The moment saying attention really had to be paid came with the arrival of the Hunstville album in June 2011. The fifth release on Norway’s HUBRO Records, For Flowers, Cars And Merry Wars, was unequivocally great – something like Krautrock, but not really rock, something springing from jazz. A landmark release.
HUBRO Records had made its entrance the previous year with the second album from Splashgirl and, since then, everything that’s come along has to be paid attention to.
Norway’s music is partially defined by its blurring of boundaries and bleeding across genres, and HUBRO fits snugly with this. Meaning everything on the label is – at the least – fascinating, exploratory and needs to be heard, or – very often – an essential benchmark.
The recent release on HUBRO of Jessica Sligter’s brilliant Fear And The Framing and Moskus’ seductive Salmesykkel meant a bit of digging had to be done, with the help of the label’s boss Andreas Meland.
Entering only its fourth year, HUBRO is now established as one of Norway’s most important – and essential – labels.
Asking Andreas if the label has an aesthetic gets a surprising response. “Maybe,” he says. “But it is hard for me to spot. Calling HUBRO a jazz label at this point might seem a little far fetched maybe, but that was basically the start. I mostly release instrumental music. Improvisation is important for many of the artists in the roster, but not for all of them. It is not a goal for me to create label with a coherent aesthetic. I want to present creative and, hopefully, bold music out of Norway.”
On the surface, at least, the striking design and packaging for all HUBRO releases from Yokoland does suggest a unity.
Andreas had not come to HUBRO cold. His background is in music and, since 2003, he has worked for Grappa Musikkforlag, the Norwegian label and distributor. He has also been the label manager for ECM in Norway and (remains) a musician too. “In my spare time I have run different small labels from my bedroom or kitchen table since the late ‘90s,” he says. “Together with Kristian Kallevik, who now runs Fysisk Format, I founded the [now defunct] Safe as Milk which released albums by Noxagt, This is Music inc, Lars Myrvoll, my own trio düplo and the first Årabrot releases. I also ran Melektronikk – more focused on Norwegian electronic and improvised music. I also worked for a short period for Rune Grammofon, which shares an office with Grappa.”
As a musician, Andreas mostly worked with improvised electronic music. He was also one of the organisers of the Safe as Milk festival, which brought Six Organs of Admittance, Philip Jeck and Lee Ranaldo to Haugesund (also where Susanne Sundfør is from).
Working at Grappa led to the creation of HUBRO. “I suggested to my boss that Grappa should have a sub label for jazz and improvised music,” recalls Andreas. “He agreed and gave me a go. I was thrilled. HUBRO is the first label I have run that isn´t financed by own savings, and I love it. It is a great privilege to get the chance to release the music I like and at the same time not having to worry too much about the economic risk.”
Which, of course, raises the question of why start a label, post-2008, post recession? For Andreas, it’s obviously not solely about – and has not been – the economics “It´s rewarding in many ways to run a small label,” he says. “ Getting to work with musicians I admire on making releases that make both them and me proud. Trying to get people to listen to the music.”
Norway though doesn’t have a massive population, but it does have a lot of labels and, a lot of music and a lot of musicians. Which must create rivalry between labels?
“I guess in some cases is a competition between labels to put out some releases,” says Andreas. “But in the end, the artists themselves decide who they want to collaborate and work with. In the field of marginal music it is seldom or never a question of money or that the highest bidder wins, or even someone placing a bid. It is more about mutual trust and confidence.”
The future? Andreas says his goal is to “keep releasing interesting stuff and keep on moving forward. Running a label like HUBRO is not a good business idea I guess, but it feels important and it is definitely is a lot of fun.”
A new album from Splashgirl is just around the corner.
Also only on Kieron Tyler worlds of music:
- Fonal Records / Shogun Kunitoki
- Helmi Levyt - Finland’s Voice Of Love And Madness
- Imandra Lake: Seesamseesam
- Joensuu 1685 and Brad Laner on Splendour Records
- Mari Kalkun
- Röövel Ööbik: Young Godz Have Fun
- Seksound – Estonia’s Enigmatic Label And Tartu Popi Ja Roki Instituut
- Susanne Sundfør: A Night At Salle Pleyel
- Susanne Sundfør: Spot Festival 2010 And The Brothel
- Susanne Sundfør: The Silicone Veil