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Monday, June 9, 2014

Nils Petter Molvær – Switch (Okeh/Sony, 2014) ****

By Martin Schray

Just about half a year after his electronica attempt with Moritz von Oswald, Nils Petter Molvær is back with a completely different album which is a lot more organic than 1/1.

In his constant trying to re-invent himself he has decided to live up to his reputation of being unpredictable diving into a sound cosmos which is not obvious at all – country music. For this purpose Molvær has brought together pedal steel guitarist Geir Sundstøl, pianist Morten Qvenild and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Erland Dahlen to form his new band, the slide guitar being in the focus.

While 1/1 was strangely cold on some tracks this album breathes the warm and lyric– almost classic Molvær - atmosphere again, because Sundstøl’s calming pedal steel, which reminds very often of Ben Keith, supports his trumpet in an ideal way creating wide landscapes and big skies in the tradition of Neil Young’s and Bill Frisell’s country albums.

But the album is not only about organic, gentle and elegiac sketches (as on the three “Intrusion” tracks), it is rather a clash between this natural approach on the one hand and the use of harsh, angular electronics, funky rock grooves and the synthetic urban sounds in “The Kit” and “Bathroom” on the other. This is made possible because the wisest decision Molvær has made for this album was to re-hire former Madrugada drummer Erland Dahlen, who was the crucial element on his penultimate album Baboon Moon, and to allow him to display his multi-instrumentalist abilities playing steel and log drums, blossom bells, xylophone, and electric and baritone guitars as often as his characteristic hard-rock drums. As a result Dahlen’s contributions even enforce Molvær’s soundscapes and form the basis for the band’s cinematic sound.

Switch is like the essence of Molvær’s work so far: There are remote dub reminiscences of 1/1 (the dubs in “The Kit”), of Khmer and of Solid Ether (the dance beats and breaks on “Strange Pillows”), the Indian world music sprinkles on “Quiet Corners” that go through his works in general and the cinemascope drums and spooky electronics on “Bathroom” which could also be found on Baboon Moon. It will be interesting where Molvær’s way will lead him from here.

Switch is available on double vinyl, CD and as a download.