The little labels that could

Radiculture and Two Sheds spread indie flavor

After a million-plus-selling album with Gnarls Barkley, several international tours, two Grammy Awards and dozens of sundry honors, Cee-Lo is finally back home in the ATL.

His first order of business was to relaunch Radiculture Records with a massive blowout spread over two locales, a private showroom on 800 Lambert Place and Lotus Lounge. Both events were clogged with too many VIPs to name here, including several Dungeon Family/Purple Ribbon associates (Big Boi, Janelle Monae, T-Mo and Khujo of Goodie Mob, and Sleepy Brown).

Cee-Lo and his manager KC Morton founded Radiculture a few years ago, sometime around Cee-Lo's second solo album (Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine). They built a stable of artists, including Tori Alamaze (the original vocalist on "Don't Cha" before it became the Pussycat Dolls' breakthrough hit; she's no longer with the label) and Kirkland Underwater, but put it on the back burner when Gnarls Barkley kicked into high gear.

"This is the perfect opportunity to do the label right now. All eyes are on Cee-Lo, so everything he does gets a lot more attention," says Morton, who describes Radiculture as an "alternative" record company. Its motto is "We don't compete or compare, we coexist."

Most of Radiculture's seven acts aren't scheduled to put out records anytime soon. They're "in development," as Morton puts it, and focused on creating their sound and identity with Cee-Lo's guidance. The roster's Atlanta contingent includes rapper AK, R&B singer Prema Lanay, soul vocalist and producer Eddy Fontane, and local alternative group the Good Time Guys.

"Cee-Lo is the focal point as far as his songwriting and production ability," Morton says of Radiculture. "He wants to branch out and put some new music out there that is a contrast: A little bit of pop alternative, a little bit of urban alternative, maybe some rock stuff, but none of it conventional stuff."

HOME IMPROVEMENT: Over the past few weeks, I've often wondered why Atlanta's rock scene didn't blow up nationally until this year. When I ask people that question, they often tell me the city doesn't have enough powerhouse record labels like Chicago (Touch & Go), Seattle (Sub Pop) or even Athens (Elephant Six, Orange Twin).

However, the city has plenty of independents, including Rob's House Records, International Hits, Industrial Strength Promo, Douchemaster Records, Eskimo Kiss, Stickfigure Distribution, Headphone Treats, Livewire Recordings and several others. While most don't have national distribution, these labels quietly laid the groundwork for the city's current renaissance.

"As far as the infrastructure of the [music] community, I think it's here," says John Graham, founder and co-owner of Two Sheds Music. He recently celebrated his label's 10th anniversary at the Earl. "We're known to the point now where people know we're going to release records and do a good job of getting them out to stores," he says.

Graham launched Two Sheds in Jackson, Miss., as an outlet for his four-track recordings. He moved to Atlanta in 2000 and found modest success with acts such as Heros Severum, Ashen and C'est Mortel. Business, he says, "is pretty robust. We're not going to go out of our way doing national promotions to try and grow the label much more than what it is now. We're just going to keep releasing three to five records a year."

This year Two Sheds plans to issue new projects by An Epic at Best, Faith Kleppinger and Silent Kids.

CD RELEASES: Cinematic storyteller Strezo re-releases This Balance Thursday, May 24, at Drunken Unicorn. Nerdkween and Envie open. ... Moody rock band Slow Motion Crash drops its self-titled CD Friday, May 25, at Lenny's Bar. Spy for Hire and Black Mona Lisa open, and the Atlanta Rollergirls entertain. ... R&B vocalist Naira drops her Back to the Music mix CD Friday, May 25, at Queens nightclub. Attitude, Gbor, Life the Great and Kino open.