Local label spotlight: Curious Music

Russell Curry owns and curates Coralville-based label Curious Music. During its existence, Curious has released CDs and records by artists whose work inspired its owner. Curry’s early interest in ambient composers like Roger Eno and Harold Budd, as well as the influential German experimental band Cluster (specifically Dieter Moebius, Konrad “Conny” Plank and Hans-Joachim Roedelius), seemed to concern survival as much as distraction: When Curry moved from Chicago to Coralville at age 10, the effect must have been one of sensory withdrawal. He could either find an interest in offbeat forms of expression or go crazy in an area that seemed, Curry said, “gray and conformist and same-y.”

Curious Music, formed in 1988, offered a lifeline for staving off insanity. By the mid-’90s, Curry contributed to a resurgent interest in Cluster, overseeing the band’s first-ever American tour. Curious filled a valuable cultural niche, but that’s all.

“It was very, very difficult to reach even a small audience,” Curry said, “and, heaven forbid, grow an audience, at that time.”

He had no access yet to the burgeoning technology of the time — “no email; cell phones just starting to come in; no internet” — and must have felt he was running to stand still. By 2001, Curry, who had devoted himself to Curious since graduating from the University of Iowa, closed up shop for a breather.

In 2016, breath restored and technology — and experience — accrued, Curry resumed Curious Music. He has since released or re-issued works by Roedelius, Eno, Budd, composer Tim Story and Kate St. John (ex-Dream Academy) — limited-edition works that aspire, Curry said, to “works of art themselves.” Curry handles sleeve design and Story contributes remastering. The sleeves, set beside the color-rich discs — not to mention the sound quality — make one appreciate Curry’s intense devotion to aesthetics.

Coming up in 2019 is Objective Objects by Dwight Ashley and Cluster’s Moebius on double-yellow vinyl, accompanied by a digital release. Recorded in 2010, Objects was one of Moebius’ last studio efforts before his death in 2015. There will be two All Saints Records re-issues as well.

Curry recently participated in Story’s Roedelius Cells installation at Figge Art Museum in Davenport, and he has several more projects pending, one involving museum residencies in small chamber settings with St. John and Eno.

“The logistical and organizational challenges of putting together good work … are incredible,” Curry said. “That’s partially why people like me exist: because we help put all those pieces together.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 253.

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