Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer was first introduced to American audiences via his two fine ECM recordings, Khmer and Solid Ether. Manfred Eicher took a brave step by issuing music so far outside his label's aesthetic and showcasing a voice utterly different musically, but not strategically, from Jon Hassell's. Molvaer has been deeply influenced by Miles Davis and his sense of rhythm, dynamic, and texture are in many ways updates of the Dark Magus' vamp-driven sound as it collides with contemporary synthetic rhythms and atmospherics. He works with some of the finest musicians and DJ/producers in Northern Europe and the U.K. including vocalist Sidsel Endresen, Pal "Strangefruit" Nyhus, guitarist Eivind Aarset, and drummer Rune Arnesen to name a few. Thirsty Ear seems a better fit for Molvaer, who walks the tightrope between jazz, electronica, and ambient musics with ease and his own sense of rhythmic, harmonic, and dimensional atmospheres. An American Compilation is an excellent and sometimes jarring look at Molvaer's musical past and points to the directions he's leaning toward and reveals how he can, depending on his collaborators, continually reinvent his material. Yet, this is also a compilation of a different stripe. The faithful Yank will find new things here. The tracks that appeared on his ECM recordings have either been remixed or were recorded live: no licensing fees that way. One of the later cuts has been edited, "Nebulizer" from NP3, an album that never appeared in the States. The rest were taken from either Recoloured: Remix Album, Streamer (a live album), or the most recent studio offering ER. The latter two will be released by Thirsty Ear later in 2006. Some cuts that appear here, such as "Kakonita (Deathprod Mix)" barely resemble the originals. Other high points on this set are the sparse romantic darkness that is "Only These Things Count," with Endresen's moving vocal performance, and the tundra freeze meets the humid, dubwise, romantic ballad "Little Indian." Nothing here is wasted; all the sonics add up to a fine album in its own right. For those who haven't heard Molvaer, this is a fine way in; for those who have and believe, this is a little something to get you through until the new projects start appearing.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek