Label Love: Smalltown Supersound
The Oslo-based Smalltown Supersound label has been at the vanguard of cutting-edge Norwegian music (among other things) since the mid '90s, when DJ/entrepreneur/music maniac Joakim Haugland (pictured) began releasing records by electro-acoustic experimentalists. From the beginning, Haugland's aesthetic focused on the intersection of electronic, avant-garde and jazz flavors, but as the label evolved, its focus expanded to encompass everything from dance music to quirky pop.
The Smalltown Supersound journey really started going into overdrive in the early-to-mid 2000s, when electro-jazz artists like Martin Horntveth and Jaga Jazzist began to make their presence known on the label. Of course, Haugland would leap headlong into the jazzier side of his interests by starting the sub-label Smalltown Superjazzz (the extra "z" is intentional). But in recent years, he has also embarked on a partnership with cosmic-disco hero Lindstrøm in the Strømland label to release records by the likes of eccentric art-popper Dominique Leone and composer/multi-instrumentalist Alf Emil Eik.
Speaking of Lindstrøm, Smalltown Supersound became the space-disco sovereign's home around the same time he and Haugland started Strømland. Lindstrøm releases like his project with vocalist Christabelle, Real Life Is No Cool, and the eclectic 2012 album Six Cups of Rebel have been among Supersound's more high-profile releases. "Eclectic" has remained a watchword for the label, with recent recordings by Neneh Cherry & The Thing, American electro-funk oufit Tussle, and electronic auteur Bjørn Torske. Lindstrøm aside, Supersound has probably earned the most mainstream attention for unleashing Don't Stop, the most recent album by Norway's own international electro-pop sensation, Annie.
Haugland is the sort who's bound to zig whenever the world is expecting him to zag, and vice versa, so it's almost impossible to say exactly where his label might be headed in the coming years. But no matter what stylistic waters Smalltown Supersound dives into, the one thing you can always count on is the fact that the label's roster will remain rich with artists challenging themselves and pushing at the boundaries that threaten to pigeonhole music into easily definable little boxes. Supersound, sure, but there's very little about the label that anyone could ever truly characterize as "smalltown."