(Rune Grammofon; 2007)

By Mark Abraham | 10 August 2007

This is like Interior Designs (2007) with the lights on. My favorite army of two again work to collapse any given boundary between rock, noise, oscillation, and free jazz, upping the ante on their phenomenal debut Raus Aus Stavanger (2006) by essentially turning Norwegianism into one non-stop barrage of awesome energy, packaged in bite-sized chunks for easy consumption. And if their debut was notable for the sheer glee with which they set about deconstructing everything, MoHa! has learned a valuable lesson for their better sophomore effort: apply this technique liberally to actual songs. Because if Raus Aus Stavanger played like an extended jam session, Norwegianism is a complete narrative told in vignettes, particularly emphasizing drummer Morten J. Olsen’s wicked tightness, providing the box that was all-but-absent from their debut so that his brilliant scattershot improvisations now have an anchor to swing from.

MoHa! ain’t shy, is the point, and whatever song structures they now have, which mostly sound like crisp hip-hop samples of off-time breaks, are simply starting points that give the boundless improvisational spirit of the group form. The band is still using electronics to flesh out their palette, resulting in unexpectedly pretty oscillator/guitar harmonies (“Home Four”) or sparse mixtures of feedback and synth squiggles (“Ibiza One”). It’s sometimes hard to tell what noises are canned and which are spinning out of Olsen’s drum kit (several chimey things might actually be played); cohort Anders Hana seems to be sticking to guitar this time around, flexing riffs and incidental noise with equal acumen, pointedly inserting six-string punctuation marks that add stage directions to an already chaotic script.

The album starts with the most straightforward free jazz track in its roster. “Daily Three” is 47 seconds of brutality, scrunching guitar distortion against a wall of drums in the same fashion that made Raus Aus Stavanger so visceral. “Jolly Five” follows with a similar 32 second volley. But as the album progresses the sheer diversity becomes more and more apparent. “Daily Four” relies on deep spaces between the opening salvos before Olsen starts to throw clear metal snares into the mix. “Gay Two” begins like a movie projector’s clicks before Hana starts to play weird guitar squeaks against himself. The track sounds like zombie minimalism. “Home Two” rides on Olsen’s crisp drum patterns, somewhere between metal and funk (which equals Faith No More). “Entry One” sounds like actual funk except Olsen keeps varying the spaces between the beat. During its intro, the track is dizzying, always extremely close to playing straight but always a bit off. Soon, however, the track dissolves into drones that steadily fade away.

Both closing tracks dwarf the others in size; “Ibiza One” starts in low patter and builds into a beautiful free improv exercise, adding “crescendo” to MoHa!‘s vocab and giving both musicians the most space in which to really freak out. “Ibiza Two” sounds like they remixed “Ibiza One” by chopping the tracks up and playing bits at random. After about 2 minutes of wild noise, Olsen’s drums become more insistent and Hana begins to play almost-riffs, and again the focus is on being tantalizingly close to something less free but perverting that structure at every turn. The album also seems to have something to say: the only track with a subtitle, “Jolly One (White Guilt Fills the Room),” is a precise minute of silence. A reflection on western music’s roots? A jab at the fact that silence contains the most structure on this album? A hint that white guilt sounds quite boring? Well, if that makes you wring your hands, so be it. You’re going to need flexible, relaxed fingers to air drum/guitar along with this shit.