It was back in 2012 that pioneering jazz trio, Moskus, released their critically acclaimed debut album, Salmesykkel. A lot has happened since then. In 2013, Moskus were nominated for two Spellemannspris. They’re the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy. Moskus were nominated for the highly prized best jazz album and best new act. For the three members of Moskus, this was the perfect start to their recording career. Since then, Moskus have been winning friends and influencing people throughout Europe and North America.
Just like several generations of bands, Moskus embarked on a gruelling touring schedule. At first, the three members of Moskus were touring Norway. They played at both clubs and some of the Norway’s biggest festivals. After that, the three members of Moskus pianist Anja Lauvdal, double bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson and drummer Hans Hulbækmo have been playing much further afield.
Over the last couple of years, much of Europe has been introduced to Moskus’ unique and groundbreaking brand of Nordic jazz. Everywhere from England, Germany, Poland and Portugal, have been won over by Morkus’ music. Audiences realised that Morkus are the future of jazz. Having conquered Europe with their music, Morkus headed to North America. Canada was just the latest country to embrace Morkus’ music. Morkus gruelling touring scheduled had paid off.
Morkus’ profile is at its highest. No longer are Morkus just a Norwegian musical phenomenon. No. Now, Morkus are perceived as as one of the most exciting and pioneering jazz groups. This makes this the perfect time for Morkus release their sophomore album Mestertyven, which will be released by Hubro Music on 19th May 2014. Mestertyven marks a change in approach and direction from Morkus.
For their debut album Spellemannspris, Morkus recorded the album at Stockholm’s famous Atlantis Grammofon Studio. When the time came to record their sophomore album, Moskus decided to try a new approach to recording. Gone was the venerable surroundings of Atlantis Grammofon Studio. Its replacements was the Risør Church. It became a de facto recording studio, albeit one that didn’t have the same standard of equipment.
One of the most important pieces of equipment Atlantis Grammofon Studio has is grand piano. Morkus used this on their debut album Spellemannspris. Its unmistakable sound played an important part in Spellemannspris’ sound. For Mestertyven, Morkus exchanged the grand piano for an upright piano. The upright piano gave the piano a more intimate sound. This was all part of Morkus’ new sound which they showcase on Mestertyven.
Whereas the music on Spellemannspris, Morkus’ debut album were well rehearsed, the music that features on Mestertyven is new and untried. Morkus hadn’t spent ages honing and tightening the tracks. This was deliberate.
Recording of Mestertyven took place in the makeshift studios at Risør Church. The eleven songs were written by Moskus. Anja Lauvdal played piano, Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson double bassist and Hans Hulbækmo drums. Rather than bring in a producer, Moskus produced Mestertyven. Their approach to the sessions were simplicity itself.
As the sessions began, Moskus pressed record. Every single idea was recorded. This made sense. There was no chance that a moment of genius would be missed. Songs were recorded from their genesis to fruition. Songs evolved on the tapes. Eventually, Moskus were left with a pile of tapes. What they had to do was then sift through the tapes. Gradually, eleven songs took shape. Some ideas and experiments were kept, others discarded. The result was Mestertyven, an album that’s described as variously unique, melodic, playful and intimate. Is that the case? That’s what I’ll tell you.
Fjesing opens Mestertyven, which means master thief. Straight away, you notice the difference between the upright and grand piano. The richer sound of the grand piano is replaced by the more everyday sound of Anja’s upright piano. This a sound more people can relate to. Its jaunty, sometimes melodic sound is a mixture of jazz and free jazz. Hans drums and percussion are played in an inventive and ambitious free jazz style. He’s pushing boundaries. Meanwhile, the bass propels the arrangement along. It has a much more orthodox style, while the rest of Moskus continue to push musical boundaries to their limit.
Tandem med Sankt Peter has an almost dramatic, cinematic style. The piano is at the heart of the arrangement’s sound and success. It wanders and meanders along. Anja has found a groove and is exploring its every nuance. Moskus rhythm section are content to provide the backdrop for Anja’s piano. It plays a starring role. The result is one of the most melodic tracks on Mestertyven.
Wistful and innovative describes Yttersvingen. Here, jazz is combined with avant garde and experimental music. It’s a compelling combination. Anja’s piano wanders wistfully along, the bass in its shadow. They supply the jazz. Hans’ percussion adds an industrial sound. It’s ying to Anja’s yang, as avant garde meets experimental. Later, his pounding drums protest, bringing to an end an ambitious and enthralling fusion of musical genres and influences.
Just an understated piano is joined by pounding drums as Jag är ett ägg reveals its secrets. A scratchy fiddle adds another musical contrast. When all this combined the result is ethereal, haunting, moody and melancholy.
Rullings sees Moskus unleash their combined talents. Anja pounds her piano while the rhythm section lock horns. They propel the arrangement along. It’s an impressive sound. Then all of a sudden, the arrangement runs out of steam. Having gathered their thoughts, they do it all again. They veer between dark, dramatic, lively and playful, as Afro-Cuban, jazz and free jazz is combined by Moskus.
Flourishes of Anja’s piano open Lille Trille. They cascade across the arrangement. The rest of Moskus sit this track out. Anja gets the opportunity to deliver a lengthy solo. Quite simply, it’s spellbinding. This a reminder of how effective and underrated an instrument the piano is. It’s at the heart of a track that’s pensive, wistful, emotive and beautiful.
Percussion dominates Fuglene var I Ertehumør’s shuffling arrangement. Sharp stabs of piano and bass add to this hypnotic, experimental arrangement. It’s as if Moskus are jamming. They feed off each other, drawing inspiration from each other’s performances. From dark and dramatic, the music becomes playful and melodic and jaunty.
Understated and ethereal describes the introduction to Glasblåsern. Everyone plays gently. The bass flits across the arrangement. Plinking percussion and piano sit atop the arrangement. Gradually, the arrangement grows and unfolds. Anja deliberately pounds her piano, repeating the same note. At the same time, a brief ethereal vocal escapes from the arrangement. Sounds flit in and out the arrangement. Everything from ambient, avant garde, free jazz and jazz is combined seamlessly and peerlessly. Moskus do what they do best, innovate.
The bass that takes centre-stage as Leverpostei Med Mrie unfolds. Before long, the piano and drums join in. The piano picks up the baton and enjoys its moment in the sun. Moskus if you’ve not realised, comprise three hugely talented musicians. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Anja’s piano takes centre-stage as she delivers another show stealing performance.
Melancholy, moody and cinematic describes Tradisjonskvelern. It meanders along atmospherically. It’s a track that paints in your mind. Just the mesmeric piano, hissing hi-hats and subtle bass combine. At one point, the arrangement is stripped bare. Just hi-hats and the scratchy bass remain. It’s almost haunting. Then the rest of this wistful, cinematic opus returns. It’s without doubt, one of Mestertyven’s highlights.
Gammel-Erik closes Mestertyven. Dark, dramatic and thoughtful are the words that spring to mind when this track begins to reveal its secrets. The piano takes centre-stage, while feedback escapes from the arrangement. Even this is a welcome addition to what’s an evocative and haunting track.
Mestertyven has been well worth the two year wait. Two years have passed since Moskus released their debut album Salmesykkel. Since then, Moskus have been busy. Far from it.
In 2013, Moskus were nominated for two Spellemannspris,the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy. Moskus were nominated for the highly prized best jazz album and best new act. After that, Moskus headed out on a series of lengthy tours. Europe and North America were introduced to the magical and innovative sound of Moskus. Now they’re back with an album that’s a game-changer, Mestertyven.
Featuring eleven tracks, Mestertyven sees Moskus pickup where they left off on Salmesykkel. By that, I mean Moskus continue to create pioneering and ambitious music. There’s no chance that Moskus would stand still. That’s not what they’re about. Far from it. For Moskus, every album has to be a step forward. Mostkus’ raison d’être is to create music that’s innovative and challenges musical norms. To do this, Moskus draw inspiration from various sources.
This includes free jazz legends like Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. They also reference ambient pioneers like Brian Eno and Harold Budd. There’s even a nod to Irmin Schmidt of Can’s soundtracks. The more you listen to Mestertyven, the more influences you hear. Everything from Afro-Cuban, ambient, avant garde, experimental, free jazz and jazz can be heard on Mestertyven. This results in music that’s variously ambitious, beautiful, challenging, dark, dramatic, ethereal, eerie, evocative, haunting, hypnotic and mesmeric. Mestertyven is also music that’s groundbreaking.
Although many bands set out to create a groundbreaking album, not many succeed. Often, the problem is that bands aren’t ambitious or brave enough. Moskus are. What also helped is that Moskus had a vision. So, when Moskus entered the Risør Church, where they recorded Mestertyven, they knew how they wanted their sophomore album to sound.
At Risør Church, there was no searching for an elusive sound. Instead, they plugged in pressed play. Moskus embarked upon a lengthy and inventive jam session. Every single idea was recorded. This made sense. There was no chance that a moment of genius would be missed. Songs were recorded from their genesis to fruition. Songs evolved on the tapes. Others took shape later when Moskus edited the tapes. Gradually, the eleven songs on Mestertyven took shape. Eventually, Mestertyven, Moskus’ long-awaited sophomore album was finished. Mestertyven will be released by Hubro Music on 19th May 2014. It’s an album that’s been well worth the two year wait.
Why? Well. Mestertyven features music that’s pioneering, dramatic, melodic, ethereal, wistful and intimate. That’s the perfect description of Moskus’ sophomore album, Mestertyven, which marks the return of jazz pioneers this groundbreaking opus.