In this, the sophomore outing for Møster! we are immediately given the manifesto for the album: near-psychedelic avant garde jazz exploration rendered in suitably smoky warm-toned saturation, percolating moments of torrid frenzy and laid-back jams. You can almost smell the sulphur and the heat, the gargling blopping of lava flows are ever-present, and if the listener isn't fearful of or excited by the prospect of being thoroughly incinerated, they aren't listening to the same record that I am now.
The four-part suite "Descending Into This Crater" begins with "Poutanian Debate", a kind of evocation of early science fiction movie soundtracks, a mixture of bassy ominous foreboding, and tense treble staccatos. The alternating 5ths that hum-buzz their way have a hint of an elevator to them, and more than a suggestion of something alien. The negotiation seems to be relatively amicable, but suitably strong-willed. Each member of the group jockey for position, fully aware that they are bound to each other on this downward, ever-downward, trip.
Kjetil Møster's sax playing is, and has always been, a revelation. He knows what everyone says the sax is capable of (or rather, what everyone says that anyone is capable of producing from it), but seems to ignore this "received wisdom." Instead, he seems intent on finding a playing style that might just kill weaker saxophones off. He plays as though the fate of humankind depends on it.
He has his match in Hans Magnus Ryan, though. The Motorpsycho guitarist and vocalist has a similar lack of regard for rules, whether traditional or avant garde (yeah – the avant garde has rules. Look them up – you have to look carefully, because most practitioners and critics spend their time disguising them, or behave as though they don't exist).
The sonic geological survey that progresses from "Poutanian Debate to "Central Sunrise" evolves into a kind of summary of findings in "Magma Movement", a more structured piece (or at least more structured in appearance – the previous two pieces don't sound "thrown together" by any stretch of the imagination). It contains some epic jamming, and two great solos by Møster and Ryan. It also bears some of the hallmarks of "prog" or at least Pink Floyd's "Space Rock", except instead of an "Interstellar Overdrive", it is an "Intertectonic" one.
"Mount Vesuvio" follows a jam-on-a-stumbling-riff structure, extending the jams from "Magma Movement" (Listen to this while watching footage from the 70s of Mount Etna erupting. It's pretty awesome!) The track – and the suite – end on a crunching guitar reverberation. "Epic" is the word that comes to mind.
And "epic" doesn't leave my mind for very long. "Tearatorn" weighs in at over 14 minutes. It jitters its way into the world, chattering rims 'n' stick, whiney slide guitar dancing epileptic across staccato sax lines. This near-psychotic dance continues for a minute and a half before Kjetil Møster spiral's into control and the piece breaks open into a glorious rock world. That's RAWK world (don't picture me saying it, picture Jack Black saying it). It was this kind of jam that made another Møster project so wonderful: The Core (a fabulous band – their album "Office Essentials" is fantastic, and you should own it already). The jam evolves into something akin to a Jimi Hendrix live performance when he was at the peak of his powers. The rhythm section of Kenneth Kapstad (also of Motorpsycho) and bassist Hængsle Eilertsen (Elephant9, Big Bang) is joyously fluid stuff, a non-Newtonian liquid that is so charged with sonic oscillation it carries the guitar and sax to higher and higher reaches. Møster solos in that way that demands attention without being at all "Look at me" or "Look what I can do!" I always get the feeling that Møster is in the zone because that's where he loves to be. He'd be there whether we were coming or not. By extension, Møster! the band is exactly the same. When they lay down a 14 minute track it demands and keeps your attention from start to finish. I've heard 2 minute songs that felt 10 times longer than this. I couldn't believe when the track reached its end, it seemed so much shorter. I wanted more.
"Underworld Risk" ventures forward without trepidation, steadily hacking its way, tossing obstacles aside as though they weren't even there. Then the breakout comes: forgive me, but there is no other way to say it: this motherfucker ROCKS so hard your spleen will explode. This is the kind of rockin' that can only come from a deep relationship between the musician and the instrument. There is no fear – all that apparent trepidation was actually a meditation, psyching up for the leap of faith, the unquantifiable exuberant brilliance, the absolute mindfuck that this track becomes.
I feel like I've been huffing pure oxygen, injected with adrenalin, snorting speed and thrown off a cliff to be caught by a giant eagle before hitting the rocks below.
There is no bombast here. None of that filigree that no one gives a damn about. This is unrepentantly, overcharged music that will shake you free of any notions you may have been harbouring about the improvised music of today. "Inner Earth" is the musical equivalent of free running through the end of the world.
Furthermore: HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!