Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"In the 35 years since Miles Davis first put foot to wah-wah pedal, any number of musicians have tried to develop the original, shocking impacts of his 1969-74 electric recordings, or even just plain replicate them. (Davis himself tried, with generally disappointing results, throughout the 1980s.)
Current pretenders to Davis' electric legacy include two trumpeters: France's Erik Truffaz and Norway's Nils Petter Molvaer. Truffaz started out promisingly enough, but has recently been subsumed by a bland world-jazz fusion which verges at times on easy listening. Prime time Davis would eat him for breakfast.
Molvaer is something altogether different and more exciting. Since his emergence in 1997, and in particular during the last three or four years, he's created a body of electro-acoustic work whose raw power and fractured lyricism stand up alongside anything Davis recorded during his electric era, from Bitches Brew through Agharta and Pangaea's purple period. And then some: for Molvaer matches Davis not only in intensity, but also in radical imagination. No one has taken Davis' innovations further forward and closer to the edge.
An American Compilation is a blistering collection of material taken from 2002-2005 European releases, assembled to launch Molvaer's fresh assault on the US market following his signing to Thirsty Ear. The label will also be releasing the European sets er (2005) and the live Streamer (2004). Both albums are featured on An American Compilation, along with tracks fromNP3 (2002) and the Live In Hamburg DVD (2003).
Most of the tracks, which are mixed one into another, are fierce, dark and volcanic. Molvaer melds his broodingly luminous trumpet improvisations with deep, throbbing percussion, mountainous sonic landscapes, urgent and galvanising rock, funk and trance beats, and creative DJ-ing.
It's all full of mystery and grandeur - this is spacey, tripped-out, bad shit - with a charged atmosphere that reminds me of Walter De Maria's famousLightning Field installation: a square kilometre of stainless steel poles in the New Mexico desert across which electricity dances in a storm. It's intended as no insult to Molvaer to say that, if Davis were alive and in his thirties today, he might well be making music like "Solid Ether," "Nebulizer" and "Darker."
There is some moonlight amongst the darkness, however, just for contrast. "Little Indian," for Molvaer's daughter Maja, is built on a contemplative, almost gentle, dub reggae bass line, while "Only These Things Count," the only tune featuring vocals, is reminiscent of Norah Jones' reading of Nick Drake's "Day Is Done" on Charlie Hunter's Songs From The Analog Playground (Blue Note, 2001) - a pretty and gentle conclusion to a generally turbulent album." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.64) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Molvaer's esthetic remains hitched to ambient and open-ended sounds....The songs are laced with funk but are free of typical melodic developments."
JazzTimes (p.106) - "[Molvaer] plays with a cool understated tone that says a lot with a few, rich notes. The moody 'Kakonita' is an ideal blend of romantic lines and synthetic soundscapes."
Personnel: Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet, keyboards, bass instrument); Sidsel Endresen (vocals); Eivind Aarset (guitar).
Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer was first introduced to American audiences via his two fine ECM recordings, Khmer and Solid Ether. Manfred Eicher took a brave step by issuing music so far outside his label's aesthetic and showcasing a voice utterly different musically, but not strategically, from Jon Hassell's. Molvaer has been deeply influenced by Miles Davis and his sense of rhythm, dynamic, and texture are in many ways updates of the Dark Magus' vamp-driven sound as it collides with contemporary synthetic rhythms and atmospherics. He works with some of the finest musicians and DJ/producers in Northern Europe and the U.K. including vocalist Sidsel Endresen, Pal "Strangefruit" Nyhus, guitarist Eivind Aarset, and drummer Rune Arnesen to name a few. Thirsty Ear seems a better fit for Molvaer, who walks the tightrope between jazz, electronica, and ambient musics with ease and his own sense of rhythmic, harmonic, and dimensional atmospheres. An American Compilation is an excellent and sometimes jarring look at Molvaer's musical past and points to the directions he's leaning toward and reveals how he can, depending on his collaborators, continually reinvent his material. Yet, this is also a compilation of a different stripe. The faithful Yank will find new things here. The tracks that appeared on his ECM recordings have either been remixed or were recorded live: no licensing fees that way. One of the later cuts has been edited, "Nebulizer" from NP3, an album that never appeared in the States. The rest were taken from either Recoloured: Remix Album, Streamer (a live album), or the most recent studio offering ER. The latter two will be released by Thirsty Ear later in 2006. Some cuts that appear here, such as "Kakonita (Deathprod Mix)" barely resemble the originals. Other high points on this set are the sparse romantic darkness that is "Only These Things Count," with Endresen's moving vocal performance, and the tundra freeze meets the humid, dubwise, romantic ballad "Little Indian." Nothing here is wasted; all the sonics add up to a fine album in its own right. For those who haven't heard Molvaer, this is a fine way in; for those who have and believe, this is a little something to get you through until the new projects start appearing. ~ Thom Jurek
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- 1/1 (Oswald, Moritz Von)