wed 28/02/2024

Album: Nils Petter Molvær - Certainty of Tides | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Nils Petter Molvær - Certainty of Tides

Album: Nils Petter Molvær - Certainty of Tides

An arresting symphonic journey through the heart of Molvær's musical world

Searching melodic lines and gorgeous backdrops

With beautiful playing from the Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Ingar Berby, sumptuous arrangements which hint at everything from the great jazz orchestrator Gil Evans to the haunting "night music" of Béla Bartók, and – at its heart – the wonderfully singing quality of Nils Petter Molvær’s trumpet playing, these symphonic reimaginings present a remarkable conspectus of the Norwegian musician’s work.

The trilling strings and ominous bass drum thuds of album opener “Maja” (otherwise known as “Little Indian” from Molvær’s 2002 album NP3) serve as an arresting prelude before the crystalline timbre of Molvær’s trumpet cuts through the texture. From his 2009 album, Hamada, “Sabkah” opens with a double bass pedal note so subliminal that it’s felt rather than heard, with Molvær’s searching melodic lines set against a gorgeous backdrop of wind, brass, strings, vibes and harp. Underpinned by subtly shifting textures in which a discernible harmonic centre appears ever elusive, “Icy Altitude” seems to exist in a permanent state of slow-motion free fall.

From his acclaimed 1979 ECM album, Khmer, Molvaer’s breakthrough as a solo artist, the minimalist ballad “On Stream” retains the pulse of the tabla from the original while adding growling low woodwind and brass. The pizzicato string glissandi which bring the piece to its enigmatic conclusion seem to nod to the timpani glissandi heard in the Adagio of Bartók’s wondrous Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

In the unchanging slow tread of “Simply So”, other ear-catching details – including marimba and crotales – rise to the surface. From his 1999 ECM album Solid Ether, “Kakonita”, featured in the soundtrack of the 1999 film Frosset hjerte (Frozen Heart) about the polar explorer Roald Amundsen, best exemplifies the canorous quality of Molvaer’s playing, pulling the beat around the bar á la Billie Holiday.


Listen to “Maja”

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