437

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Holon

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Holon While Nik Bärtsch's 2006 ECM debut, Stoa, was a powerful first shot across the international bow, garnering a place on many journalists' "Best of" lists for the year, the Swiss pianist had, in fact, been honing his self- proclaimed "Zen Funk" since the beginning of the decade, starting with the equally descriptive Ritual Groove Music (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2001). Holon capitalizes on the success and innovation of Stoa, again featuring his Ronin quintet, proving the value of ongoing musical partnerships, especially when creating music that's paradoxically as rarified and visceral as Bärtsch's.



Plenty has been written about the undeniable influence of minimalism on Bärtsch's writing; so, too, the potent grooves that make his music unfold hypnotically; filled with minute detail that captures the attention while being so trance-inducing that it's equally easy to get lost in the music, only to find it come and gone, seemingly in an instant. With returning clarinetist/saxophonist Sha, bassist Björn Meyer, drummer Kaspar Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato—players who, in some cases date right back to Ritual Groove Music and have worked with Bärtsch for at least the past five years—the overall textures remain the same. Still, Holon finds Sha bringing back his alto saxophone, last heard on Aer (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2004), while Bärtsch stays strictly with acoustic piano, though that does nothing to reduce the sonic breadth as he explores not only the full range of the keyboard, but inside the box as well.



Delineated improvisation is still largely avoided, but equally it remains a component of Bärtsch's music, subsumed in much the same way as Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim's work on the outstanding Sangam (ECM, 2005), although that's about the only comparison that can be drawn between these two very different composers, other than their remarkable sophistication at such relatively young ages. Instead, Bäs quintet move, as the leader himself describes, like "a school of fish moving across a coral reef with lightning speed." The rhythmic and contrapuntal complexity of Bärtsch's "Moduls," a uniform, numbered way of titling his compositions that avoids creating any kind of preconception about the music, belies the way in which the music ebbs and flows in a purely natural and uncannily organic fashion.



Repetition may be a fundamental part of the music, but not in the coldly mathematical fashion of some early minimalism. Instead, there's a direct emotional resonance, as the group winds its way through the largely ethereal "Modul 42," where drums and percussion drop out at the three-minute mark for a delicate piano/clarinet/bass trio, and the longer, more potent "Modul 41_17," where Bärtsch meshes new music with existing repertoire from Live (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2003), and places Meyer in an uncharacteristically forward role before the entire band kicks in with its fiery pulse.



With Holon, Bärtsch and Ronin continue to hone an unmistakable music. Cerebral in conception it may be, but this is music that remains almost Jungian in its near-archetypal physicality.


Track Listing: Modul 42; Modul 41_17; Modul 39_8; Modul 46; Modul 45; Modul 44.

Personnel: Nik Bärtsch: piano; Sha: bass and contrabass clarinets, alto saxophone; Björn Meyer: bass; Kaspar Rast: drums; Andi Pupato: percussion.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Funk/Groove


Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Dawg Yawp" CD/LP/Track Review Dawg Yawp
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Lovers" CD/LP/Track Review Lovers
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: September 13, 2016
Read "Day By Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day By Day
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "New Birth" CD/LP/Track Review New Birth
by Mike Jacobs
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "Dream Maps" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Maps
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "The Way You Say It" CD/LP/Track Review The Way You Say It
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!