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Nils Petter Molvaer

Streamer / ER

(Thirsty Ear; US: 21 Nov 2006; UK: Available as import)

A choir of flutes? Then there’s a quieter, maybe some way off in the jungle, evocation of the classic cry of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan, a sound whose creation for a film three score and ten years back was maybe proto-electronica.


On the opener of the second of these CDs, ER Molvaer’s beautiful lyric playing over mysterious undergrowths itself becomes choral. I could have believed I was listening to George Russell’s “Listen to the Silence” by the time a virtual child of trumpet and rock guitar produced its attractively curious combination/alternation of tone and phrasing. I did, however, wish the jungle drums would relent a little, shortly before “Hover” ended and the second title began. “Softer”—and the trumpeter has no problems with dynamics while playing his own velvet-toned horn—has an echo within an echo and miraculous plaintive phrasing prior to further high-watt adjustment. “Softer” may indeed be softer, quieter, with even further subtlety of lyrical finesse, but there are also fewer superfluous sounds in the hinterground. Can overkill be subtle and discreet?


“Water” opens with some semblance of a big group of instrumentalists playing very quietly, but stopcocks seem to open and there’s even a lady singing or performing an incantation or… a tape of her speech played backward for Christmas? What can be going on? Trumpet section, rock drumming, heavy backbeat, rock with at last trumpet-guitar sounding off up high. And the trumpet section again?


“Only These Things Count” has a less busy sound in the ensemble, at least behind the first few bars of lyrical trumpet.  The lady starts singing audibly, occasionally echoed, echoey and slightly muffled, sounds of gong and tabla coming out of the never unsoft nor undreamy.


“Sober”, though? The trumpet tone on that track titled for a sometimes undervalued state of being remains a thing of such rare beauty that perhaps only the lady’s voice and minimal rhythm section can be allowed to sound in its vicinity: nothing unspiritual, pray! Nothing with a physicality that could disturb the twangs and strumming clangs of “Darker”—though some of them hint at ominous, and I daresay dark—and the rings and the voices overheard from radio—or played on a tape backward?
Twangs, clangs, and a spectral choir, it’s “Dancer” in the encouraged-sounding more vivid mode of Gil Evans trumpet sections, bells, building-to-a-climax drumming with a male voice and chugging and—gee, Mildred, this guy sure knows how to build a climax: or toward one, since we’re not there quite yet. Riffing electronics, the trumpet an approving spectator and the multitude of drummers out in the open, even if they are no more or no other than electronic… And didn’t it all stop suddenly?


Streamer staples together recordings from a couple of live gigs from 2002, mostly performing material recorded and issued on another CD not long before. Naming the first two performances “Frozen” and “Marrow” might imply a wittiness not tried for here. The conventional personnel of trumpet, guitar, and drums being seriously augmented with electronics, perhaps this music was half-live? The trumpeter’s credited with loops and samples, another guy (neither the guitarist nor the drummer) with loops and electronics, and one DJ Strangefruit on ‘vinyl abuse’.


The live set’s more overtly dramatic, “Frozen” being something of a war-dance, “Marrow” emerging from synthetic groans into hefty thumping beat with background voices then a reinstatement of plaintive trumpet. On “Little Indian” there’s more and different plaintive trumpet, with a female voice somewhere in the background. I suspect (slapaboom, slapaboom, slapaboom) there might be good reason for my preferring those portions of “Little Indian” which have no metronomic element, between the pseudo-strings start and the serious quiet organ chords which signal that we are now in “Kakonita”. The applause after that one was well deserved, but perhaps it came as a culmination of the realisation that the metronomic effects had been stopped for more than ten minutes? Here’s the flutes again, but other than noting that Molvaer never exactly repeats what his machinery has already done, I’ll leave behind efforts at description for another ten or so minutes and land the time machine (good vehicle for navigating a set with much electronica in the haze) during the strong evidence for audience enthusiasm over what preceded the almost eleven minutes of “Solid Ether” that the spell didn’t last. 


Perhaps one of the curious percussion noises registered as a click of the fingers and took me out of the hypnosis on which this music seems especially to depend for its effect. Inventive and a forerunner of later work Molvaer might be, he’s also a lovely lyrical trumpeter selective as to what he plays, an artist of atmospheres.

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