Odin was the name of an independent record label in Norway. It was founded in 1981 by the Norwegian Jazz Federation and existed until 1995. The company was founded at a time when there were hardly any independent record labels in Norway and the larger companies were only interested in contemporary jazz projects to a limited extent.
Some protagonists of the current Norwegian jazz had just found a home with the Munich label ECM. But Odin wanted to depict and support all Norwegian jazz – not just the younger ones, not just the traditional, not just the electric ones.
Odin had a considerable reputation in Scandinavia within a short time, but not internationally. At Odin, both productions of representatives of the slightly older Jazzmusik generation of the country such as Thorgeir Stubø, Knut Riisnæs or Karin Krog took their place, but soon also by younger musicians and groups such as the quartet Masqualero, like Jon Balke or Trygve Seim. Some artists took out their first productions at Odin and then switched to ECM. Odin was the label for the jazz of Norway, at least until 1995. Then Curling Legs took over the catalog. Meanwhile, there were several independent and relatively successful labels in Norway, which were also marketed internationally. They agreed with each other and focused on specific playing styles and bands. Continuing the project of Odin was no longer necessary around the middle of the nineties.
In the meantime more than two decades have gone into the country, the situation in the record market has changed dramatically. The market for physical CDs in Norway has shrunk dramatically, says Andreas Risanger Meland. He works for the independent record company Grappa, which includes several sub-labels and under whose roof Odin will now make a new start. “You have been lucky in Germany,” he says. “In Norway, there is a wide-ranging rapid Internet, and the music market is a lot of streaming.” He estimates that hardly more than ten percent of the music market is based on old distribution channels and product formats. And the good old long-playing record now plays a very important role again. CDs are now mostly sold after concerts. And the old records? Just one example: In Haugesund, where Risanger Meland lives, there have been three record stores in the 90s. Today there is still one thing left, which accounts for a large part of its sales with used CDs and LPs. The people, says Andreas Risanger Meland, are simply no longer used to buying CDs in a store. “And if I go to IKEA today and want to buy a CD shelf, the piece of furniture is no longer a CD shelf, but media shelf,” he says. There are still about 40 record stores in Norway.
In this situation the old label Odin is to be awakened from its almost a quarter-century winter sleep and led to a new flowering? But clearly, he says. He sees two odin2
Atomic © Fredrik Ljungkvist
Reasons. Firstly, the enormous backlist of CDs and records accumulated in the great times. The archives are well maintained, the good quality material, the musicians are still prominent. The reactivation of the backlist would be an important concern after all these years. Odin will handle everything carefully and bring many parallels on CDs and LPs. Under the first re-release swing are recordings with Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, Trygve Seim, Christian Wallumrød, Radka Toneff and Masqualero. The singer Karin Krog, one of the legends of the Norwegian scene, once founded the label Meantime Records for the release of her own music. Together with Meantime, Odin has produced a box with six CDs for Karin Krog’s 80th birthday, which provides a retrospective and a current view of her artistic profile and her great career: The Many Faces of Karin Krog 1967 – 2017.
A record label, however, and here Andreas Risanger Meland sees the second important reason for the revival, can not only feed on the past, it must also turn to the current music. Odin opens this strand of his future activities with the publication of a new production of the Norwegian-Swedish Quintet Atomic. Six Easy Pieces appears in parallel in a CD and LP edition. The first edition contains a live recording of the band from Tokyo in February 2016.
It is important to look for new ones on the basis of the old treasures. Then Odin, convinced of it by Andreas Risanger Meland, has good chances in Norway and internationally.