Drawn from the small but vibrant Scandinavian alt-avant-jazz and avant-rock scenes, and comprising members from Fire!, Møster, Fire! Orchestra, Ultralyd and other bands, musical terrorists The End, the finality of whose name is rather fitting in these dystopian times, present us with this, their uncompromising but satisfying second album. Allt Är Intet translates from Swedish as “All Is Nothingness”, a fitting description for this strange and unsettling year.
Coming two years after their fearsome debut, Svarmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen, the band continue not to merely grab the bull by the horns, but also to give it a through shaking. However, this band is not just about eardrum rattling and terrifying rackets, as this new venture, which occasionally moves into a new territory of scorched beauty proves. That sparse effect is there from the first song, a cover of an obscure Greenwich Village folk song by Karen Dalton entitled It Hurts Me Too. Sofia Jenberg’s aching cry from the soul is backed with an impressionistic musical painting, supplied by a langeleik, a Norwegian folk instrument akin to a droned zither.
The atmosphere produced by this spooky beginning is abruptly interrupted by the full-on assault of Dark Wish (To Per Henrik Wallin), wherein Mats Gustafsson’s lungs blow to bursting point into his sax, overblowing with a scary passion, grunts and all. Clattering drums and a menacing riff from a baritone guitar, and squealing electronics eventually give way to an unaccompanied quiet vocal refrain by Sofia, slowly and quietly but intently repeating “Why do I hide my wish?”, leaving this listener breathless. Although the following Intention and Release offers some respite, its heavy insistence is hardly soothing, and some more ferocious sax blowing and vocal wailing soon has your synapses sparking in short circuit. Don’t listen to this album if you have a headache!
The title track lurches along with intent, becoming a vehicle for Sofia’s astounding vocal gymnastics. She doesn’t hold back, oh no. Eventually the song reaches its own state of grace, not exactly calming, but certainly in the zone. By now I’ve probably lost half the six readers I started with, and it has to be said, this is not an album for a rock music traditionalist. The End are an uncompromising and unique proposition, of a sheer feral power that mere words struggle to convey.
The album was recorded at Elektrolüd studios in Norway last November, and those same sessions birthed a two track EP entitled Nedresa (also available on RareNoise Records), and as I can find no promo video for the album, here’s one of those two songs, just as a taster. As you might expect, the video is quite odd and unsettling:
Back to the matter in hand, and by the fifth track they take it all to another level of earplug-busting intensity if that were possible, the screams and grunts that introduce Kråka. Rörde Sig Aldrig Mer (Crow. Never Moved Again) are exhausting to listen to, who knows what this must be like in a live environment! It will be worth making the effort if we ever get the chance. The second part of the tune features more terrific sax blowing from either or both the sax players, leaving this audient in awe.
The album ends as it began, with an obscure cover, this time Imani by saxophonist Dewey Redman. Featuring Mats Gustafsson’s heavy breathing flute, it is much like the opener, an impressionistic and abstract work, the two songs framing an album of resolute intent and utter commitment. The ethos and working dynamics of this ensemble are best highlighted by this quote from the press release, from Ketil Møster: “We all have varied and polarised tastes, and quite inverted sides. Mats can play extremely subtle and articulated, but he can also be a storm. Sofia has an incredible soul and presence but also can generate these wild sounds. We all have very opposite sides in us, but we manage to bring them together in a way that feels good for all of us.”
01. It Hurts Me Too (4:57)
02. Dark Wish (To Per Henrik Wallin) (9:50)
03. Intention And Release (5:02)
04. Allt Är Intet (8:08)
05. Kråka. Rörde Sig Aldrig Mer (6:53)
06. Imani (6:49)
Total Time – 41:43
Sofia Jernberg – Voice
Kjetil Møster – Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Electronics
Mats Gustafsson – Baritone Sax, Flute, Live Electronics
Anders Hana – Baritone Guitar, Langeleik
Børge Fjordheim – Drums
Record Label: RareNoise Records
Countries of Origin: Scandinavian
Date of Release: 13th November 2020