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Thursday, June 29, 2023

The End - Why Do You Mourn (Trost Records, 2023)

By Martin Schray

It starts with a Black Sabbath riff, and you’ll love it right away. Immediately you think of Fire!’s She Sleeps, She Sleeps, but of course The End is a different band. After two albums on Rare Noise, this powerhouse consisting of Sofia Jernberg (vocals), Kjetil Moster (clarinet and tenor sax), Mats Gustafsson (flutes, baritone sax and electronics), Anders Hana (baritone and bass guitar) and Borge Fjordheim (drums) has landed on the Austrian Trost label with their third album. Little has changed in the sound, but there are some significant differences as to references and compositional structures. Compared to their debut Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen, for example, Why Do You Mourn is clearer and more focused. There are fewer sprawling noise passages, the earlier funk influence is almost non-existent, instead there are extended excursions into classic British folk. “Snow“, the first track of the album offers exemplarily everything the album has to offer: Quasi divided into two parts it starts with slow Doom Metal (the above mentioned Black Sabbath riff), over which Jernberg’s vocals and the two saxophones swing into absurd heights, before the track is completely stopped and suddenly becomes a tender folk piece somewhere between Fairport Convention and Joanna Newsom.

Also, on the rest of the album the band combines free jazz, traditionals and hard rock with Jernberg’s ethereal voice to create one hell of a boiling soundscape of dynamics, intensity and weirdness. It’s interesting to see how an alpha dog like Mats Gustafsson fits into a band context and realizes that everything has to revolve around Sofia Jernberg’s voice - her timbre, her timing, her sound and her technical diversity. Because that’s where the emotional depth of the music comes from.

Nowhere can you hear it better than on The End’s cover version of Rigmor Gustafsson’s “Winter Doesn’t End“, in the original an oily, germ-free jazz ballad, in which music and the somber content of the lyrics have almost nothing to do with each other. Jernberg radically reinterprets the song; she brings out the ominous nature of the text, the emotional despair. The arrangement is barren like the landscape in the song, the pitch shrill, the flute atonal. All beauty and warmth have left the world, leaving behind mere emptiness in men. That which is commonly associated with Scandinavian jazz, the floating ECM sound that has degenerated into a cliché (there are great ECM albums, don’t get me wrong), to which one likes to drink an expensive Chablis in posh jazz clubs, is radically thrown overboard here.

However, if you think this is the highlight of the album, you’re wrong. That’s “Whose Face“, a track that - with its theme, its force and its power - is most reminiscent of The Thing and Fire! but which quickly evolves into a folk-rock monster. “Inside my head / a common room / a common place / a common tune,“ Jernberg sings - repeating it again and again. This is music as necromancy, a psychedelic nightmare in which Gustafsson does what most of his fans love him for: blasting out merciless, brutal saxophone riffs and galloping away recklessly until the reins are stretched to breaking point.

The album? A killer. But what else did you expect.

The End’s Why Do You Mourn is available on vinyl, as a CD and as a download.

You can listen to the album and buy it here:


Colin Green said...

Are there any posh jazz clubs?

Martin Schray said...

Oh yes, Colin, you can trust me on that.