Music CD/Book Review: Various Performers Money Will Ruin Everything Second Edition
Almost every week without fail you can read somewhere about how the end of the CD is nigh. Digital downloads of Mp3s are no longer the way of the future, they are now. All those big cumbersome CD players are being replaced by teeny little I-pod clones that can hold hundreds if not thousands more songs than one 700mb CD ever could. At one time the downloading of music from the Internet was the province of hackers and considered an illegal activity. Now every major record company has got in on the act and new releases are routinely available to download from I-Tunes long before they come available in hard copy.
Of course this saves them tons of money, as there's no longer the need to create physical packaging. If an item is being downloaded what purpose is served by spending a small bundle on cover art or liner notes - simply post the stuff to a web page once and be done with it. Well maybe I'm old fashioned, but one of the things that I still miss most about LPs (Long Playing records for those folk under thirty who don't remember what came before CDs) is the great album art. CDs are such dinky little things that what you get is a postage stamp compared to the huge expanse of colour that covered LPs. Yet at least with the CDs you get something you can hold on to while listening to your music - some tangible proof that somebody, somewhere, went to some effort to produce something.
It turns out that I'm not as alone or weird as I thought I was in those thoughts as the independent Norwegian label Rune Grammofon is proving with the release of Money Will Ruin Everything: The Second Edition on February 3/09. Gathered together on two CDs, a poster, and an accompanying book, they are releasing their second package celebrating the various performers signed to their label. The two CDs contain samples from the various groups and individuals they've recorded and the book is chock full of interviews, articles, photos, album art, and other mementoes related to the past five years of their recording history.
To be honest I'd never heard of the label until I received the press release from their North American distributor, Forced Exposure, and had no idea what kind of music they produced. What attracted me was the fact that this little label had the balls to produce this type of package when nearly everyone else is going in the opposite direction as quickly as possible. I had to know more about this label produce that they would go to this much effort to celebrate their performers and who are the people responsible for making it happen.
According to an interview that's published in the book with label owner Rune Kristofferson it sounds like its pretty much a one man show with Rune doing all the work himself. Although it means he's unable to sign or record all the bands he wants to, it's a very deliberate effort on his part to keep the label small and not become another big corporation where money is the bottom line. I think that the sub-title of the collection, But The Music Goes On Forever tells you all you need to know about what motivates Rune and his efforts.
When I requested a copy of Money Will Ruin Everything I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it might be a collection of experimental and electronic music that verged on the edge of dissonance. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that although some of the music fell into that category, there was also a great deal of diversity to be found among the groups and individuals signed to the label. From the ethereal sounds of Susanna And The Magical Orchestra's version of Henry Purcell's "When I Am Laid" to Shining's cover of the old King Crimson cut "21st Century Schizoid Man" there's something here for every ear to listen to and be amazed by.
The overall impression you get from listening to the two disc set is that Rune Grammofon is a label where it's the quality of the music that matters, not the kind of music being played. Considering it's only one person making the decisions behind what gets recorded each year you'd expect some sort of pattern to develop that would give you an indication of his personal preferences when it comes to music. Instead what you get is a wider range of music than anything you'd find on any label with multiple producers and talent scouts.
As for what attracted me to request a copy of this collection in the first place, the packaging, that doesn't disappoint either. The book is an amazing collection of images from the last five years of Rune Grammofon's existence including everything from examples of some of the most interesting cover art you've seen together in one place, images of Oslo Norway where most of the recordings have happened, and photos of most of the folk who appear on the compilation. The articles that have been written for the package reflect how so many different people mourn the passing of cover art, and respect and admire the work that Rune Kristofferson is doing with his little label.
There's also a wonderfully chaotic atmosphere to the layout that captures the free spirit of the label. Absolutely nothing about anything you see, or hear, in Money Will Ruin Everything says "corporate", which to my mind is a good thing when it comes to music, especially popular music.
In this day and age when less is increasingly becoming the adage of all music production companies and album art is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, it's taken a small independent label from Norway, Rune Grammafon, to remind us what a joy it is to have something tangible to go with the music you love. Money Will Ruin Everything The Second Edition proves that not only does music not have to all sound the same, but you can still make the experience of purchasing it a pleasure for more than just one of your senses.