabo, returns from a hiatus with a show at ModernFormations on April 30, featuring Jack Rose and members of freak-folks Sunburned Hand of the Man.
Morin credits Bernabo with getting him into the improv music scene; the two have recently teamed up with Abstract on Black, a sub-label "spanning outer-limits jazz and free music to modern composition to electronics to spoken word.
"Overall," says Morin, "I feel very welcomed, very happy to be doing it here."
For more information, visit www.sortofrecords.com