Friday, 5:11pm
15 May 2009

Kim Hiorthøy strikes again

Cult Norwegian music label produces graphic design monograph (with CDs)

Is the new artefact from Norwegian record label Rune Grammofon a double CD with extended artwork, asks John L. Walters, or a graphic design monograph with a side order of music?

I wrote about it for my regular ‘Jazz, World, etc.’ music review in Friday Film & Music section of The Guardian, but the second paragraph mysteriously ‘dropped off’ (as people used to say in the days of paste-up). Here’s my review in full (with a small addition):

Various artists: Money Will Ruin Everything 2
**** (four stars)
(Rune Grammofon 2CD book)

Rune Kristofferson’s Rune Grammofon label has defied the music industry’s decline – with thoroughly Norwegian panache – for more than ten years. This compilation / book features a host of tracks by RG regulars: beguiling songs (Susanna, Jessica); tasty instrumentals (Humcrush, Huntsville); contemporary composition (Morten J. Olsen); improv and nu-jazz (Arve Henriksen, In The Country, Food); eccentric oddities such as Jono El Grande; hairy guitar rock (Shining, Box).

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The book comes wrapped in a folded ‘poster’ that grips its two CDs front and back in a papoose-like bundle. Inside, printed on four different paper stocks, are essays (by Adrian Shaughnessy and others), artwork and photos, plus two dialogues between designer Kim Hiorthøy and Kristoffersen that touch on the former’s branding genius and the latter’s struggle to keep the label going. Not to mention his distaste for crappy-sounding downloads and file-sharing sites: ‘It’s comparable with walking into a record shop and stealing a record,’ he says, talking about sites such as The Pirate Bay.

The book’s mood, however, is mainly one of stylish optimism, expressed by its subtitle: ‘But the music goes on forever.’

The Guardian, Friday 24 April 2009

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In a recent email exchange, I asked Kim whether he had designed many other books. He replied with the observation that books are difficult to make. ‘They’re like making films,’ he said. ‘They take up everything, in the middle of it you have no idea how you'll ever be able to finish, and when it’s finally done you (or at least I) spend weeks agonising over things which should have been different.’ I replied that that’s why I like doing magazines – less time to agonise. (Though see the latest ‘Letter to the editor’).

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See ‘Reason and rhymes’, John’s article about music design, including a section about Kim Hiorthøy and Rune Grammofon, in Eye 63.

Other recent JLW Guardian reviews: Jon Hassell; Brad Mehldau; Madeleine Peyroux; Renaud Gabriel Pion.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.

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