The roots of pioneering jazz trio Moskus, can be traced to the prestigious Trondheim Conservatory of Music. That’s where bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson first met drummer Hans Hulbækmo and pianist Anja Lauvdal. Little did they realise at that first meeting, that they would go on to form one of the most innovative groups of their generation…Moskus.
Moskus were formed at Trondheim Conservatory of Music, and released their critically acclaimed debut album Salmesykke in 2012. Salmesykke was nominated for two Spellemannspriser awards, which are the Norwegian equivalent of Grammy Awards. Suddenly, people were taking notice of this new, up-and-coming band.
Two years later, in 2014, Moskus returned with their sophomore album Mestertyven. Just like their debut album, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Mestertyven. It was hailed as an innovative and groundbreaking album from a group who were no longer an up-and-coming band. Instead, Moskus who had spent time touring North America and Europe, had arrived.
Since 2014, the Moskus story has continued apace. They continue with their hectic touring schedule, which included a tour of Japan. On their return, Moskus began work on their eagerly awaited third album Ulv Ulv. It will be released by Hubro Music on 27th May 2016, and is the next chapter in a story that began in 2012.
It was back in 2012 that pioneering jazz trio, Moskus, released their debut album, Salmesykkel on Hubro Music. It was released to widespread critical acclaim, and hailed as a groundbreaking debut. And so it proved to be.
When the shortlist for the Norwegian music Spellemannspris were announced in 2013, Moskus had been nominated twice for the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Moskus were nominated in two categories, 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, Moskus headed much further afield.
By 2014, much of Europe had 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.
No longer were Morkus just a Norwegian musical phenomenon. No. They were perceived as as one of the most exciting and pioneering jazz groups. This was the perfect time for to Morkus release their sophomore album Mestertyven. So in May 2014, Mestertyven was released by Hubro Music. Mestertyven marks a change in approach and direction from Morkus.
For their debut album Salmesykke, Morkus had 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 a grand piano. Morkus used this on their debut album Salmesykkel. Its unmistakable sound played an important part in the sound and success of Salmesykkel. However, their makeshift studio didn’t come complete with a grand piano. So, Moskus found themselves swapping a grand piano for an upright piano. This was all part of Morkus’ new sound which they showcase on Mestertyven.
Whereas the music on Morkus’ debut album Salmesykkel was well rehearsed, the music on Mestertyven was new and untried. Morkus hadn’t spent ages honing and tightening the tracks. This was deliberate.
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, Moskus’ much-anticipated sophomore album.
When Mestertyven was released, it was to the same critical acclaim as their debut album. Critics used words like unique, melodic, playful and intimate. However, Mestertyven was also dramatic, ethereal, wistful and innovative. Mestertyven featured a group who were determined to continually reinvent their music, and push musical boundaries. They continue to do so, on their third album Ulv Ulv.
Since the release of Mestertyven, Moskus have continued their hectic touring schedule. Previously, they had played across North America and Europe. Then in late 2014, Moskus got the opportunity to tour Japan. The only problem was, on their return, Moskus would begin work on their third album Ulv Ulv.
Despite this, Moskus headed to Japan in late 2014. During their Japanese tour, Moskus enjoyed the opportunity to and improvise and play with an inventiveness and freedom. Japanese audiences were able to experience Moskus at their innovative best. Once the tour was over, Moskus returned home and began work on Ulv Ulv.
For their third album Ulv Ulv, Moskus had written eight new tracks. They would also write Den Store Skjønnheten and Borre Borre Gulleple, Slå Vekk with fiddler Nils Økland. He joined Moskus at the Haugesund Billedgalleri. This to outsiders seemed a strange place to record an album. However, Moskus had played a concert at Haugesund Billedgalleri, and liked the acoustics. An aded bonus was the Haugesund Billedgalleri boasted a vintage Steinway. For Moskus pianist Anja Lauvdal this was an added bonus.
So between the 2nd and 4th of January 2015, the Haugesund Billedgalleri, in Haugesund was converted into a makeshift studio. Bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson was joined by drummer Hans Hulbækmo who also played Jews Harp, percussion, saw and various wind instruments. Pianist Anja Lauvdal switched between the piano, a harmonium and synths. Guest artist Nils Økland played a Hardanger Fiddle. Audun Strype recorded the Ulv Ulv sessions, while Moskus and Andreas Risanger Meland co-produced the album. After three days, Ulv Ulv was completed on 4th January 2015. This left Ulv Ulv to be mixed and mastered.
Audun Strype, who had recorded Ulv Ulv was asked to mix and master the album. This took place at his Strype Audio, in the autumn 2015. Once this was complete, Moskus’ thoughts turned to the release of their third album, Ulv Ulv.
Just over six months later, and Moskus’ much anticipated third album Ulv Ulv will be released by Hubro Music on 27th May 2016. Ulv Ulv features jazz pioneers at their innovative best, as they play with a freedom, inventiveness and intuitiveness that most groups can only dream of.
Opening Ulv Ulv is Medstrøms (Countercurrent), where urgent percussive beeps, punctuate the arrangement. It’s as if they’re tapping out a code or sending out a warning signal. Meanwhile just a thoughtful piano plays, while an occasional drum adds an element of drama. Mostly, it’s the piano that takes centre-stage, meandering wistfully and thoughtfully along. Sometimes, a note is highlighted, or chord repeated. By then, an acoustic bass is plucked gently, and sits behind the piano. Then when the piano drops out, washes of quivering, jagged and droning synths make their presence felt. They’re soon joined by the piano, as a clock chimes and cooing, quivering sounds join bursts of drums. They’re like a countercurrent, flowing in opposite directions, but ultimately play their part in a captivating and innovative soundscape that invites the listener’s imagination to run riot.
Angelfossen is just a short soundscape, lasting less than two minutes. However, it leaves a lasting impression. That’s the case from the moment the wheezing harmonium awakes from it slumbers. It slowly stretches, whines and wheezes, and in the process, creates a melodic, melancholy and sometimes mournful backdrop. It washes over the listener, allowing them to ruminate and bathe in its inherent beauty.
Noe Med Utopia, Klondike (Something With Utopia, Klondike) is a much more uptempo track, with an almost jaunty arrangement. Jangling percussion joins the carefully plucked bass and deliberate stabs of piano. Soon, Anna pounds the piano, playing with passion and power. Other times, her playing is restrained, while the bass plays a more prominent role. Still, the percussion jingles and jangles. Later, Anna’s piano powers its way through the arrangement, as she plays with freedom and spontaneity. So much so, that she’s allowed to take centre-stage. Only the pitter patter of a drum can be heard, before the arrangement builds and the percussion reenters. At one point, Anna stabs at notes, while there’s an urgency in the rest of Moskus’ playing. It’s as if they’re in search of a musical Utopia, that has the same riches as Klondike. This pursuit of perfection and riches takes its toll, and after the song reaches a crescendo meanders wistfully and beautifully like a tributary of the Yukon River.
Den Store Skjønnheten (The Great Beauty) is the first of two tracks to feature Norwegian fiddler Nils Økland. Drums play slowly and occasionally, while Anna’s elegiac piano plays a leading role. So does Nils’ melancholy fiddle as this slow, meandering and wistful track unfolds. Soon, Nils and Hans’ percussion improvise. The scratchy fiddle joins percussion and crashing cymbals. They provide a counterpoint to the melancholy beauty of the Anna’s piano. By then, Fredrik’s bass has made an appearance, and accompanies the piano, which plays slowly and gently. Later, just the fiddle accompanies the elegiac piano on a track that’s ethereal, wistful and deserves to be called The Great Beauty.
Moskus improvise as Chimes/Gullregn unfolds. Cymbals ring out, while a piano is played deliberately and percussion jingles and jangles. A wind instrument soars above the arrangement, and the bass is plucked carefully. By then, Moskus are playing with freedom and feeding off each other. There’s an intuitiveness to their playing. This is a result of years playing together. As the wind instrument is blown with power, the bass is plucked deliberately and Anna picks out chords on the Steinway piano. Together, Moskus are akin to an alternative orchestra, who are channeling the spirit of Sun Ra. Instruments flit in and out. Some only make a fleeting appearance, while others play starring roles as Moskus play with unbridled freedom and spontaneity.
From the opening bars of Kullgraver, Moskus are improvising, and pushing musical boundaries. They fuse elements of avant-garde, free jazz, industrial and improv. This comes courtesy of a detuned bass, crashes of percussion and stabs of piano. The crashing percussion and pounding piano adds a mesmeric, industrial sound to the track. It’s if Moskus are replicating the sound of someone labouring over an anvil. By then, the music veers between challenging and discordant, hypnotic, melodic and captivating. Moskus continue to play with a freedom, and create a multilayered, cinematic track.
We Will Always Love You Too, Whitney Houston isn’t an overblown power ballad. No chance. It’s something much better, and more innovative. Just slow, solemn drums combine with a harmonica and bass. They’re joined by Anna’s piano. Her fingers flit up and down the keyboard, before she pounds the piano. Still the harmonica wheezes and joins the bass and drums, as they play a lament. It’s not a lament for forgotten power ballads. Instead, it’s the antidote, which should be taken regularly.
Gramjeger is a musical amuse bouche, that shows another side to Moskus. It lasts just forty-one seconds, where synths produce a chattering, futuristic and cinematic sound. Maybe in the future, Moskus will produce an album of similar tracks?
Borre Borre Gulleple, Slå Vekk is a ten minute epic, and features the return of Nils Økland. There’s a degree of urgency as Fredrik plucks the bass. He constantly plays the same note, and adds drama as Hans switches between percussion and drums. A wailing, squealing, screeching fiddle adds an atmospheric and haunting hue. It’s like a scene from Macbeth as an otherworldly soundscape takes shape. Drums, percussion and piano combine with the wind instrument and fiddle. Later, the fiddle drum and percussion play leading roles, as drama and urgency combine on the epic, otherworldly soundscape.
Ei Signekjerring closes Ulv Ulv. It’s another track with a futuristic sound. Synths crackle, creak, beep and squeak. In the midst of this vortex, a melodic soundscape makes its presence felt. So do ghostly, haunting and ethereal sounds. They seem to be channeled through Moskus, from some distant galaxy. This brings Ulv Ulv to an innovative close.
Moskus’ long-awaited and much-anticipated third album Ulv Ulv, will be released by Hubro Music on 27th May 2016. It’s an album that has been well worth the two year wait. Ulv Ulv is a career defining album, where Moskus reach new heights. They play with a freedom, intuitiveness and spontaneity that most groups can only dream of. The result is music that’s inventive, innovative, ambitious, bold and challenging. This is what we’ve come to expect from Moskus.
Just like on their two previous albums, Moskus create music that continue to challenges musical norms on Ulv Ulv. Moskus continue to push musical boundaries to there limits, and beyond on Ulv Ulv. To do this, they combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, improv and industrial. There’s also the influence of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra on Ulv Ulv. The result is an album that’s variously atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic, dark, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, otherworldly and ruminative. The result was Ulv Ulv the finest of Moskus’ career.
Incredibly, it took Moskus just three days to record Ulv Ulv. They eschewed a traditional recording studio, and recorded Ulv Ulv at the Haugesund Billedgalleri. With just three days to record Ulv Ulv, Moskus worked quickly and efficiently, and recorded what is a captivating and career defining album. Ulv Ulv finds Moskus one step closer to the musical Utopia that bands spent their career in search of.