Llyrìa Nik Bärtsch's Ronin
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- 1Modul 4806:50
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- 7Modul 49_4407:13
Info for Llyrìa
The third album from one of the most exciting young European bands, “Llyrìa” follows on from “Stoa” and “Holon”, the recordings that established the Swiss band Ronin on the international scene. Leader Nik Bärtsch’s “modular” pieces still define the context of the group’s music but the committed input of the individual Ronin members has lifted the work to the next level, blurring the distinctions between composition, improvisation and interpretation.
The music has become more open, so much so that Bärtsch’s old buzzwords like “Zen funk” and “ritual groove music” now scarcely apply and even “minimalism” is only a distant reference. Reed player Sha shines brightly here, and lyrical melodic themes make themselves felt, but perhaps this is, more than its predecessors, a drummer’s record, its beats lovingly crafted by Kasper Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato. Recorded in the South of France in March 2010, with Manfred Eicher producing.
Sometimes philosophies are not written but sounded. Nik Bärtsch and his renegade Ronin quintet demonstrate an assemblage of both. In taking the art of jazz to such internal heights, the Swiss pianist and band mates Sha (reeds), Björn Meyer (bass), Kaspar Rast (drums), and Andi Pupato (percussion) autopsy the body of the score and turn it into a netted form of improvisation: with each element carefully measured and weighed, one cell osmoses into the next. Thus are Bärtsch’s numbered “Moduls” nurtured through understated rhythms and potent denouements. This third album for ECM establishes new precedent in Ronin’s ongoing development, working seedlings into a softer mush.
Cycles of extro- and introversion are ingrained into every motive. And while their overall structure has loosed its seams in comparison to past efforts, the spaces within it allow wider avenues of un-driven soil. The modular approach still applies, now more germinative than prescriptive. The contrapuntal flavors of “Modul 48” between reed and keys draw moods with parallel lines, while the walking bass adds nostalgic perpendiculars, holding each tick of the metronome like a gumdrop on the tongue and letting it dissolve just a little bit before biting into its sweetness. Subliminal reed work diagrams a dance that is too old to be forgotten yet too new to be remembered. The subtle crosshatching that marks every tune is particularly apparent in “Modul 52.” In this more playful piece, the interactivity that Bärtsch shared with Sha in the previous track now grafts onto Meyer in similar fashion. Threading the needle with neon, peaks shine all the more against whispering strings and other delicate infusions.
Llyrìa is a marked departure, for while it still lays into the hipness that brought the band to such prominent attention, there’s an almost quantifiable level of development and maturity, especially in “Modul 55,” of which drums and bass mark the passage of time with affectionate, cinematic quality. “Modul 47” embodies another transformation, for while most carry over briefly into sparkling fulcrums, here the fulcrum becomes the introductory drop and poises us immediately at the lip of a melodic abyss, which rather than staring back at us listens back at us, gauging our reactions in real time and pressing our faces into the illusions we so dearly know. With a propulsive grace, the group flowers forth in “Modul 53” with a gentle, sauntering gravity that lets go until all that’s left is suspension. A remainder of balladic energy seeps into “Modul 51” with darkened edges. Things take a more propulsive turn a third of the way through and betray new percussive synapses at every turn. “Modul 49_44” ends the set with a redux of Holon’s Model 44. Its contrast of density and sparseness works a veiled magic with light intact, despite its reliance on shadows.
In case you’re wondering, the album’s title refers to a bioluminescent deep-sea creature that has so far defied biological classification, but which nevertheless thrives on currents dark and far from our ken. Like Ronin’s moniker, it is masterless and carves its own path of dedication beyond death. Although the pieces are for the most part precisely notated under Bärtsch’s pen, here they take on aquatic lives of their own. The slightest twitch blossoms from within each instrument, making for a picturesque flip of the postmodern tail. With such soulful and intimate chaos reigned in by shifts of regularity, the tessellation can do naught but sing.
Nik Bärtsch, piano
Sha, alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Björn Meyer, bass
Kaspar Rast, drums
Andi Pupato, percussion
Recorded March 2010, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineered by Gérard de Haro and Nicolas Baillard
Produced by Manfred Eicher
RITUAL GROOVE MUSIC, the title of my first CD, also points to the fundamental concept of my musical thinking. The music shows a close affinity to architecturally organized space and is governed by the principles of repetition and reduction as well as by interlocking rhythms. A piece of music can be entered, inhabited like a room. It moves forward and transforms through obsessive circular movements, superimposition of different meters and micro-interplay. The listeners attention is directed toward minimal variations and phrasing. The band becomes an integral organism - like an animal, a habitat, an urban space. One must think with ears and hands.
Normally, we work in three distinct formations. The group MOBILE plays purely acoustic music, performed in rituals of up to 36 hours, including light- and room design. The Zen-funk quartet RONIN, by contrast, is more flexible and plays the compositions more freely. As a solo performer I perform my compositions on prepared piano with percussion.
Despite the tightly organized compositional construction, improvisation plays an important role in our music. On the one hand, accentuation, ghost notes, and variations within a composition are tossed back and forth between the musicians; on the other hand, a particular voice within a composition might have more freedom than the others. In doing so, that voice forms an independent module that can interact with the strictly notated interlocking patterns in continuously changing ways. Groove-habitats or void musical space of raw poetry emerge.
My thinking and music are based on the tradition of urban space. They are not distilled from a national or stylistic tradition but from the universal sound of cities. The city in its roaring diversity requires an ability to focus and concentrate on the essential: to measure one’s actions, to remain silent at the right place. This music draws its energy from the tension between compositional precision and the self-circumvention of improvisation. From self-implied restriction stems freedom. Ecstasy through asceticism.
was born in 1983. He is a composer and plays the saxophone and the bass clarinet. Among his teachers are Don Li, Nik Bärtsch, Sujay Bobade and Bänz Oester. Sha studied at the Jazz School in Lucerne and graduated with a double master with distinction. He is the leader of his own band 'Sha's Feckel' (till 2011 of 'Sha's Banryu'). Sha has worked with Walter Grimmer, Michael Gassmann, Philipp Schaufelberger, Anja Losinger and Claudio Puntin.
Andi was born in 1971 in Zurich. He studied percussion in Zurich, later at the Escuela de superación profesional de musica Ignacio Cervantes in Havana, Cuba and with José Luis “Changuito” in Quintana. In 1994, Andi went to Senegal with the Senegalese master drummer Kounta’s band 'Dougou-Fana', where he studied traditional African percussion. At present, he works as a percussionist for various national and international bands (with Andreas Vollenweider among others) and is an active studio musician.
Kaspar was born in 1972 in Zurich. He has been playing drums since the age of 6. Education as violinmaker. Trained at the JMS in Zurich and the Drummers Collective in New York. Kaspar’s list of concerts and tours covers Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. He works in various Swiss musical formations (also in Sha's band 'Sha's Feckel') and projects, plays sessions and acts as a studio musician.
Thomy was born 1963 in Zurich. He studied double bass at the Swiss Jazz School and electric bass at the MIT Hollywood with Jeff Berlin. He was part of the swiss punkjazz-movement in the early 80's and toured Europe with freefunk-bands like Donkey Kongs Multiscream and The Intergalactic Maidenballet. In 1988 Thomy moved to Berlin, where he had the chance to perform and record with local and international Worldmusic artists. He also got involved with the german pop-scene. Thomy played the bass for Rosenstolz on most of their albums and toured with them from 2002 to 2009. He was also a member of genius comedian-musician Helge Schneider's Rock project The Firefuckers. Zurich-based songwriter Adrian Weyermann invited Thomy to join his band in 2006. Nik Baertsch met Thomy in 2004 in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied Japanese. Back in his hometown, Thomy started to frequently sit in with Nik Baertsch's RONIN on Mondays. In sommer 2011 bassist RONIN's original bass player Björn Meyer left the band on friendly terms and Thomy replaced him. Except being a member of RONIN, he is working with Adrian Stern and teaching at the conservatories in Luzern and Basel.