Spin Marvel featuring Nils Petter Molvær – Infolding (2015)

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UK drummer Martin France started something good ten years ago when he launched Spin Marvel and this experimental band probing the frontiers of contemporary instrumental music stays fresh by addition. For its third LP Infolding, the progressive, highly improvisational electro-acoustic jazz outfit takes in the talents of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks bassist Tim Harries, Norwegian electronic sounds whiz Terje Evensen and another Norwegian, the pioneering trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær. But also for this go around, the remixing and producing acumen of Emre Ramazanoglu gives Spin Marvel an added dimension.

Infolding, coming out March 2, 2015 via Rare Noise Records, is one of the more successful jazz ventures into the 21st century sonority of electronics that retains everything that makes jazz such a dynamic, surprising music form. Like David Torn’s Prezens project, France’s own venture sees technology not as a crutch but a tool for expanding the artistic reach of improvisation in provocative ways.

The provocative level gets a boost from introducing Ramazanoglu into the mix, or rather, the remix. A drummer who’s known not just for his session work behind the kit but also behind the mixing boards, was brought in to put those finishing production touches to recordings taped in a single, four-hour session for the BBC. You’ve got France’s instinctual, virtuosic drumming, Evensen’s static-scapes, Harries’ brooding bass and Molvær’s atmospheric brass, but the real hero could very well be Ramazanoglu, whose own contributions makes everyone else’s key contributions more apparent.

In Ramazanoglu’s hands, the collisions between ambiance and noise become more spectacular and Molvær’s technologically assisted trumpet becomes an alien organism full of organic character. Listen to how the immersive mix on “Leap Second” magnifies the resonance of the Norwegians extended notes, for instance.

At the center of most performances is the ying and yang of the contemplative Nils Petter Molvær and the capricious France. “Canonical” sets up the template for casting these two opposing streams together, beginnings in ambient mode with Molvær’s heavily processed remarks setting the tone. But then France crashes in on drums and with Harries’ menacing bass lines in tow, battles with explosive human energy that fights back against the cold electronics. The epic “Same Hand Swiss Double Pug” walks at a glacier pace for much of the way, leaving wide open spaces for Nils Petter Molvær’s thoughts until France erupts with a fusillade of machine gun raps on the snare, pushing Molvær — and the rest of the band, for that matter — into darker territory. As France summons up more and more cymbals, the song gains density toward its conclusion. On the aforementioned “Leap Second,” France eventually propels the song off the ground, but this time his rustling keeps the intensity at the moderate level, preferring to play behind the trumpeter instead of in opposition to him.

Even Ramazanoglu follows France’s tactics when he takes over on drums for the concluding track “Minus Two,” disrupting the undulating sonic textures with free form drumming.

“Tuesday’s Blues” sounds for all intent purposes a free-jazz song at its core, but a tonal one, with Harries’ distorted, weeping bass defining the song’s harmonic progressions. On “Two Hill Town,” his primal thrumming amid random electro percussive effects lays an otherworldly bedrock for the urgent groove that emerges. Molvær’s unhurried harmonized remarks puts a majestic layer on top of this until France’s barely-contained drumming finally pushes the trumpet player to a crescendo of shrill blasts.

The merging of technology-laden sonic imagery with improvisation can bring about some edgy music and when done by the right personnel, it can produce spectacular results. Martin France assembled all the right figures in making Infolding a spectacular record.

Visit Martin France’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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