Ten Years In, Hubro Imprint Still Issuing Expansive Sounds

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Nils Økland, who performs in Lumen Drones, has released a handful of recordings in various settings through Hubro, a label based in Oslo, Norway.

(Photo: Malene Kristopine Økland)

Andreas Risanger Meland chose to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his label, Hubro, with a touring European showcase of three acts that work with the Norwegian imprint.

“I decided to focus on cakes,” he joked about the treat he shared with attendees at the end of each concert. But ultimately, it was the creatively programmed bill that most effectively celebrated his accomplishments. The Erlend Apneseth Trio reinterpreted the traditional sounds of Norway, Building Instrument set fragile pop within a richly detailed bricolage of percussion and electronics, and Bushman’s Revenge played post-bop guitar music informed by prog rock.

Prior to launching Hubro, Meland worked for labels like ECM and Rune Grammofon, and approached his boss at Grappa, a folk and pop label that serves as Hubro’s distributor, about starting a jazz imprint. “I think I misled him,” Meland said. “In fact, I started misleading him with the first releases. It has never been a pure jazz label. It quickly grew in a way mirroring my interests, but also mirroring the scene in Norway.”

Meland, who recently was appointed director of Sildajazz International Jazz Festival in Haugesund, did eventually launch a jazz-only label, running a revived incarnation of the Odin imprint. And while Hubro itself has released plenty of superb jazz from Norway—including work from bassist Mats Eilertsen’s roomy trio—it’s cast a much broader net, embracing contemporary classical, post-rock, art-pop and ambient music.

“There is a personal side to the label, and I feel a big responsibility to all of the artists I work with. But I also know that Hubro is not a big company and it’s also a very demanding situation,” Meland said. “I don’t see it as an industry anymore—it’s more like a being a missionary for good music.”

That attitude and the label’s nimbleness in eschewing the market-driven directives of bigger labels have earned respect from musicians.

Hardanger fiddler Nils Økland—whose previously released albums on ECM—has found a home at Hubro, which has issued multiple records from several of his projects, including the moody electric trio Lumen Drones and his own expansive Nils Økland Band. That he and Meland both live in Haugesund only sweetens the deal. “His office is a five-minute walk from my home, so very nice to have a chat about music or a cup of coffee at my favorite café,” he said. “I think his energy and dedicated work with the music Hubro publishes, and the way he communicates with us artists, is special and gives a feeling that what you do is important.” —Peter Margasak




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April 2020
Gregory Porter
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