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Live Reviews

Scene Norway 2 at King's Place

By Published: December 13, 2013
Talkington continues to explain the reasoning behind the rest of her programming for Scene Norway 2:

Putting on an event like this was no easy task, and required no shortage of funding, but thankfully Talkington's connections, both in London and Norway, served her well and, after the first evening's events was already considered a success by all concerned:

While Opdahl's exhibition was not technically a part of Scene Norway 2, its evocation of the ruggedly beautiful Ålesund landscapes—as well as others found during a trip to Greenland—provided a visual dovetail to the music taking place in King's Place's two concert halls. Opdahl's own story is an intriguing and compelling one—and one that intersects, in some ways, with Molvær's own:

After three years, Opdahl moved back to Ålesund, to focus his work on his home:

Of course, painting landscapes was much different than the academic instruction Opdahl received in Oslo:

Opdahl's approach may be traditional in its techniques, but the results are anything but; impressionistic pieces where far more is implied than is actually there:

His series of Greenland pieces, also on display at the exhibition, had a different beginning:

Opdahl's travels have taken him as far south as the Antarctic. But while some artists make sketches that are transferred directly to what become finished pieces, in Opdahl's case, both his medium and purpose are quite different:

Opdahl's exhibition may reflect some of his most recent work, but he tends to work on multiple pieces at the same time, and so already has plenty more on the go:

Friday, November 15: Nils Petter Molvær Solo / Annbjørg Lien with Roger Tallroth

With Nils Petter Molvær the Scene Norway 2 Artist-in-Residence, it was an opportunity, as Talkington said, to really explore the breadth and depth of this Norwegian star. His first show, the opener to the event, was an early highlight: a solo performance—or, almost solo, since it was, in fact, a collaboration with the artist who has been the trumpeter's constant companion longer than anyone else. Visual artist Tord Knudsen is not just "a lighting engineer," he's a fully improvising artist who walks into most venues with just a couple of projectors, some small video cameras and a laptop computer; after that he works with whatever the venue has, and Hall One at King's Place clearly gave him plenty with which to work—more, perhaps, than most venues, from lighting spread around the balcony to a seemingly countless number of available lights on the high ceiling of the room.

Performing solo is an exhausting undertaking for any artist, especially if it's entirely improvised. Performing for a full hour, Molvær utilized some programming on a laptop to provide harmonic and rhythmic contexts to his set, but how and when he used them was not planned, and what he played over top of them was absolutely in-the-moment. As has been noted in other recent reviews of Molvær performances, he seems to be going back to his distinctive and utterly beautiful acoustic tone more often, and it's been a most welcome decision; not that he didn't employ effects like pitch shifters, delays, reverbs and more, but there were far more instances where he relied solely on the acoustic tone he's honed over the past three decades, one predicated on a unique approach to embouchure that's resulted in a sound which may have its precedents, most notably in Fourth World progenitor Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell
, but which has always been less about imitation and more about inspiration.

The beautiful acoustics of King's Place's Hall One were rendered even better thanks to the participation of Norway's Johnny Skalleberg—a sound engineer who also has a long history with Molvær and who ensured what reached the sold-out audience was as pristine, expansive and, at times, visceral as the trumpeter's music demanded. Whether he was playing acoustic or processed horn, singing into the bell of his heavily effected horn, or adding thundering percussive beats from his laptop, Molvær wasn't just seen and heard throughout the room, he was felt. Atmospherics juxtaposed with near tribal pulses, all mirrored by Knudsen's compelling imagery, which included massively altered images of Molvær on the projection screen, strobe-like lights flashing, seemingly randomly, across the ceiling of the hall, and occasional upward bursts of light emanating from the floor around the balcony.

All-in-all, a strong opener, about which Molvær had to say:

Referencing his forthcoming album, Switch (Sula, 2014)—his first true release as a leader since 2011's tremendous trio recording, Baboon Moon ( Sula), with this year's Moritz von Oswald collaboration, 1/1 (EmArcy, 2013) more of a side project—the trumpeter said:

Molvær's upcoming record may surprise those familiar with the recordings he's made since Khmer, but it simply reflects his desire to move forward and to relentlessly change and evolve:

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