“This is going to be our third pop-up appearance,” says Ed Vertov of Stellar Remnant, the new Highland Park-based electronic music label and online record store. “We started doing them this summer because the online shop is being launched right now. We are doing it for now exclusively at Acid Camp, which is a daytime party. This Sunday they have Honey Soundsystem playing and it should be the biggest one so far.”
Vertov (real surname: Karapetyan) knows a thing or two about record stores. Shortly after immigrating to Los Angeles from Moscow to attend USC in the late '90s, he landed his first job behind the counter at the now-defunct Virgin Megastore. After a stint there, he worked for many years at Amoeba Music, and more recently as a buyer at specialty shop Mount Analog, which he left in May to start Stellar Remnant with his wife, business partner and fellow DJ/producer, Lena Deen (Bogdanova).
“I grew up in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-'90s,” Vertov recalls when asked how he discovered electronic music. “You know, it was really hard to get music there, but there were a lot of black-market tapes that we would buy, and there was this first club, a very interesting club … it was called Ptych. And this is when I first heard DJs play anything. It was about 1994, and I think Alex Paterson [from The Orb] was actually DJing, at a very small club in Russia in the '90s. It was a very bizarre setting.
“But that's how I got into electronic music in Russia during that really strange time. We were listening to Jeff Mills in the '90s in Moscow; it sounded like music from the future. And then since moving to Los Angeles in '96, I've always been pursuing music.”
About his and Deen's pop-up shops, Vertov says, “We curate anything from experimental to techno to house to acid house. It's very personal to us because I've been working for record shops for a long time and I always wanted to have something of my own. This is a road to having our storefront also.”
On Sunday, the Stellar Remnant pop-up store will feature exclusives from Vertov's other labels, Pro-Tez and Acid Pop, as well as the first release on the new label, a three-track EP from Lena Deen. “Lena's release is called The Acanti EP, three long pieces that will be vinyl-only. She's been working very hard on it for the past year.”
For her part, Deen (whose music has appeared on highly regarded German techno label Prologue) professes a deep concern for the environment, which she says inspired the minimalist, meditative tracks on her new EP, which sometimes incorporate what sound like whale songs. “I'm deeply saddened when I think about how the environment has changed. Driven by ego, people separate themselves from nature, forgetting that we are one organism. Abuse, negligence and disrespect toward nature bothers me a lot. One day, I just felt like I had no choice but to turn these emotions into music.”
Stellar Remnant has several other releases in the pipeline. “[For] the second one,” says Vertov, “we have this Russian guy also. His name is Alexey Volkov. He's this rising techno star. He's had releases on Terence Fixmer's label, Planete Rouge, and he just had a record on Jealous God, which is a venture of Silent Servant, James Ruskin, Regis and all those guys. We're going to have a really cool, experimental/EBM record from him.
“The third release is in the works right now,” he adds. “I don't want to say [what it is] because it hasn't been confirmed yet, but it will be something quite interesting also.”
Vertov and Deen met in Russia when he was on tour in 2009, and he briefly considered returning to his home country, which he had left 13 years prior. “I thought we might stay and do some things over there, because the scene is very vibrant, although to live in Russia … it is quite a different world,” he says. “There are all these good clubs and festivals, and we did a lot of cool stuff there, but we decided that life in L.A. might mean less clubs, less gigs, but somehow it's more to us. We like it here and it's our home.”