331

Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
While Nils Petter Molvær's last release—the first after breaking up his band of ten years—demonstrated plenty of change for the Norwegian trumpeter, he still relied on two of that group's most significant players: live sampler Jan Bang and, most importantly, guitarist Eivind Aarset, who contributed to eight of its ten tracks. Still, Hamada (Sula, 2009) began to move away from the programmed beats of er (Sula, 2005), towards a harder-edged sound—driven, in no small part, by drummer Audun Kleive's thundering work on one of the album's strongest and most decidedly different tracks, "Cruel Altitude."

The explosive combination of drummer Erland Dahlen, who replaced Kleive after subbing at Molvær's Molde Jazz 2010 show—detonating one heckuva nuclear device beneath the trio—and guitarist Stian Westerus, who joined after Aarset's tinnitus forced him to leave the group, has given Molvær's music an even greater facelift. If Hamada was transitional, Baboon Moon completes the change; an album of paradoxes and, quite simply, the most important record Molvær has released since changing the musical landscape on the groundbreaking Khmer (ECM, 1997).

Westerhus, whose Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon, 2010) was as important a debut as Aarset's Electronique Noir (Jazzland) was when it was released 12 years earlier, also assumes the role of producer (a significant endorsement from Molvær), bringing a completely different aesthetic to sonic layering—his heavily effected guitars creating massive walls of sound as opposed to Aarset's aural clouds.

The difference is immediate, an unexpected low-register sonic grabbing instant attention on the opening "Mercury Heart," before a pulsating, three-chord pattern creates a simple context for Molvær's unfailing melodism. Even when the alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4 kick into higher gear with Dahlen's thundering kit, Molvær's increasingly processed trumpet remains a focal point of captivating lyricism. A softer middle passage focuses on Dahlen's percussive orchestration, which ultimately includes everything from log drums and gongs to steel drums and, over Westerhus' tremolo-driven but still unearthly guitar, a singing saw. This may be a trio capable of great extremes, but it's equally capable of subtle beauty, with Westerhus' intimate command of what he lists as "too many pedals" creating an ever-shifting network of dissonant and consonant textures. Even when he resorts to a crunching baritone guitar riff on the hard-driving "Recoil," it's peppered with the kind of unexpected sonic colors that, in their rapid-fire delivery, can only be seen to be believed.

Beyond the obvious touchstones of trumpet, guitar and drums, there's so much unidentifiable sound here that it's nearly impossible to know who is doing what. Molvær's singing into his trumpet microphone is hard to discern, so processed and, at times, looped is it that it bears little resemblance to the human voice. But that's part of the magic of Baboon Moon, an album that challenges every preconception of sound as Molvær delivers yet another career-defining album of improv-heavy, at times hardcore at other times obliquely beautiful music that may stem from many sources, but ultimately exists in a space all its own.


[Note: Baboon Music is released September 16 in Europe, with North American release, courtesy of Thirsty Ear Recordings, to follow on November 1.]

Track Listing: Mercury Heart; A Small Realm; Recoil; Bloodline; Sleep With Echoes; Blue Fandango; Prince of Calm; Coded; Baboon Moon.

Personnel: Nils Petter Molvær: electric and acoustic trumpet, voices, loops, bass synth; Stian Westerhus: electric and acoustic guitars, baritone guitars, analogue synth, hand percussion, takezither, Studer A80, Atari MX50508, harmonium, Roland RE-201, Hiwatt tape echo, vocals, prepared upright piano, Bedwin pianoframe, too many pedals; Erland Dahlen: drums, log drum, steel drum, metal percussion, singing saw vocal, harmonium, bells, candybox shaker; Susanne Sundler: vocals (9).

Title: Baboon Moon | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sula Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Door Girl CD/LP/Track Review Door Girl
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Incidentals CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Manovuotometro" CD/LP/Track Review Manovuotometro
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "Rumbler" CD/LP/Track Review Rumbler
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 2, 2017
Read "Il sistema periodico" CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Voices in the Void" CD/LP/Track Review Voices in the Void
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Miguel Angelo Quarteto: A Vida de X" CD/LP/Track Review Miguel Angelo Quarteto: A Vida de X
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 10, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.