COMPOSERS: Nils Petter Molvaer
PERFORMER: Nils Petter Molvaer (t), Eivind Aarset (g), Audun Erlien (b), Rune Arnesen (d), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 017 795-2
Is this the future of jazz? If we end up in a cold, shiny kind of future where nothing grows outdoors and people go around wearing helmets with smoked glass visors, then yes, this could easily be our favourite, uneasy listening. Although he is marketed as a jazz man and plays a jazz instrument (trumpet), Nils Petter Molvaer is an alien in our midst.
The main clues are that he is popular with young people, and linked to that, he sells a lot of ‘product’. His first albums, Khmer and Solid Ether, were big with clubbers. What’s different about Molvaer is that instead of a rhythm section he uses cranked up electronic beats to put down a drum ’n’ bass backing. He then employs more state-of-the-art electronics to build up layers of ambient noise. The resulting soundscape resembles the sound of satellites gone AWOL or raging electromagnetic storms.
Molvaer’s trumpet-playing, which is curiously insulated from the background noise, is strangely familiar, however. Imagine Chet Baker in space (rather than spaced out) swapping choruses with experimentalist Jon Hassell, who is trapped in a sterile laboratory (rather than his more natural habitat of Malaysian rainforest). The only difficulty – and maybe this misses the point – is the unvarying nature of the trumpet lines.
Molvaer’s fine gauze tone seeps out of the background noise at the same level and tempo throughout. That may be fine with clubbers, but by the halfway mark jazzers will be longing for the beats to recede and the horn to come forward. Garry Booth