336

Ballrogg: Insomnia

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Ballrogg: Insomnia Contrasting his role in the remarkable Norwegian trio In the Country—responsible for the critically acclaimed debut This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat (Rune Grammofon, 2005) and even more ambitious Whiteout (Rune Grammofon, 2009)—bassist Roger Arntzen formed Ballrogg in 2006, with saxophonist Klaus Ellerhusen Holm; a more intimate duo that found its own dark nexus of form and freedom. Ballrogg (Bolage, 2008) was a well-received look at the repertoires of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Giuffre; chamber jazz with an edge. That disc also included two tracks by Holm and one by Arntzen, but for Insomnia, the emphasis shifts almost entirely to original composition, with the saxophonist contributing six of its eight tunes.



The shift to original material means more than just a walk away from familiar jazz fare like Dolphy's "Out to Lunch" and Coleman's "Sex Spy," where the duo's distinctly unorthodox approach to sound and interaction rendered them barely recognizable; Insomnia, instead, possesses more in common with contemporary classicism and oblique folklorism. The title track features an expanded lineup—including laptop artist Lars Myrvoll, and violinists Kari Rønnekleiv and Ole-Henrik Moe, the latter heard on Ciaccona / 3 Persephone Perceptions (Rune Grammofon, 2008)—combining with Arntzen's bowed harmonics and Holm's expanded clarinet technique to create a collective improvisation that owes more to microtonal composer György Ligeti and improviser Joe Maneri than jazz hegemony. The piece may be relatively short—at just under six minutes, nearly the longest of the set—but demonstrates a surprising sense of development, as time is twisted and pulled to make it feel longer than it is, but in a good way. As dramatic as these five improvisers become—and the music possesses great but understated power, as the subtlest inflection creates surprising dynamic towards the middle of the piece—it's clearly about a collective push-and-pull, where the subtlest movement from one results, at times, in a near paradigm shift from the others.



But the majority of Insomnia remains a duo affair, with the exception of Holm's "Woody Creek," which, again featuring the violinists, sounds how Philip Glass might, were he to work more in smaller contexts as opposed to grander scales. Pulses, repeating motifs and a surprisingly cogent form emerge, even as Holm proves his saxophone mettle through some unusual tonguing as he leads from a brief a capella to full accompaniment. Acutely controlled embouchure and multiphonics are also part of his sonic arsenal, yet their effect is often extremely subtle, going by nearly unnoticed during his brief solo segment before the reiteration of composition's structure. The elegiac "Sleepwalker," also featuring guitarist Myrvoll, provides a rare, grounded moment where defined changes and folksy strumming approach---but never quite make—some kind of normal.



What defines Ballrogg is control: control over tone; control over texture; control over dynamics. But even more definitive of this angular, obsidian duo is its ability to blur the line between what is written and what is not. Further distancing itself from the jazz canon on Insomnia, Ballrogg asserts itself as an improvising duo with a keen ear for spare, cinematic landscapes.


Track Listing: N.R.E.M.; Woody Creek; Sleepwalker; Georgetown Suites; Monkeytown; Sort of Patterns in a Chromatic Field; Insomnia; Kampenhaug.

Personnel: Klaus Ellerhusen Holm: alto saxophone, b-clarinet, feedback amplifications; Roger Arntzen: double-bass; Lars Myrvoll: guitar (3), laptop (3, 7); Ole-Henrik Moe: violin (2, 7); Kari Rønnekleiv: violin (2, 7).

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Bolage | Style: Fringes of Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "To The Universe" CD/LP/Track Review To The Universe
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 14, 2016
Read "Purple Patio" CD/LP/Track Review Purple Patio
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" CD/LP/Track Review Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "American Tunes" CD/LP/Track Review American Tunes
by Mike Jacobs
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Nwayo" CD/LP/Track Review Nwayo
by James Nadal
Published: June 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

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!