I’m reviewing these two Norwegian releases together because the trio that calls itself Moskus – pianist Anja Lauvdal, bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson and drummer Hans Hulbækmo – is also part of the 12-strong Skadedyr. Other members of Skadedyr come from the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra or play with Susanna and in other bands.
Ulv Ulv continues Moskus’ innovative approach to the piano trio and expands the sound palette further with Lauvdal playing harmonium and synthesizer, and Hulbækmo adding various instruments including saw and Jew’s harp. Special guest Nils Økland adds his Hardanger fiddle to a couple of tracks. It’s an album of the unexpected, containing both a lot of space and a bit of sometimes unrelenting clamour. A tour of Japan shortly before this recording was made has clearly influenced the often delicate and subtle constructions, and maybe even the intense, dark, sustained noise pieces as well.
The opener, Medstrøms, is a fine example of the quieter side of Moskus, Noe Med Utopia, Klondike shows an underlying funkiness, the winningly titled We Will Always Love You Too, Whitney Houston has shades of folk harmonica and a snatch of Hey Jude’s melody in it, and Borre Borre Gulleple, Slå Vekk builds the tension over nearly ten minutes into something like an audio horror movie.
If Moskus is an intriguing but sometimes unsettling listen, Skadedyr’s Culturen is, for me, a unadulterated pleasure from beginning to end. All that creativity on the trio disc is translated into the 12-piece democratic/anarchist collective but there is a more consistent funkiness to the music and a lot of low brass fun at its heart which makes it more accessible.
Datavirus opens the album, the second from this band, with a trombone solo underpinned by a repeating piano figure and then it suddenly changes to a country-folk guitar pattern with brass accompaniment and some Zappa-ish dead-pan humour before a fiddle tune weaves its way forward. By the time the nine-minute piece comes to an end we’re having a gentle sing-along and a knees-up.
Bie is a slow builder with a catchy repeating, sunshiney hook holding it all together before it also makes a sudden swerve into darker territory, returning to a conclusion which melds the sun and darkness. Trålertrall is an atmospheric piece with what could be static or the breath through saxophones extended to a drone with snatches of melody from instruments and voices emerging and receding from time to time. It then opens out into held horn chords against a drum and electronics groove.
The album closes with the gorgeous title track, a poem spoken and then sung in, I assume, Norwegian, and with another hugely catchy groove beneath it, including some of the lushest tuba basslines I’ve ever heard, underpinning intersecting guitar, piano, accordion and brass motifs.
Skadedyr continue the sense of fun shown by bands like the Mothers of Invention, Loose Tubes and Jaga Jazzist and do it in a way all their own. Lovely stuff!
Categories: CD review