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Trondheim Jazzfest 2018

Henning Bolte By

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The performance of the MoE & Mette Rasmussen configuration on Thursday night -following on the concert of Chick Corea and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra -was a different affair. It was illustrative of the Trondheim 'round the corner' situation. A stark contrast between both kinds of performance and at the same time a connection through Mette Rasmussen, who was, and still is, involved in Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. MoE is the Norwegian noise band of bassist Guro Skumsnes Moe (1983) together with guitarist Håvard Skaset and drummer Joakim Heibo Johansen. The group has a growing following not only in Norway but also in Asian countries and in Mexico. Moe is a bass and equally raw performance obsessed musician but also a works as a composer for different contexts (chamber music, film music etc.). She is also known for her exploration of the octobass producing the lowest frequencies in combination with (special) extremely high frequency violins. MoE's music is recklessly loud and rough, right into your face, an art brute approach through obsessive and explosive loudness. The group is not wrapped in cult-like theatricality. It is rather down to earth, functioning as a part of, and articulation organ of social movement among the younger generation, as a connecting entity. Although an old style jazz festival is not their most natural habitat, the group brought in plenty of its origin and originality, in this case especially mediated and reinforced by the first live collaboration with saxophone force extraordinaire Mette Rasmussen (based in Trondheim). Rasmussen (1980) is one of the most astonishing younger musicians of this moment. She pairs great clarity and grace with enormous force based on high artistic commitment and integrity, as well as physical, mental and emotional mobility. She has made her way internationally, becoming a factor to count and build on. She is/was just returned from an extended tour with Canadian post-rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor. In the beginning Rasmussen had to work 'hard' to stay afloat but, after a while, and characteristically, she managed to get her voice into the violent and visceral fabrics of sound and fully contributed to pushing it up to a higher place.

I observed the performance in a more distanced way having an ear for the developing crashing, hammering, bursting, furrowing sound without fully immersing in its visceral qualities and getting fully engrossed by it. Apparently, I was expecting overflow into trance qualities but that is a different game (as played in Yodok III's performance the other day). Consequently I did not get lost in amplification. Nonetheless it was a memorable performance especially due to the strong visual impressions and differences in approach not only from Yodok III but also from the memorable performance of French guitarist Julien Desprez at last year's Jazzfest (see my review). It would be worthwhile to shed some more light on MoE's and Rasmussen's kind of self-organization, performance and traveling practice, as well as their self-image touched upon during the conversation with them in the series of daily morning talks with performing musicians. It will be the subject of a later article.

Lost in technological acceleration

I want to conclude with reference to the emphatic and incisive lecture given by Kenneth Killeen of Dublin's Improvised Music Company and director of 12Points Festival. He discussed the acceleration of digital technologies/artificial intelligence, its inescapable consequences for the creation, production, distribution of music, consequences of how it is consumed/listened to in a hyper-connected world. He also presented his analysis of its mental, emotional, and economical consequences and shifts, including new digital landscapes of block chain and mycelia networks. The high-speed ride of Killeen's lecture functioned as a realistic orientation point and stepping-stone to the European Jazz Conference held in Lisbon in September of this year, a conference that will dig deeper into these technological challenges.

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