Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nils Petter Molvaer: The Darkness and The Light

Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet; b. 1960)

Dark, heavy and ethereal--just a few of the words I would use to describe the music of Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. Molvaer has been at the forefront of the new European movement for almost three decades. He came to significant prominence after he joined the group Masqulero, led by fellow Norwegians Jon Christensen and Arild Anderson.

He soon signed to ECM Records where his debut, Khmer and its follow up Solid Ether recieved unbelievable praise from critics and DJ's throughout Europe. Both albums combine the harmonic values of ambient and jazz. There are quick comparisons to Jon Hassell and of course Miles Davis but Molvaer does utilize electronics and club culture as a way of moving the rhythm forward. Anyone familiar with Miles' last studio album DooBop (Warner Brothers) would get a sense of what Miles might have achieved if he could have continued on. Molvaer in some aspects, has reached that point.

Spacious, hypnotic and enthralling, NPM continued to reshape the vision of what jazz and ambient could become. His third album, NP3 (Universal) was an extension of Solid Ether and Khmer with an increased concentration on the exploration of space and technology as it related to the use of his "treated" trumpet. The effects used on his trumpet give his music more depth, emotion and invention. NP3 featured two extraordinary tracks "Axis Of Ignorance" and "Little Indian" which I think really shows his growth and the inventiveness to create a new song structures from almost nothing.

His fourth album, ER (Universal) featured new contributions from astounding Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen, with whom he had worked with on previous albums as well as her own solo works. As with the previous three albums there was a heavy emphasis on electronic programming and its infusion with Molvaer's trumpet techniques. Re-Vision (Universal), Molvaer's fifth album is a major leap forward, featuring all the usual elements but with even more cohesion and rhythmic structure than before. By far this is my personal favourite.

His latest, Hamada is the culmination of his ten years studio recordings. It features a more aggressive approach but keeps the spirit of his ambient experiments of the past. A delight to anyone who is a fan of Miles Davis, Jon Hassell and David Sylvian, Hamada is an exciting journey through sound and well worth seeking out. While many of Nils Petter Molvaer's albums are very hard to find, they are available for download. There is also a compilation of the first four albums entitled An American Compilation (Thirsty Ear Recordings) which is a nice introduction to his dense swirling soundscapes should anyone choose to go this route. I'm sure you wont be disappointed.

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