Disc one:
  1/  Khmer                                      (Molvaer)                     4.59
  2/  Tløn                                       (Molvaer)                     7.52
  3/  Access/Song Of Sand I                      (Molvaer)                     5.50
  4/  On Stream                                  (Molvaer)                     5.01
  5/  Platonic Years                             (Molvaer)                     6.33
  6/  Phum                                       (Molvaer)                     3.39
  7/  Song Of Sand II                            (Molvaer)                     6.10
  8/  Exit                                       (Molvaer)                     2.42

 Disc two:
  1/  Song Of Sand (Single Edit)                 (Molvaer)                     3.55
  2/  Platonic Years (DJ Fjørd Mix)              (Molvaer)                     5.19
        Remixed by The Herbaliser
  3/  Tløn (Dance Mix)                           (Molvaer)                     6.22
        Remixed by Mental Overdrive
  4/  Song Of Sand II (Coastal Warning Mix)      (Molvaer)                     4.17
        Remixed by Rockers Hi-Fi

          Recorded 1996-1997, Lydlab A/S, Oslo
          Produced by Manfred Eicher and Ulf W.Ø. Holand
Nils Petter Molvaer: trumpet (1,2,3,4,5,6,7), percussion (1), samples (1,2,3,4, 5,6,7), bass (2,3,4,5,7), guitar (3,7), percussion sample (8); Eivind Aarset: e-bow guitar (1,8), samples (1,5), guitar treatments (2), talk box (2), guitar (3,4,7), ambient guitar (5); Roger Ludvigsen: percussion (1), dulcimer (1), acoustic guitar (6,8); Rune Arnesen: drums (1,2,3,5,7); Morten Mølster: guitar (2,5), guitar solo (4); Ulf W.Ø. Holand: samples (2,3,4,7); Raidar Skår: sound treatment (3).

          1997 - ECM/BMG (USA), ECM 1560/78118 21560-2 (2xCD)
Note: Track 5 contains samples from Axiom Ambient's 'Lost In the Translation' produced by Bill Laswell and TOTALLY by Ab and Zu.


ECM have always had some sort of reputation based on great production, intelligent and introspective music, discerning covers and in many ways have been the trendsetters for much of what is now around. They tend to be the label that every one else worth their weight bases themselves on. And so this should be. I have been a collector for many years and I am happy to repeat what I have been saying for many many years, that this is the greatest label in our time. Consistency and loyalty is something that ECM has nurtured and I think this is a good thing. To a degree because so many of their musicians have not only recorded so many great albums but have also cross pollinated musically across such a wide spectrum of albums, this has in many ways contributed to that unique ECMsound. Now we have another ECM classic, this time by multi instrumentalist Nils Petter Molvaer. At time of review this had not been officially released but seek this out by all means. What you get is a cross over between world music, tribal,industrial beat techno, Nordic rock and some damn fine ambient moments. NPM is a fine trumpeter if ever there was one. Stylistically he sounds a bit like Don Cherry meets 70's Miles, especially on the title track. Check out Tion for some of the most intense playing heard for a long time. It all starts very slowly and then develops into some sort of roller coaster plethora of sound that builds up to something that is not exactly ECM, a sort of techno dance tune that will jump up and bite you on the bum interwoven with some of the cleverest Nordic guitar treatments and trumpet blowing I have heard for a long time. Move over Terje Rypdal, we have a new contender in Elvind Aarset, previously heard on Marilyn Mazur's excellent release on same label Small Labrynths. Lay down a THUNDEROUS drum beat over all this and you have a mother and a killer of a track.This absolutely kicks. Access continues the theme of Tion but concentrates more on the guitar work of Aarset. In fact this release is top heavy with guitarists. Second guitar is ex heavy metal player Morten Molster who I am advised used to be with the Norwegian band The September When, but these days is into improvisation and third guitarist is Roger Ludvigsen who is better known for his material with Mari Boine Persen, playing dulcimer and bowed acoustic guitar. Throw in sound treatments and samples (notably from Lost In The Translation by Bill Laswell) and you have one very interesting album that will carry ECM further into legend status. This is my contender so far for album of the year.

There are I am told remixes by Herbalizer, Mental Overdrive and Rocker's Hi-Fi on the way for this. Should be interesting to say the least. Molvaer himself says of this:

"Most of the guys in the remix world have a brilliant feel for beats and putting together grooves. I like this feeling of just letting loose all the elements of the work and then being confronted with them again, reassembled from the point of view of somebody else's aesthetic consciousness."

Hans Stoeve (courtesy of the Nadabrahma website)


Like many on ECM's roster, Swedish trumpeter Molvaer has been releasing intriguing atmospheric/ethnic-classical albums that have been the label's trade since its inception. While routinely cited as an accomplished sideman and innovator in his homeland, his latest disc has stirred a minor sensation among overseas electronica enthusiasts by marrying the freestyle improv of avant jazz to the fashionable, hyper-adrenalized beats of drum ‘'n' bass. More interesting for stateside consumers may be the notion of Bill Laswell's hybrids/fusions finally reaching into the jazz community, as Molvaer's work sounds like electric-period Miles Davis rammed up the backside by Lee "Scratch" Perry and The Mad Professor. While Molvaer's muted tones hover above Ulf Holand and Reidar Skar’s mesmerizing loops and cryptic sound treatments, the album’s trio of guitarists (Eivind Aarset, Morton Moister, and Roger Ludvigsen) scratch and chop and claw their way in a rock improv free-for-all that still sounds startling (tho' Davis' Bitches Brew nears the quarter century mark). While Laswell must obviously be smiling in the background (his "Axiom Ambient" is sampled prominently in a song here), Molvaer's work also features that unique Scandinavian bleakness, which puts the funky loops and samples in another whole context (as in "a long way from Compton"). And if, like some critics suggest, that Miles Davis is spinning in his grave at the thought of Laswell posthumously remixing his work (on the recent Panthalassa), at least it was in time to catch Molvaer acting upon his influence. For those of you so motivated, the American re-release features a second disc of innovative remixes by The Herbaliser, Mental Overdirve, and Rockers Hi-Fi.

Virginia Reed (courtesy of the Focus Magazine website)


(Note: In my mind a review is just a snapshot of my impressions of music at a given point or points, rather than opinions worth defending or dogmatic theory. Anything negative relates to sounds that might not have managed to reach their appropriate pleasure receptors, and who knows sometime they might.)

This is the first record I've heard by of this artist, so I can't provide any context on the career-evolution-background, or the current in which they swim.

Nils Petter Molvaer, "Khmer" on ECM Records, 1997. I got hipped to this one from a Robert Rich interview, so you know the musicianship and production quality are going to be outstanding, I guess. Molvaer is a trumpetist with substantial interest in electronic music, from the sound of this vaguely jazz oriented album. Ambient enthusiasts will not be unfamiliar with many of the locales Molvaer directs you towards, plus some obvious eastern and quasi-rock influences that almost make this a fusion upgrade. But there's considerably more restraint here than you ever heard in "jazz-fusion" music. (Anyway, it was in the "New Music" bin, so you be the judge.) The nicely distorted guitarwork by Eivind Aarset and Morten Molster is reminiscent of David Torn's solo on Seven Veils, which is a favorite of mine. I love the rhythmns and the sampled weirdness on this disc, a good deal of which will keep you captivated for the visuals, i.e. textures and landscapes. Sounds like some enhanced organic drumming, (which I have come to savor after a generation of drum machines.) I only wish it were all a bit longer, as 42 minutes strikes me a bit short for a CD these days. You can hear audio samples at the ECM website, which are pretty representative as I recall.