“Letting go is an important discovery on this CD.”
Nils Petter Molvaer
Life’s wheels turn full circle. That is as true of artists as of other mortals. And the new album “Switch” closes a long-turning circle for Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. Mid-Eighties, he attracted attention alongside Norwegian jazz pioneers Jon Christensen and Arild Andersen in their band Masqualero, a decade later he was busy with his band Khmer laying the foundations of the now-typical Norwegian symbiosis of jazz and electronic music. Since then Molvaer has broken new ground in countless projects, most recently on the hypnotic ambient CD “1/1” of 2013 in duo with the Berlin electronic producer Moritz von Oswald.
Molvaer finds a new musical and narrative approach on each CD, but the guiding light that shines through all his work is the search for the optimum balance between the synthetic and the organic. The new CD “Switch” marks a new climax in this continuing search. Once again, the ingenious iconoclast operates simultaneously in two worlds and on several temporal planes. His complex sounds, some electronically generated, others acoustically elaborated sonic worlds that have an uncannily electronic sound, sends him into a future of urban globalisation, while he retreats with the sound of slide guitar and his own folk-tinged improvisations into a little village remote from metropolitan life.
Molvaer has brought together pedal steel guitarist Geir Sundstol, pianist Morten Qvenild and drummer Erland Dahlen to form a new band, with the slide guitar playing a central part. “I knew from the start that I was going to use a slide guitar,” comments the trumpeter with relish. “I was on the brink of buying one from the noted Norwegian guitarist Stian Carstensen myself. Then events took a different course. I’ve known Geir Sundstol for many years. He is one of Norway’s most in-demand musicians and was really keen to work with us on this. When he began to play, I was enchanted by his sound from the start and knew I had to make this album. I’m not so much in search of my inner reservations on this record as I was on earlier albums. I’m more interested in finding the right way to package particular things. This disc is more peaceful. Perhaps I’m mellowing with age.”
Molvaer certainly sounds uncommonly relaxed on “Switch”. All the Norwegian’s previous albums were characterised by an insurmountable inner polarity between an extremely peace-loving individual and a radical provocateur. This mental conflict sometimes took painful forms. This time, the trumpeter is looking for other contrasts, but the expression of his personality reflects a far more homogeneous whole. “I had some battles to fight with myself on the way to this music,” admits Molvaer. “When we finished recording, we had over 150 minutes of music, for which we had to find a focus. There is a tribute to Joni Mitchell, specially in the titles of the songs. Many of those titles make direct allusions to her lyrics. This train of thought was sometimes more important to me than the melodic aspect.”
The compositional curve that Molvaer takes with his pieces is not unrelated to Pink Floyd. Wherever and whenever we as listeners enter the musical process, we are at once caught up in the depth and the constantly changing colour of his world. It is an endless expanse that brooks no escape. It is almost immaterial at what point one accesses the CD as a listener; the music functions as an endless loop without beginning or end. The commencement of each piece is almost as arbitrary as the start and finish of the whole CD. Just as this album closes a circle in Molvaer’s own musical career, the music itself describes a perfect closed circle.
A major part in this endeavour was played by Erland Dahlen, percussionist on Molvaer’s penultimate album “Baboon Moon” and promoted on “Switch” to omnipresent multi-instrumentalist, whose complex soundscapes form the basis for the band’s concerted sound. Dahlen began his career in the Norwegian cult rock band Madrugada, rising quickly to a pivotal role in Scandinavia’s multistylistic jazz scene. Molvaer cannot speak too highly of his drummer’s input. “I regard Erland as extremely important. I simply stuck him in my studio with all its devices, instruments and playthings and let him do whatever he fancied. Letting go is an important feature of this CD. Why should I reduce such a multi-tasker to a single function? He has set his stamp upon the music one hundred per cent.”
Pianist Morten Qvenild from the band In The Country represents another star turn from Norway’s current jazz community for Molvaer’s ensemble. The last of the famous five is sound producer Jon Marius Aareskjold. The line-up and philosophy of “Switch” are faintly reminiscent of Molvaer’s first solo album “Khmer”. This is not a deliberate return to the past, however, and “Switch” is anything but self-referential. We should see it rather as the self-assured statement of a gifted sonic artist, who has discovered himself on life’s logical orbit. Nils Petter Molvaer took one giant step to retrieve his own personality from the past and set out with new energy into the future.
Switch will be released on March 28, 2014, immediately followed by a European tour. March 28 also marks the re-release of a major part of Nils Petter Molvaer’s back catalogue exclusively on Okeh: Recoloured, NP3, Streamer, ER, Remakes and Re-Vision.