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Arclife Records


Arclife Records was an excellent ‘home-grown’ independent label formed by the Arclife Trust, an arts organization that formed out of the Arc Cafe in central Dunedin – and originally run by Elliot Young. In each of it’s first 4 years as a label Arclife released an aptly titled compilation. Each release had a specific focus, i.e. ‘ArcLife’ was a live album, ‘ArcBeats’ more electronically-aimed and accompanied by a cook book…

The label had a strong, tight-knit community of local Dunedin groups on its roster – many of whom had moved on from the by-then Auckland based Flying Nun Records.

Formed with the aim of fostering music, art and alternative cultures in Dunedin, Arc Cafe opened its doors to the public on 20 June 1997 and became something of a hub for a vibrant and diverse local community. Offering free internet and authentic local culture, the cafe buzzed even in Dunedin’s sleepy summer months.

Being non exclusive and welcoming of all, Arc attracted a broad cross-section of Dunedin and visitors from around the world to its coffee, teas, legendary vegetarian and vegan food, and relaxed, warm environment; a huge open fire, vibrant gallery space, a good library of books and magazines and of course, live music and performances.

Dunedin’s Arc Cafe and Arclife Records Archive

From the Cafe’s opening in 1997 till finally shuttering in 2004 Arclife Records was a brilliant resource for up and coming musicians in the South. They released lovingly-assembled small run productions in recycled card packaging, promoted release directly from the cafe, and allowed musicians free-access to their in-house studio (above the cafe itself). Some releases were recorded in the studio but released on artists own labels.

Sadly in early 2004, then-current label coordinator Brassell (aka the well-loved Mikey Hex, lo-fi legend and member of Squirm and Hiss Explosion) passed on. I had the privilege of interviewing Mike in January 2004, and organized the Christchurch memorial to him, which was well attended by friends, band-mates, and loved ones (and followed up by an even larger scale event in Dunedin).

Despite the huge efforts of so many amazing people, over the years Arc struggled, changed hands once or twice, and eventually ended up going under. It was not tidy. Many supporters ended up significantly out of pocket and the Arc community was torn apart.

Dunedin’s Arc Cafe and Arclife Records Archive

Artist Roster

Compilation Discography

  • Music of Dunedin (1998, ARC001)
  • Arclife (1999, ARC005)
  • Flying Way Too High (2000, ARC007)
  • Arcbeats CD and Cookbook (2001, ARC011)


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