By Martin Schray
One of the critical remarks Nils Petter Molvær has often had to face is that he allegedly justs repeats the formula of success of his hit album “Khmer” (ECM, 1997) mixing electronics with a trumpet sound that reminds of Miles Davis. But whether you like him or not, Molvær has often tried to reinvent himself, for example on “Streamer” (Thirsty Ear, 2004) on which he used rather dark beats (instead of the drum and bass lines of “Khmer”) to back up his mellow trumpet sounds or – even more – on his last album “Baboon Moon” (Columbia, 2011) where he used Erland Dahlen’s (dr) and Stian Westerhus’s (g) rock approach to create a fantastic kraut-rock-meets-Scandinavian-new-jazz record.
On “1/1” he is back to electronics again with Berlin-based former Palais Schaumburg drummer and techno/dub producer Moritz von Oswald (he founded the Basic Channel and Chain Reaction labels with his friend Mark Ernestus). Molvær and von Oswald have known the music of each other for a long time but haven’t actually met until a friend of von Oswald came up with the idea of working together knowing that both musicians like analogue sounds and consider themselves as improvisers (von Oswald has recently been very interested in live processing). Their collaboration is based on respect, admiration and concentration, as von Oswald said in an interview and on the fact that both of them don’t like to be pigeon-holed - they do not think in genres as jazz, for example.
Their music works great whenever von Oswald builds a minimal atmosphere displaying warm and elegant dub grooves which Molvær can use to exhale poetic trumpet blow-outs like on “Development” or the wonderful “Future”, a track which is also interspersed with mean short electronic samples. Molvær almost vanishes completely here, he lets the track breathe. And it works with the two bookending tracks “Noise 1” and “Noise 2”, both dark cinematic and atmospheric soundscapes, especially because of von Oswald’s gloomy drone-like textures and synthetic, dissonant grooves.
Unfortunately, the collaboration works less when the grooves are one-dimensional and too monotonous as in “Transition” (the longest track) and “Step by Step”, when it seems that they have no real idea in which direction the music should go and the tracks are plain interior decoration. Von Oswald has even described this music as “music noir”, when you only hear the noise of a dark city, but he also said it was functional music for bars or rides on deserted highways late at night.
All in all “1/1” is a nice album but it drags on a bit here and there.
Listen to “Development” here: