Label of the month (#3): Sofa / April 2017

Due to travels with bad internet connections and illness, Aprils label of the month is long overdue, we apologize for the inconvenience!

13.04 / 2017

Established in 2000 and based in Oslo, Sofa is one of Norway’s longest running and most credible labels for improvised and experimental music. With a long rooster including several of the most known names on the international improvisation circuit SOFA is still one of the most important outlets for improvised and experimental music in Europe. SOFA is currently run by musicians Martin Taxt, Kim Myhr and Ingar Zach. We had a little chat with Kim Myhr about the situation today.

1.SOFA is now run by musicians Martin Taxt, Kim Myhr and Ingar Zach and it seems to have a different focus now than 15 years ago, how has the label changed since its start-up in 2000?

SOFA has definitely changed in 15 years. I’d say we are less concerned about «improvisation» now, at least as an end in itself. And that we instead are more interested in embracing the diversity of the experimental music field, be it composed or improvised, electronic or acoustic. That said, I think perhaps our main interest lies in the music that exists in between all of these established fields.  We focus quite a lot on long-term projects: following a band or artist who evolve and form a specific music over time, and documenting their processes.

2. Can you try and select four albums that embodies the essence of Sofa and say a few words about the albums?

SOFA wouldn’t be the same without its household artists, several of whom have released all of their records on SOFA. Take Streifenjunko for instance, the brilliant duo of Eivind Lønning (trumpet) and Espen Reinertsen (saxophone). They released their first album «No longer burning» with us in 2009, and the quite different and focused follow-up «Sval torv» in 2012. Now five years have passed and they are currently recording their third album, which features a new and electroacoustic version of the duo. I’ve heard the new material live a few times, and I’m really excited about putting it out in early 2018. Another group in our catalogue, and important figures in the Norwegian experimental scene, is the duo of Ole-Henrik Moe and Kari Rønnekleiv: Sheriffs of Nothingness. They have released three outstanding releases on SOFA. Microtub, the microtonal tuba trio of Robin Hayward, Martin Taxt and Peder Simonsen, just released also their third record on SOFA. MURAL, a trio with Australian Jim Denley with myself and Ingar Zach have worked with since 2007, and released two releases on SOFA.  I think with all these bands, you see a collective way of working towards a specific music. The music is in most cases not composed in a strict sense, but through improvisation and playing together, all these bands have arrived at musical decisions that make the music what it is. All these bands work very differently, and the music end up sounding very diverse as well. We just signed the string duo Vilde&Inga, who are releasing their first record on SOFA this may (their debut was released on ECM a few years ago). They are definitely working in a similar way to Streifenjunko, Sheriffs of Nothingness and MURAL. Collective music making, where improvisation and collective composition is intertwined.

3. Can you say a few words about the forthcoming releases this spring?

In April we have three really good solo releases coming up. Jim Denley, an Australian experimental music legend and one third of MURAL, is releasing his first ever solo record where he exclusively plays flute. And then there is Canadian sound artist Philippe Lauzier, who has made pieces for multitracked bass clarinet; really gorgeous music. Lately we have been wanting to expand our electronic music catalogue, and next month we are releasing the Spanish electronic composer Miguel Angel Tolosa’s new album Ephimeral. These three releases span three continents, and all sound very different. This diversity is for us very exciting, and something that we want SOFA’s catalog to reflect even more in the future.

4. I assume Sofa gets many requests from new artists wanting to release their music with you, how do you select who to go with?
The selection process is quite organic. Since we are three people involved in the label, different propositions from each one of us are considered. Then one or two of the ensembles we have worked with regularly want to release a new record. We usually have quite a few releases planned for the next 1-2 years, so proposals that pop up in our mailbox by chance, rarely end up being released.

5. Sofa has a small but dedicated group of followers scattered around the world, how do you see the possibilities for increasing the reach and impact of the label? Can advertisement and marketing have an effect for this particular kind of music?

Right now we just did a total renovation of our website, with finally a fully functional webshop. That was way overdue, but we’re happy that it’s now a little bit easier to navigate around our catalog. Apart from that I think that just keeping on releasing good music is the key, and anyway the reason why we are doing this in the first place.