Nearly three decades into his career, Norwegian experimental jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær is, more than ever, a genre unto himself. While the influence of Miles Davis is undeniable, Molvær has created his own language on the trumpet, haunting and intimate, immersing the instrument in electronic trickery, with heavy use of mute. The band here is largely the same as that which played with Molvær on his last album, 2014's Switch, which is obvious in the smooth, relaxed, almost telepathic interplay between them, but on this record there's a distinctly different feel. The electronic flourishes that were distinctly audible on Switch have largely gone, though no doubt there is still all manner of subliminal studio trickery taking place. In their place is a self-consciously retro production job sounding like it's come straight out the '70s, with muffled, bass-heavy drums, that helps to enforce the Miles Davis comparisons. Allegedly, the album was inspired while diving, and each of the tracks appears to be named after a place. Opener "Ras Mohammad" sounds like Molvær has run his trumpet through a distortion pedal, exactly the kind of trick we've come to expect from the wily old fox. It's absolutely possible to believe that a guitar, rather than a trumpet, is playing. "Gilimanuk" evokes a haunting Athabascan emptiness, the big-room airiness of the recording and the spaces between the notes seeming to say as much as any of the actual music that is being played. There's a distinct world music flavor to the album; it's like a sort of dream travelogue, with tracks such as "Puri Jati" somehow magically evoking a sense of India without actually using ethnic instrumentation or crassly aping traditional melodies. The epic, nine-plus-minute "Amed" is the album's centerpiece. The most overtly rock-oriented fusion track on the record, it builds gradually with an oneiric melody. A sinister middle section follows, where Molvær's trumpet plays haunting, vaguely Middle-Eastern modes before gnarly, grinding guitar breaks out over a blistering drum tattoo in a spectacular wig-out reminiscent of onetime Molvær sideman Eivind Aarset's 2015 album I.E.. The tune finally settles down into a subdued, haunting finale. The short but sweet, breathy Molvær solo interlude "Martoli Bridge" clears the palate before the otherworldly, Atlantean "Kingfish Castle," whose unearthly atmospheres sound like they were recorded in a deserted underwater dancehall a hundred fathoms down. The best is saved for last with "Maddagala," where ringing and sliding guitar notes shift and merge over an insistent arpeggio; rimshots click, fuzz bass grumbles, and Molvær lays down one of the most beautiful melodies of his career. (It's a tragedy that this CD bonus track is not available on the vinyl version, as this is an album that's guaranteed to sound fantastic on wax.) This is a stupendous album, one of the best of Molvær's career, proving once again that he's still way out there on his own. ~ John D. Buchanan
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- 1/1 (Oswald, Moritz Von)