Sly & Robbie + Nils Petter Molvaer Live – Financial Times review

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wicked shots by Laurent Gudin taken during rehearsals in Hauterives, France

July 20, 2015 6:33 pm


Sly and Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer – Barbican, London — review


The drum-and-bass duo and Scandinavian trio gelled easily in a series of jams heavy on texture.

Jamaica and Norway might be separated by several oceans, but when it comes to texture and rhythm, the distance is not so great.

Especially when producer/musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare are at the helm. The drum-and-bass duo teamed up in the mid 1970s and have stuck to a core formula ever since. But their solid bass, springy beats and echoing studio-enhanced textures have proved to be extremely adaptable, supporting major shifts in Jamaican music and countless collaborations.

The pulse was solid at this gig, but here the textured swirls were produced by three heavily computerised Scandinavians. Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer took the lead with amplified trumpet, doctoring plaintive sustained notes into a high-pitched howl or harmonised lament. Guitarist Eivind Aarset played dense layers of sampled keyboard and occasional bursts of rhythm, while Vladislav Delay, who describes himself as an electronica artist, conjured hisses, clangs, and doctored samples of the gig itself. With Sly and Robbie solid underneath and ethereal on the surface, the combination gelled easily.

 The performance unfolded as a series of jams pitched variously between reggae and dub with some funk thrown in. With bass lines repeated and melody in short supply, the emphasis was on texture and pulse, and these the concert delivered with interest. And if the melodrama of dub was somewhat absent, the evolving soundscapes the band produced held sway.

 The evening started free of bass and trumpet with a mist of textures, a hiss of cymbals and a lollopy side drum roll. The performance ended with a lone Robbie Shakespeare coaxing the audience to get the band back for the encore, “You Don’t Love Me”. Earlier he had also sung, somewhat tunelessly, “Land Far Away” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

 Vocals flaws, though, are a side issue. This gig was about resonance and rhythm as crisp, low-tuned rolls punctuated ever-changing layers of sound and fat, low-toned bass supported minute variations in the pulse. And Molvaer stood out for a knockout ballad that combined a scarcely doctored trumpet with the wheezy tones of a sampled chapel harmonium, here delivered by Aarset’s synthesised guitar.


At this point, we’re not authorized to post the concert at the Barbican, so here is the performance in Warsaw, which was broadcast on Polish National Television


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