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Albums by Nils Petter Molvær

Nils Petter Molvær

Nils Petter Molvær (NPM), Norwegian trumpet player, composer and producer, takes multiple music styles - jazz, ambient, house, electronic and break beats, as well as elements from hip hop, rock and pop music - and effortlessly reshapes them into unique and dramatic soundscapes of deep intensity.

NPM was born in 1960 on the little island of Sula (Norway). From an early age his father - jazz clarinettist and saxophonist, Jens Arne Molvær - introduced NPM to jazz, although his musical diet would become increasingly diverse. After playing in school bands and local clubs, he left Sula in 1979 to study music at the Trondheim Conservatory, where he began developing his singular style, and proceeded to gain a reputation as one of Norway's emerging new talents.

His remarkable ease in handling the often-contrary conventions of pop, rock, funk, and modern jazz ensured a strong interest in both acoustic and electric music. This chameleon-like ability soon established him as a much sought-after musician in Oslo, which ultimately led to his a colourful and diverse curriculum vitae as a sideman. During his time with acclaimed jazz combo, Masqualero, NPM was introduced to Manfred Eicher, who welcomed him into his prestigious and much-lauded roster. Alongside the three ECM Masqualero releases, NPM recorded many classic studio sessions for ECM with artists such as Robyn Schulkowsky, Marilyn Mazur, Jon Balke's Oslo 13, and Sidsel Endresen. However, NPM wanted to do something different, both in terms of composition, and trumpet technique.


His debut album as a bandleader, "Khmer", was completed in 1997, and showcased NPM's new direction and the scope of his ambition. The album interweaves improvisation with hypnotic beats, using conventions previously associated with dance music and the electronic avant-garde to create an immediate and exciting new musical vocabulary. "Khmer" received extraordinary public and media response, and was honoured with the German Record Critics Award and a Norwegian Grammy. So successful was it, ECM - for the first time in its history - released singles from an album: "Khmer: The Remixes", offered now-classic remixes by The Herbaliser, Mental Overdrive and Rockers Hi-Fi.

Solid Ether

ECM released the eagerly awaited follow-up, "Solid Ether", in May 2000. It showed an intensification of NPM's dialogue with club culture, incorporating deeper grooves and harder edges than "Khmer", but did so without alienating the listener or compromising on artistic vision. The "Solid Ether" concept is one that has become central to NPM's output to date. Its main premise is that a piece of music is never really finished and that composing and producing are an ever-evolving process. "Ether does not exist, so how can it be solid? It's a paradox - like life".


Following on from the concept of "Solid Ether", NPM invited like-minded artists such as Funkstörung, Bill Laswell, Joakim Lone and Jason Swinscoe/Cinematic Orchestra, to remix tracks from that album. The resultant "Recoloured - The Remix Album" was released in April 2001. "I like space and poetry. The trumpet needs space to create its own language and poetry can be minimalist and express things with precision. The remixers on this collection create that space and express themselves in a precise but minimalistic way. They are looking for clarity, the essence of sound."


NPM's third album "np3", marked a parting from ECM, and was released by Universal Music Group in 2002. This album saw him continuing the concepts that were developed through "Khmer" and "Solid Ether", juxtaposing elements normally regarded as separate in such a way that they seemed to have always been part of each other. A strong presence on "np3" is NPM's soulful and creative use of new music technology, especially in the area of trumpet processing. Importantly, NPM manages to do this without dehumanising the music: "All these new tools are, in themselves, both positive and negative. The question is all about timing - when to stop the 'moment' and then freeze it and squeeze it. Time changes, sound changes, and music changes. Coming from a generation that didn't grow up with the traditional standards, this is a taste of my tradition. A future tradition." Enhancing the 'musical travel' experience intended, the album is punctuated with small ambient islands that unify the individual parts of album (including the vitriolic "Axis of Ignorance" and the beautiful "Little Indian") as a single entity.


"np3" was followed by the beautiful DVD "Molvær live" which showcased a live performance in Hamburg, and mainly features material from Khmer and Solid Ether, although the "np3" track "Nebulizer" appears, in typical Molvær fashion, in a substantially different form from the version from that album. The DVD also included interviews that allowed NPM to explain his methods and his ambitions for his music, making it compulsory viewing for his growing fan base. As with "Solid Ether", NPM invited artists - including Bugge Wesseltoft, Funkstörung, Matthew Herbert, Clive-Lowe/Dego, Bill Laswell and Martin Koller - to remix tracks from "np3", and these were released as "Remakes" in 2005. One critic proclaimed: "Remakes confirms once again that NPM's music upholds its quality from here to eternity, and that it is a small kingdom for the world's best sound manipulators".

Buddy Award

At the end of 2003, NPM received the highly sought-after cultural prize, the Buddy, which is the highest accolade a jazz musician can receive in Norway. In its decision, the jury stated: "NPM has developed a personal and distinctive mode of musical expression, and has distinguished himself as an instrumentalist and composer. He has one of the strongest international careers in Norwegian music".


NPM is well known for his superb live concerts, and born from his successful world tour in 2002, his first live album, "Streamer" was produced from recordings of amazing performances at London's legendary Marquee Club and the Tampere Jazz Festival in Finland. Once again, the concept of "Solid Ether" re-emerges and shows how tracks that appeared on previous albums had evolved. "Streamer" was released in 2004 and has been called a celebration of NPM's live performances and received great reviews.

Music for Film, TV & Theatre

Living up to his reputation as a hard-working musician, composer and producer, NPM often works with diverse projects simultaneously. During the composition and production of his next album ("ER"), he produced music for Henrik Ibsen's "Ghosts" on commission from Riksteateret (National Theatre Productions). He also produced music for the downbeat French comedy "Edy", directed by Stephan Guérin-Tillié featuring the well-known and acclaimed actors Francois Berléand and Philippe Noiret. Guérin-Tillié said "The three main pillars of 'Edy' are the two main actors and NPM's music, which plays a central role in the motion picture." The soundtrack was subsequently released on CD.

Solo Performance

Rikskonsertene (The National Producer of Live Performances) commissioned NPM to compose a solo performance. This composition became a creative fusion of music, light and video. NPM performed solo on stage with his trumpet, supported by digital sound, co-ordinated lighting and video designs. NPM toured Norway and some selected cities in Europe during the winter 2004 with this project to great acclaim.


NPM's next studio album was "ER". This record contained a wide spectrum of musical expression: from the soft, downbeat and low-key to the strong, powerful and epic. "ER" marked a new direction, built upon concepts that had emerged from the creation of the solo performance for Rikskonsertene and the soundtrack for "Edy". Despite the changes, however, "ER" retained a feeling of familiarity, something unmistakeably "Molvær". More creative space was given to programmers like Knut Sævik, DJ Strangefruit, Reidar Skaar and Jan Bang: "It's important to use people in what they're good at."

While vocal tracks had appeared on his previous releases, in "ER" they too were given more space. The dynamic "Water" featured Sidsel Endresen's unique voice, singing a wordless song of dynamic intensity. In the beautiful song "Only These Things Count", Sidsel's voice again leads the way, with beautifully restrained accompaniment from Eivind Aarset on guitar, Magne Furuholmen on acoustic piano, and Ingebrigt Flaten on acoustic bass. NPM's trumpet provides layered chords as well as some beautiful soloing in this strong and emotionally charged ballad. Common to the eight tracks on "ER" is NPM's strong melodic playing, this time with more emphasis on his superb and distinctive technique than the application of effects and processing of the previous albums. The album subsequently won a Norwegian Grammy.


While the expectation of a third album of third-party remixes based on "ER" might seem reasonable, NPM instead opted to try something more personal. Rather than sending his music out to third parties for re-imagining, he decided to re-call his own music created for films and reassemble it in a much more personal and intimate form. The result is the emotionally charged and atmospheric "re-vision", a selection of some of his finest compositions for film. Featuring Nisamettin Aric, Anders Engen, Paolo Vinaccia and regular collaborators Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang, and Reidar Skaar, "re-visions" contains a diversity of textures previously unheard in NPM’s music. The arrangements straddle the world’s musical genres in effortless leaps, from East to West and from North to South: muezzin calls and Armenian duduk blend into an exciting electro-acoustic melange familiar to long-time fans.


The word "Hamada" is taken from the Arabian language and means dead, inanimately, congealed, lapsed. It is used as the geological term for a stone or rock desert with no or only little sand. Instead it is filled with edgy stones or rocks as a result of physical erosion. For vehicles or dromedaries it is impossible to cross hamadas. Hamadas make 70% of all deserts on the Earth - the best known is probably the Sahara. Due to the rocky bedrock there are hardly any water reserves in a hamada and if it rains in the wadis the water-impermeable ground turns the rainfall into dangerous to cross streams. Although hamadas are hostile to life areas and only a very few wood and thistle plants can survive they still conceal a tremendous beauty and appeal.

It would be too obvious an interpretation of the album title though to compare the songs with the characters of a hamada and search for the rocky parts, the floating bits, the parching or the drowning, the thirst and the drought. All of that could be found, but in actual fact Nils Petter Molvaer discovered the album title while watching a report on National Geographic about an eremite who was walking through the desert and survived by eating lizards and insects. This inspired him to dedicate the song titles as well as the album title to planet earth and its nature phenomena and wonders.

It is Nils Petter Molvaer´s most angry and darkest album up to date with climaxes in the songs "Friction" and "Cruel Altitude" where he and his fellow musicians, Eivind Aarset (g) and Audun Kleive (dr), leave the paths of ambient, electronica and improvisation and get the axe out to poach in the fields of indie- and 70ies-prog-rock, before they cool it down to end the album on a more conciliatory note.

Since entering the music scene in the late 90ies Nils Petter Molvaer has been one of the innovators of European jazz melting jazz influences with electronic, ambient and house, and creating unique and dramatic soundscapes of deep intensity - one of the reasons why he has also been very much sought after to compose for film, movies and advertising. His most recent movie work "Sleeping Songs - Schlaeft ein Lied in allen Dingen" (directed by Andreas Struck) has been premiered earlier this year at the renown Berlinale Film Festival and was celebrated by audience and critics.

On HAMADA Nils Petter Molvaer takes his musical approach to the next level and sucks the listener into his world of orgiastic sounds that create visual images in the listener's brain. The album is scheduled for release on April 17, 2009 and will be followed by extensive touring throughout the rest of the year.

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