Monday, January 28, 2013
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
MooV's music is almost impossible to classify as it criss-crosses musical boundaries with Elisabeth Nygard's supremely flexible voice at the heart of the ensemble.
(Squeaky Kate Music)
The five piece ensemble MooV is one of a number of projects masterminded by composer, pianist and electronic artist Colin Riley and appears on his own Squeaky Kate record label. Riley’s output straddles the boundaries of jazz, pop and modern classical music – visit http://www.squeakykate.co.uk for an insight into his full portfolio.
“Here” represents the follow up to 2008’s successful “Fold” and features the voice and lyrics of Elisabeth Nygard, the Norwegian born, UK based vocalist who is perhaps most familiar to British listeners as a member of trumpeter Rory Simmons’ innovative ensemble Fringe Magnetic. Nygard has also been heard with Extended Corner, another large-ish ensemble led by Norwegian trumpeter Didrik Ingvaldsen and more recently in the trio Eyes Of A Blue Dog alongside Simmons and drummer/electronics artist Terje Evensen. Broadly speaking MooV operates in roughly the same musical area as the Eyes Of A Blue Dog trio, a mix of jazz, pop song and electronica with Nygard’s Bjork like vocals a key component of the music. The MooV line up also includes Nygard’s Fringe Magnetic colleague Natalie Rozario an cello plus bassist Pete Wilson and percussionist Rob Millett, the latter previously heard by me on recordings by saxophonist Tony Woods.
The album opens with “I Dream Beside You” which establishes the ensemble sound, wispy electronics, Nygard’s sensuous Bjork like vocals, sometimes multi tracked, plus the exotic percussion shadings of Millett and a smattering of rich, dark cello from Rozario. Despite the predominately British line-up the mood feels inescapably Scandinavian. It’s unfortunate that the album packaging doesn’t include a lyric sheet which would foster a greater appreciation of the words, both Riley and Nygard contribute lyrics to the project and much of the music is co-written.
An eerie vibes like shimmer introduces “A Pier”, another offering in the same ethereal vein with Riley’s piano this time more prominent in the mix alongside dashes of cello, judicious use of electronica and Nygard’s extraordinary voice.
The Squeaky Kate website describes MooV’s music as comprising of “intimate songs with a dark edge” and this approach is typified by the intensely intimate minimalism of “Trust” where the vulnerability of Nygard’s voice is almost painfully exposed alongside Riley’s sparse piano and
Rozario’s spectral bowings and scrapings.
“Release” with its pizzicato strings and quietly busy percussion initially sounds more playful but there’s still a sadness at its core. Nevertheless it’s still one of the albums most accessible pieces thus far with its hypnotic piano patterns, engaging hints of folk melody and constantly fascinating percussion.
The pared down “Quiet Sounds” with its core voice, piano, cello configuration is another representation of the group at their most intimate and reflective with Nygard’s voice at her most Bjork like.
By way of contrast “Pirate Hats and Bears” sees the group at their most light hearted, this delightfully playful piece represents a welcome change to the mood of much of the rest album yet does so without disturbing anything of the group’s core aesthetic.
The brief but atmospheric “Rain in (for L.S.) and the following “Soft Rain” feature Nygard Nygard pushing her voice into Sidsel Endresen territory before the group return to a more obviously song based structure for the Bjork like “Cold Crave” with Rozario’s woozy cello complementing Riley’s ethereal but inventive keyboards and Millett’s similarly inventive drums and percussion.
Both “Spires” and “While I Stole Your Affection” are credited to Riley/Nygard/Rozario with Nygard providing the lyrics. Certainly the cello, both plucked and bowed plays a significant part in the arrangements of both songs. “Spires” is little more than a miniature, “While I Stole…” is more involved with a stronger sense of narrative.
“Spoken Or Sung” is a brief but effective duet for piano and voice and the album ends with the fragile atmospherics of “Vinter Na”, again predominately scored for piano and voice but with a haunting cello part from Rozario.
MooV’s music is almost impossible to classify as it criss crosses musical boundaries with Nygard’s supremely flexible voice at the heart of the ensemble. With its references to avant pop and folk, modern classicism (chamber music crossed with minimalism) and electronica it’s a fascinating blend of colour, nuance and texture although some listeners may find it all a little too rarefied, chilly and bloodless. “Here” is all about building a mood and sustaining it throughout the album with Nygard’s voice expressing both sensuality and vulnerability whilst simultaneously pushing at technical boundaries of the human voice. Some of the musical arrangements are gloriously understated and subtle and there’s a studied atmosphere of intimacy, fragility and restraint throughout. It’s a less robust and varied album than the Eyes Of A Blue Dog release and for most listeners, myself included, probably also less accessible. Nevertheless “Here” is a considerable success on its own terms and is a particular favourite of outgoing Jazz UK editor Roger Thomas who gave the album a glowing review in issue 108 of Jazz UK (December 2012/January 2013). Chris Parker of the London Jazz Blog rather liked it too and I’d also surmise that it’s an album that’s likely to appeal to BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction audience.
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