Is it Jazz? Is it electronica? Never mind. Just enjoy it.

by on November 1st, 2012

If you have ever been in a room with Jazz heads, you know the most annoying and pointless discussion is the “what is Jazz” discussion. It’s about as interesting and pointless as the “what is art” discussion. Everyone thinks they are right and has a well reasoned argument. However everybody is clueless and wrong on both fronts. Nils Petter Molvaer with his Jazz meets Electronica album Er stirs up some of those very emotions.

Rather than go that route, I think it’s probably better to describe this album based on the trajectory of its influences. On the jazz side of this recording, I would say you would want to start in the 1950’s. Although the rhythms on Er are generated by drum machines and are unnatural sounds, it draws heavily on music from both Africa and Latin America. During the 1950’s in Jazz there were several artists (see Yusef Lateef for a start) who took Jazz back to its roots in Africa. Er definitely follows this tract of thought. Lots of tabla and big polyrhythmic drums. However even though the rhythms are African there is still a very modern electronic sound to them. Fans of electronica will see shades of Aphex Twin, Portishead, or Four Tet. The album meanders from big drum dance songs to downtempo or ambient. On the songs Water and Only These Things Count, Nils employs a great female singer in Sidsel Endresen. Sidsel has a great smokey cafe jazz voice as thick in texture as Nils’ horn. Which is very reminiscent of Miles Davis‘ breathy horn. You can really feel the texture in the sound in his horn with every note. Rather than sounding processed and synthesized it sounds very natural and warm. At times almost sounding like a human voice.

Some Jazz heads will say this isn’t pure enough and dub stepping dance heads will find the horn work too up front. For the rest of us this is a great aural journey. If you find you like this there is an entire world of Jazz/Electronic crossover out there. An excellent place to try next is Cedar Rapid’s very own Koplant No.

Guest Blogger Kylie Buddin is an active member of the Iowa City music scene. He works with young people at United Action for Youth.

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