Lasse Marhaug, the Norwegian noise-extraordinaire, has been covered on this
blog numerous times before, usually through his collaborations with Paal
Nilsen-Love. MoE was more of a mystery to me. Also from Norway, MoE
Guro Sklumsness Moe on bass and sound processing, Håvard Skasett on
guitars, and Joakim Heibø Johansen on drums. The former two are core
members of the acoustic group Sult who collaborated with Marhaug on the
2017 Harpoon (FJB review
here). The latter, meanwhile, plays in the noise-rock band Ich Bin N!ntendo
here). Ok. So maybe MoE are not such unknowns, at least in terms of their
membership. The music they produce with Marhaug, however, is eminently
curious, dark, and antic.
begins with a single, heavy bass tone held for lengthy irregular intervals.
The resonance builds and bleeds into an underlying low drone. After six and
a half minutes of incremental development, Marhaug contributes a quavering
static first riding atop Moe’s plodding bass, then interweaving with
Skasett’s haunting guitar. At the fourteenth minute, the track begins to
come apart. The bass and guitar wend as they have before, but the
electronics become frenetic. As the strings and amps fade out, Marhaug
transforms his staticky squeaks and hisses into a deeper, Merzbow-esque
explosion of sound evocative of a flag fluttering in a gale, or the muted
and extended detonation of a bomb. This begins track two, which has a
similar flow of guitar feedback, churning bass, and electronic chaos. At
times, I hear dampened, groaning voices, distorted bowed cymbals, muffled
crashes, and, briefly around the eight-minute mark, a metronomic on the
hi-hat, but these are sometimes too processed and fleeting to properly
decipher. Such faint and feinted sounds only lend additional enigmatic
atmospherics to an already dense and unnerving soundscape.
Track 2 lightens briefly with one of the only melodies detectable on the
record. It sounds like a demented merry-go-round tune. The track then
dissolves into a pulsing drone and cymbal ride that leads into the third
track, another weighty meditation on the constructive and entropic
possibilities of harsh, layered sound.
Track 3 ends with a cavernous howling that bridges into the final cut. The
rest of the track merges shrieking guitars, relentless bass, restive
drumming, and gales of electronic rumblings and manipulated wailing,
corroborating that the burgeoning cacophony of the earlier pieces really
did point to some impending collapse. This is heavy, blood-curdling stuff.
It is also cathartic. About half-way through, the track peaks and the chaos
abates. The individual layers slow and separate themselves. The wind
rustles and howls. The bass returns to its single-note thuds. And the
cymbals carry the track to its eerily restful conclusion.
Now for some points of clarification. This album is better taken as a
single-track in four movements than as four discrete “songs.” Each movement
resembles the others in effect, but a close listen reveals little
repetition and many unique explorations of the boundaries between coarse
dissonance and a mucky, mired consonance.
As the Utech Records website explains, Capsaicin explores “the fissures left by minimalist drone metal. Those places not yet stepped
on, where strange sound textures produced by DIY machines, low frequencies
and electromagnetic transductions fit.” This characterization is fitting.
This is harsh noise but is also much more musical than that. It plays with
and transgresses boundaries of musicality and sound, diving headfirst into
the interstices between notes and noise, and the insufficiently-trodden
paths between free jazz/improvisation and metal as well as between
instrumentation and electronic manipulation and fabrication. And the result
is indeed strange, and profoundly so. Clearly, this is not easy listening
music for the masses. Still, it is highly recommended for those interested
in the more nuanced strands of harsh noise, the less percussion-heavy
strands of noise rock, and the darker potentialities of progressive music.
I checked this one out when I saw it on your year-end list and that same phrase you mention "the fissures left by minimalist drone metal" immediately caught my attention. Drone in all of its variations are of great interest to me. (I'm wearing my Sunn O))) sweatshirt while I type this.) People who like such things should definitely check this one out, it's really good.
Great to know there are people who like both drone and free jazz besides me!
You are definitely onto something with the Sunn 0))) reference. I know Stephen O'Malley has done some good work with Steve Noble. Between that, Marhaug, Merzbow, and numerous releases from Utech Records, it seems there are a good number of recent projects exploring the intersection of the two genres. Hopefully, next year will bring a few more.
Water boiling for my morning coffee fit into this music perfectly...
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