Moha!, Wooden Wand | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Moha!, Wooden Wand 

The two members of Norway's MOHA!--guitarist Anders Hana and drummer Morten Olsen--have kept busy with a host of projects on the bustling Oslo scene, but they bring a visceral intensity to every one. They're the foundation for improvisational noise combo Ultralyd, and they've backed veteran Norwegian saxist Frode Gjerstad and New York reedist Andrew D'Angelo. On MoHa!'s recently released debut, Raus Aus Stavanger (Rune Grammofon), you can hear the duo's aesthetic tendencies in their purest form. Hana and Olsen generate some of the lean brutality of power duos like Lightning Bolt and Ruins, but the music isn't postprog wankery so much as a fiery collision of free improvisation and unhinged noise rock. Olsen is a powerful presence, dropping bomblike splatters and blurring the line between propulsion and ornamentation, while Hana sends the pieces on roller-coaster rides with feedback flip-outs, jagged, detuned string bending, and post-Derek Bailey note tangles, staying in sync with Olsen's wide-ranging rhythms all the while. This is MoHa!'s Chicago debut. --Peter Margasak

You might think you have the very latest release by James Toth, aka WOODEN WAND, but I'll wager that by next week you'll be wrong; he's said that being a musician and releasing a mere ten songs a year is like being a carpenter and spending a decade making a birdhouse. No one label can keep up with his output, but Kill Rock Stars has stepped up to release the new (as of this writing) Second Attention, recorded with his Sky High Band. Despite the hairy communal freak-folk vibe that radiates off him like so much hash smoke (the "info" page of his Web site is either a brilliant parody of hippie lit or the real thing, I can't tell), the music is actually straightforward, timeless folk rock. Toth's religious imagery and ever-so-slightly maniacal delivery are just signposts of the genre--the road ahead is fairly safe. He's joined here by singer Satya Sai from his group the Vanishing Voice. --Monica Kendrick

MoHa! headlines, Wooden Wand plays second, and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

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