For 24 years, the Providence, Rhode Island-based Load Records acted as an underground hub, amassing a catalog that connected the worlds of punk, experimental music, and contemporary art, all with a definitively ecstatic flair that came to define a certain strain of 2000s-era multimedia-based counterculture. This week, the label announced its end. Amid an outpouring of love and respect, Doug Mosurock, a music critic and DJ for the Chicago community station CHIRP Radio, dedicated a two-hour program to music from Load’s diverse—and, to be honest, completely insane and abrasive, in the best way—discography.
Load put out releases by everyone from art-world-vetted collectives like Forcefield and Paper Rad to bands including Lightning Bolt—whose drummer, Brian Chippendale, is a celebrated visual artist in his own right—and Men’s Recovery Project. At the peak of its popularity, Load represented for a Day-Glo cultural vision simultaneously steeped in the history of underground music and pop as well as psychedelic art. Despite releasing music to the wider world, to many it is still most associated with a Providence community that was incubated in the legendary warehouse venue/residence Fort Thunder. For a time, a number of the bands on the label wore masks while playing there on stage.
Mosurock’s mix is about as good a primer as you might hear, even though it doesn’t include music from Forcefield. Regardless, it weaves between the varied kind of fringe music that Load supported, often with a playfulness that is missing from a good portion of underground music. If you have never heard Neon Hunk before, now is the time. Check it out!