Founded in 2010, Don’t Be Afraid has organically evolved from it’s humble beginnings to become a vital and consistent outpost for underground techno, house and experimentally edged electronic music. Originally a simple outpost for founder Benjamin Roth to release his productions as Semtek, the label now boasts an international roster of acclaimed artists including Karen Gwyer, Differ-ent, rRoxymore and MGUN.
Don’t Be Afraid, or DBA, was borne out of a vibrant, evolutionary period for British club music. Semtek’s own early releases, including EPs ‘Bells’, ‘Lotos Eaters’ and ‘Idiotland’ found the ears of competitive, increasingly esoteric DJs in the distant land of ‘UK bass’. Before long, DBA’s horizons would organically expand, both musically and geographically. With keen ears pricked up on an international scale, the label began to host releases from Londoner Mr. Beatnick, Portuguese duo Photonz, and from even further afield, Detroit’s own MGUN.
Initially based out of London, DBA shifted its operations to Bristol temporarily, maintaining a close relationship with it’s immediate artists, and signing a new wave of talent. A new sub-label, DBA Dubs, made space for a more house oriented and soulful side to the label, showcasing relatively unknown artists such as Adjowa, Kelpe and Typesun. On the other end of the scale, DBA Special Editions created the outlet for established producers to drop in with irresistible club bullets, a mutually respectful opportunity ably taken up by the likes of Neville Watson, Disco Nihilist and UK soundsystem legend, Mr. G (an early adopter of DBA, having first appeared to remix Semtek in the label’s debut year).
Further establishing DBA’s significant and once unpredictable links with the city of Detroit, legendary DJ, producer and often unsung scene hero DJ Bone chose the label as the primary outlet for his Differ-ent project. Beginning with the deeply personal yet dancefloor destroying M.O.M EP, it was followed more recently by a critically acclaimed full-length LP, ‘It’s Good To Be Differ-ent’.
Another Michigan native, Karen Gwyer has long been a favourite of the underground, ultimately achieving the most widescreen vision of her psychedelic techno sound yet on the label. Released in summer 2017, her first LP for DBA, ‘Rembo’ was a widely celebrated document of true electronic catharsis, acclaimed by outlets such as Pitchfork for expertly melding “dance-floor functionalism with wild idiosyncrasy.”
Initially borne out of necessity and curiosity, it’s perhaps this same thread of idiosyncrasy that has allowed DBA to evolve so fluidly. Whether across album or EP, artists such as rRoxymore, Dyed, Samrai and Jason Wynters continue deliver an undistilled vision of club utopia, stirring soulful psychedelia from the timeless aesthetics of house, techno, garage and dub.