“If I am not in a place where I can give my very most, I could not continue. It has to be everything,” says MoE bassist/vocalist Guro Skumsnes Moe, who along with her bandmates guitarist Håvard Skaset and drummer Joakim Heibø has released one of the year’s most adventurous noise rock albums, Examination Of The Eye Of A Horse.
Moe began playing electric bass at age 12 and started her first band, Pitch, at 13. By 16 she was helping out at a local jazz club run by her father and sister. “I remember feeling such a strong connection to all the bands that came playing free jazz, but at that time I didn’t know any history or where it came from, it just hit me hard, the presence of this music,” she says.
Eventually, she started taking lessons on electric bass, and after high school entered the conservatory in Kristiansand, Norway, where she majored in rhythmic study and added double bass to her repertoire (even bringing it to her electric bass class, to the chagrin of her teacher!). With her next band, Art Directors, she explored her interests in improvisation and electronics, and soon landed her a spot in a Master’s program at Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. “Listening back to what we did, it’s quite raw and the most experimental music I think I have [done]. Like a diary when you are totally in the process and when reading it half a year later you see you just were kind of close to understanding what it was all about but still so far from it because of all structures that were unknown.”
Inspired by noise and no-wave music, she formed MoE in 2008. Over the years that followed, the band released three albums (including last year’s critically-acclaimed LP III on Norway’s Fysisk Format), and toured as far as Southeast Asia and Mexico. At the same time, Moe also maintained a strong a presence in the Scandinavian improvisation and avant-garde scene. To an outsider, these diverse artistic pursuits might come across like different sides of a coin, but for Moe it all fits together. “[These] are all highly necessary outputs for me, and it feels like it is the same in a sense because it all comes from same motivation with different shapes. It´s improvised music, noise music, rock. I [also] write poetry, write music for puppet theatre, I also did score for one movie, The Untamed by Mexican director Amat Escalante, and I also want to make more fanzines.”
Unlike III—which is comprised entirely of improvised takes from a day-long studio stop during a Japanese tour—Examination… takes a more structured approach. “[It took] a lot of work,” Moe says, adding that Skaset painstakingly recorded everything during the songwriting process. “It felt like it was about time to use the potential in the recording process, since an album can give something a live show cannot and vice versa. I mean, it´s bloody tricky to capture a live energy in studio. I guess it’s more like making a movie, to allow the clarity and honesty needed to make it into a multi-layered medium and with the magic involved wanting to hear it many times.”
Their efforts efforts paid off. Produced by Jørgen Træen (whose credits include Jaga Jazzist and Sondre Lerche, among others), Examination… is arguably MoE’s most confrontational and intense album to date, due in part to the thematic concepts behind it. “Lyric-wise, it´s a mirror to society,” Moe says. “It´s lots of war and [the idea] that we all are seduced by war. The title wants you to seek deeper, [and] dare to seek behind the surface. Composing more or less followed the same paths as our earlier material. Sometimes a riff starts the whole process of a song, sometimes the lyrics, and so on.”
Musically, the album showcases MoE’s technical prowess, knack for innovation, and unstoppable raw energy. Adding to the record’s mind-bending atmospheres are layers of guitars and noise from Skaset, guest appearances from Japanese noise legend Pain Jerk and Norwegian percussionist Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen, and MoE’s Octobass contributing an absolutely cavernous low end across several tracks. For fans of noise rock and experimental music, it’s likely to be an addicting listen this fall and beyond.
She Shreds is stoked to host the North American premiere of MoE’s Examination Of The Eye Of A Horse. The album comes out on 10/14 via Conrad Sound/Wallace Records.