When Norwegian baritone saxophonist Kjetil Møster joined forces in the studio with Swedish baritone sax burner Mats Gustafsson, Norwegian noise-jazz guitarist Anders Hana (MoHa!, Ultralyd, Noxagt), versatile, powerhouse drummer Greg Saunier (of the San Francisco-based avant-rock band Deerhoof, who participated in the album, but has now been replaced by Børge Fjordheim of Cloroform) and the extraordinary Ethiopian-born experimental singer Sofia Jernberg, the resulting sonic maelstrom was so fresh and ferocious, so daring and audacious, so darkly apocalyptic that The End seemed like the only name for this band of rebels.
Their uncompromising debut on RareNoise Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen (a title whose approximate translation from Swedish into English could be stated as "Dark melancholy and sadness are senses to be valued"), is delivered with sledgehammer authority by the subversive crew.
The two-baritone onslaught of Møster and Gustafsson with the addition of Hana's baritone guitar provides a low-end assault on Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen that feels like a gut-punch to complacency. "The double baritone has lots of raw power, which is a big part of what this music is all about," says Møster, who has previously appeared on two RareNoiseRecords releases, Jü Meets Møster and Reflections In Cosmo. "We try to break through to the raw senses, the expressions of energy that wants to burst but never does."
"We have talked about such a collaboration for many years," adds Gustafsson, who previously appeared on RareNoise releases by Slobber Pup (Pole Axe) and in collaboration with Japanese noisemaker Merzbow (the Cuts series). "And when Giacomo of RareNoise offered us the chance we grabbed it immediately, of course. We just needed to really put together the most kickin' band ever."
With Jernberg, Hana, Saunier (now Fjordheim), they have put together a dream team on Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen. "Now that we have The End as a working unit it feels extremely exciting to see where we can take the music together," says Gustafsson. "It's amazing for me to play alongside Mats' boundless energy," adds Møster. "He has revolutionized articulations of saxophone playing and has been one of my big influences ever since I heard The Thing's self titled album from 2001."
Add the potent contributions of Hana and Saunier to the mix and you have a combustible crew capable of nuanced ambient expression with Jernberg's ethereal vocals floating over the top and hellacious crescendos fueled by her intense banshee wailing.
"Anders is one of the most creative guitar players I have ever heard," says Gustafsson. "He stopped playing guitar seven years ago but Kjetil and me convinced him to pick it up again to join this group, which he happily agreed to. He ROCKS!" Møster adds "Anders and me have driven thousands of kilometres together all over Eastern and Western Europe in old tour vans playing numerous concerts with Ultralyd, which released five albums, most of them on Rune Grammofon. He's a very unique player."
Hana's chainsaw guitar work, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's noise guitar explorations on "EXP" from Axis: Bold As Love, fuels the dark opener Svårmod (Troubled Mind), which also introduces The End's muscular and imposing two-bari sound. Hana's repetitive guitar riff provides a catchy hook on the Captain Beefheart-like Vemod (Sad Mind), underscored by Saunier's polyrhythmic drummer and featuring Jernberg's freewheeling wordless vocals.
The epic Translated Slaughter, which sees Jernberg whispering/talking Gustafsson's lyrics at the ethereal opening, gradually builds to a frantic crescendo that has the singer wailing with cathartic abandon over the top. Jernberg repeats her riveting performance on Don't Wait in which she once again recites/sings Gustafsson's cryptic lyrics.
"Text, music, art...it should all be read and listened to in open ways and manners," says the composer. "It is not up to me to explain, really. It is up to the listener/reader to understand, or try to understand. Or at least to ask the questions to find out more. All creative art and music should point out new doors, not open them up. To open a door, you have to do it yourself. We can't do it for you. So the lyrics pretty much speak for themselves, especially in 'Don't Wait.' That message should be pretty obvious for anyone."
Møster's Both Sides Out has a particularly dark, almost requiem kind of feel to it, which he acknowledges. "Requiem is a good association," he says. "What I had in mind was actually some kind of mourning for the state of mind that the western world has entered post-Trump. In the lyrics I am Trump's psychoanalyst, letting him pour out his inner feelings so he can stop being so tense and hard."
With a discography numbering over 150 records, Gustafsson explains what his latest RareNoise release represents to him: "Just sheer joy of sharing ideas and music together. We had time to rehearse and to play three gigs before jumping into the studio - that was worth a lot for us because I feel that everything really fell into the right place for us in the studio. The music we recorded is really a wet dream of favorite influences to bring together for me. And I think me and Kjetil share the most essential sources and inspirational platforms here. We wanted elements of free jazz, noise, alt rock and more to blend and create something new. And it all led to a music that, at least me, I have never heard before."
"We are never into creating a special mood in the music," maintains Gustafsson, who is also member of bands The Thing, Fire! and Nu Ensemble. "That is up to the listener to create or hear. We don't entertain, we don't illustrate. We play music. New music. I don't wanna analyze it too much here. Everyone should listen freely and think and act freely upon hearing it all. It should all be open."
Regarding the translation of the The End's album title, Møster says: "To me it says something about appreciating difficulties, that we don't necessarily have to please each other all the time, that expressions that go against the grain and cause friction are valuable too."
Those renegade expressions are readily apparent on Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen, The End's formidable RareNoise debut.
3. Translated Slaughter
4. Don't Wait
5. Rich And Poor
6. Both Sides Out