Friday, 26 February 2010

Nils Petter Molvaer @ Band on the Wall, Thursday 25th February, 2010

The tables scattered afore the stage set the scene; one of the ‘sit back and marvel’ variety. The experimental jazz vibe of Nils Petter Molvaer’s shows, coupled with the fact that he’s scored music for several films, means that the visuals on the screen behind the performing trio are as relevant as tonight’s music in setting the mood. For the opening soundscape is built in similarity to the initially blue aurora; the increasing intensity of NPM’s silhouetted image mirrors the grungy guitar and drums that gradually join the Norwegian's trademark trumpeting. Flashing psychedelics overhead alter to vibrant colours, as the sound simmers back down to soothing, clear-minded ambience.

These were the early steps of a 90-minute voyage through a vast range of musical styles. From minimal melody to industrial grinds; bellowing trumpet to effects-ridden echoes; synthetic house beats to the subtlety of a finger-tapped solo on a loose cymbal. The nerve and patience of the musicianship is mesmerising, but even these maestros are allowed the occasional slip – interruption of the aforementioned cymbal solo by a whooshing effects malfunction is met with good humour, punctuating the concentration during the intricacies of each series of progressions and fades. There is a freely flowing feel to the performance, yet control is maintained through every distortion, electronic manipulation and visual synchronicity.

An encore seems a tad superfluous to add to a set that has enchanted continuously for nearly 90 minutes, so the second ending is fairly underwhelming, given what has preceded. However, what did precede is testament to the expansive sounds that three people can create.

Words: Ian Pennington
Picture: Nils Petter Molvaer @ Moers Festival, Germany, 2006 (Oliver Heisch)

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