MoHa! Raus Aus Stavanger

[Rune Grammofon; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: noise rock, neo-no-wave improv, free-jazz/noise
Others: Ultralyd, John Zorn, Lightning Bolt, Dead Machines, Supersilent

Rife with varied, angular guitar textures and ferocious energy, Raus Aus Stavanger recalls the heady, halcyon days of New York's No Wave scene, though the album was recorded half a world away. The proper full-length debut from MoHa!, who are among the most recent additions to the esteemed Rune Grammofon roster, consists of pseudo-structured improvisational noise rock that is by turns experimental and subtly melodic, but always engrossing. The Norwegian duo, which consist of drummer/percussionist Morten Olsen and guitarist Anders Hana, take a decidedly lo-fi approach on Raus Aus Stavanger that allows for an almost intimate experience between record and listener, having the overall effect of transporting the listener to a state of analog bliss sporadically interrupted by violent impulses. Raus Aus Stavanger stands out among the current crop of improv-noise fodder by virtue of its purity of form and straightforward listenablity — aside from the simple fact that these are clearly "real" instruments played by "real" musicians. This is an album that will hold your attention to the bitter end.

Morten Olsen's virtuosic drumming displays a free jazz sensibility, coupled, as it were, with a relentlessly ornate technical precision. Olsen's percussion, though it periodically veers toward over-the-top extravagance, nonetheless anchors these tracks to a discernable, albeit unorthodox rhythmic logic. Saddled with the responsibility of being the sole member of MoHa!'s rhythm section, Olsen provides an able foundation for the abstract inclinations manifested on Raus Aus Stavanger while simultaneously keeping Anders Hana's guitar histrionics firmly in check. Hana's style, while heavily informed by Thurston Moore and Rhys Chatham, bristles with its own icy and uniquely Scandinavian energy. On "C5," Hana does what is perhaps the most convincing impression of Gang of Four's Andy Gill — from his jagged, overdriven chord stabs to his fluency with controlled guitar feedback — that this reviewer has ever heard. Trying to follow Hana's multi-directional melodies, chord shapes, and tempo changes makes listening to Raus Aus Stavanger both a chore and a delight.

Although the lion's share of the pieces on Raus Aus Stavanger were performed largely on guitar and drums with a minimum of overdubs, a couple of tracks are improvisational pieces performed using only amplifiers and all manner of analog electronic equipment. Abrasive, but never annoying, MoHa! have the uncanny ability to make overloaded circuits, amp-buzz, and static sound positively mesmerizing. But the more experimental, "ambient" pieces play second fiddle, however, to their work as a guitar/drums duo. Hana's caterwauling guitar, over Olsen's unremitting percussion and insane time signature changes, really gets under your skin... in a good way. For the type of music involved, the duo's performance on Raus Aus Stavanger is uncharacteristically focused and tight. Furthermore, though Swans probably have the distinction of having beaten MoHa! to the punch in this regard, two of the album's tracks, "C7" and "C8," could perhaps be the missing link between No Wave and contemporary doom metal/sludge, with their chugging, opiated guitar riffs and propulsive drumming. By and large, Raus Aus Stavanger is a fine record that, once again, does Rune Grammofon much credit as a label that garners wholly justified respect.

1. A2
2. B1
3. B3
4. C5
5. C7
6. B2
7. C8
8. C4
9. A4
10. B5

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