Embracing - Moksha

There is both seriousness and ecstasy on Moksha's second album. There are complex and virtuosic moments, but it also feels like music that arose from the simplest of all starting points, the play between three good fellow musicians. The trio's unique interplay began back in 2012, when they were still students and met to experiment with rhythm, raga and jazz. Their first album, “The Beauty of an Arbitrary Moment”, was released by Jazzland in 2016 and was very well received both at home and abroad. Their debut stands as a key release from a period in Norwegian improvised music characterized by open doors to expression and musicians from all over the world. 

Now, with their second album, the palette has been expanded, both as a trio and as individuals. Their session, recorded in Newtone in January, featuring some selected guest musicians, does not feel overloaded with references. On the record's seven tracks, the trio alternates between their own experiences with Indian, Norwegian, North and West African music, in addition to good old-fashioned jazz rock and the occasional noisy freak out. It is easy to get lost in such a list of ingredients, but perhaps it’s simpler to say this: Moksha is Sanskriti Shrestha, Oddrun Lilja and Tore Flatjord. The music they play is the sum of their shared experiences and it kicks. 

Shrestha is a Nepalese tabla player who lives in Norway and has played with many projects: her own band (Avatar), duos with the likes of Harpreet Bansal and Steinar Ofsdal, and large ensemble projects like Marianna S. A. Røes Spiti/Hjem. She played together with Oddrun Lilja in the most recent edition of Bugge Wesseltoft's New Conception of Jazz. Oddrun Lilja has achieved great success under his own name in recent years - the ambitious musical round-the-world voyage “Marble” was one of the year's big albums when it was released in 2020, and her band has become a festival favourite. She has also been in Paal Nilssen-Love's global-oriented jazz rock orchestra, Circus. Tore Flatjord is a drummer with Harald Lassen, The Switch and Baker Hansen, to name a few, and in the vast majority of contexts in which he appears, you find a musician who is curious about all kinds of rhythm instruments – darbouka and dhol, bells and maracas. 

The album's first two tracks feature Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan, a Hamburg-based sitar master who has been important to the trio, and with whom Lilja has apprenticed. Additionally, bassist Jo Fougner Skaansar, who is also in Lilja's permanent band, appears on four of the tracks (1, 2, 3 and 7). Oddrun Lilja has become an increasingly prominent singer, and adds her unique stamp on the material. All these extensions enrich the album, but also make it clear that the trio’s sound alone fills the room in a distinctive way. Shrestha's tabla tarang often sets the tone and tempo of the meandering material, Lilja's guitars move between snarky riffing and effects-drenched brushstrokes, while Flatjord's instrumentation is at times inseparable from Shrestha’s, while at other times it creates an essential, subtle, rattling contrast. 

It's up to the listener to interpret the song titles on the album, but they obviously suggest some form of cycle: “Floating”, “Entering”, “Playing”, “Breathing”, “Drumming”, “Summoning” and “Liberating”. These titles can be seen as good descriptions of the listener's experience - there is something liberating about the game, the music breathes and flows, it enters and evokes states... and sometimes it is simply about listening to good musicianship. And that, as we all know, is one of life's simple but great joys.