Somnambule - Writing About Music

Nils Petter Molvær

Cargo, 10 September 2004

The Norwegian trumpeter is in town for a one-off concert in support of his new live album, Streamer. He and his group begin playing an hour before midnight. It’s dark and packed in this club space normally devoted to djs and dancing - which is surely Molvaer’s reason for choosing this venue. The band take a couple of minutes to find their levels, necessary because this is very much an electronic, post-Miles Davis outfit which includes Jan Bang and DJ Strangefruit on samples and effects, Eivind Aarset on guitar and Rune Arnesen on drums. Once the sound’s sorted, the beat quickly builds to a four to the floor monster over which Molvaer traces luminous tracer arcs and mournful squiggles. Meanwhile Bang tweaks his equipment and strikes brief, angular poses like a modern-day pharaoh, and Aarset wrings out guitar squalls, his face obscured by trademark blonde locks. By the end of the track some of the audience are already dancing. There’s a brief ambient lull and then the beats kick in again, louder and more forceful than ever. It’s difficult not to surrender to the sheer volume and drive of this music which comes on like a technologised warhorse intent on carrying its audience to Valhalla. Molvaer and Aarset begin to spar and the sound is like a fight to the death between two angry, wounded animals. Apart from a couple of quieter interludes which act as necessary contrast, the evening is devoted to slamming rhythms simultaneously heated by Molvaer’s gulf stream blasts, mangled by Aarset’s firestorm guitar and corroded and enlivened by Bang’s and Strangefruit’s soundscaping. The evening reveals once again the glorious live dynamic that’s all too often smoothed away by the home-listening oriented productions on Molvaer’s commercial releases. This is music felt in the gut: Molvaer suddenly makes utter, convincing sense.
Colin Buttimer
Published by Jazzwise magazine