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Solid Ether 

Wednesday, Jun 7 2006
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Solid Ether

Everything’s maxed. Volume louder than the neighbors’ dogs. Bass boost punched on the subwoofer. Five speakers primed for surround mode. Oh yeah. Ready.

Fresh shitstorm from Marilyn Manson? Not today; the occasion is An American Compilation, the new mix-up by Norwegian tech-jazzer Nils Petter Molvaer. And the sound system is gonna bleed.

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Here it comes. Molvaer’s declaratory trumpet floats amid woodland chirps, then the beat struts in like an ambulatory oak, bass booms shake dead insects outta ceiling cracks, synth shocks tangle with Enoistic coos, and the mood of pride, sorrow, juice and gigantitude is locked in for the duration. How artfully this record is sequenced! Lulls of swirling texture permit just enough time to catch your breath before the next wave of sea-on-earth sex groove, or unhinged dope-dance riddim, or gargantuan vampire bats whooshing ’round your head. This is some of the most radical (yet sensual) music you’ll ever hear, with some sounds hitting hard enough to raise fears your speaker cones will rip; I can fry bacon on my amplifier after 20 minutes. Things chill out somewhat following the first two-thirds, but by then you’ll be praying for rain.

Much homage to the always knife-edged Thirsty Ear label, which has bought up some of the Molvaer oeuvre unreleased stateside (including ER and the live Streamer, both to be reissued later in full) and commissioned the auteur to weave selections into one continuous cravat suitable for orgasmic asphyxiation. Despite 1997’s brain-bruising Khmer and 2000’s lighter-hued Solid Ether on ECM, Molvaer’s five-star career is little lauded here, though those who hear him tend to go gonzo — the exploratory Bay Area saxist Patrick Cress has actually toured performing Ether in its entirety. Jazz too often shrinks from the red zone; Molvaer pins the needles.

French Fires

It’s been good to see French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc returning regularly; he’s one jazz guy who pleases customers without being a throwback or a wimp. (That leather jacket — rough trade!) His touch is a nice balance of caress and celerity. He writes inviting melodies. His respect for standards doesn’t prevent him from taking off on ’em. And his art is obviously a vehicle for his emotions, not just a technical exercise. Pilc brings bassist François Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig, friends with complex chemistry and a real ability to light fires under a piano bench.?

The Jean-Michel Pilc Trio plays the Jazz Bakery Tues.-Sun., June 13-18.

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