Harthouse is a German record label specializing in techno music; during the early 1990s it was one of the biggest labels in the "techno-trance" scene that was the precursor to modern trance music.
The label has been responsible for many success stories in the electronic world including Oliver Lieb, Eternal Basement, Hardfloor, Sven Väth and Koxbox.
The company was founded by Sven Väth in the early 1990s as a sublabel of Eye Q Records with the divisions Harthouse Frankfurt, Harthouse UK and Harthouse America. With more than 100 releases Harthouse Frankfurt was the most successful and a great influence on the Sound of Frankfurt. Harthouse took on the techno trend and explored the darker, more pulsating flavors of this music, soon becoming one of the front-figures of European techno. Like Väth, the Harthouse artists soon chose a more intellectual approach to music compared to some of the more rave- and party-oriented electronic music at that time. Tracks were long and abstract, with unpredictable hythms and strange "alien" sounds.
Harthouse CDs, like the vinyl records, came in a subtle glossed cardboard casing printed with color variations of the same dark, monochromatic science fiction themes, much in style with the music itself. Each publication sported a cryptic name.
Experimentation seems to have been encouraged within the company, and Harthouse artists like jiri.ceiver took this angle to a funky extreme, approaching the level of abstract art. On the other hand, artists like Koxbox took the experiments in the dancefloor direction, and Harthouse, among others via Koxbox finally moved more and more towards the psychedelic trance genre, and many will probably consider Harthouse part of building up this genre. The development resulted in the later Harthouse CDs having a more "maximalist", energetic sound with emphasis on the distorted TB-303 lead.
In the beginning of 1997 the future of the label was uncertain, sales were drooping in the wake of rising commercial trance labels, and Sven Vaeth had left the label in January, causing further confusion. The firm moved from its vast office in Offenbach to Berlin. Two months later the firm was insolvent, and filed for bankruptcy. The artists could not be paid or were put off with ridiculous sums. The managing directors proved unwilling to comment on the reasons for the bankruptcy.
At the beginning of 1998 the Under Cover Music Group (UCMG) took over the rights to use the brand name of the label as well as the trade mark "Harthouse". For UCMG the essential point of this deal was the assurance of giving back the artists/authors the right of use on their titles - UCMG put together a "Retrospective Box", a collection of the most successful releases of Harthouse.
In the few years from 1998 up to 2003, where Harthouse existed under UCMG, there only appeared 9 singles, a few albums and, what was new at Harthouse at all, a few DJ Mix-CDs mixed by various DJs like Oliver Bondzio, Frank Lorber and Plank. There also appeared one foreign release by Hardfloor under Harthouse UK, by the English UCMG department.
In early 2003, UCMG started to get into financial problems. In the middle of 2003 Harthouse planned to re-release a set of old classic singles, but after some first test vinyls were made, UCMG was closed.
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