Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nik Bartsch's Mobile - Continuum (2016)

Source & Label: ECM

"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.”

Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch was born in 1971 in Zurich, where he still lives. He took piano and percussion lessons from the age of 8 and subsequently studied at the city’s Musikhochschule and university, simultaneously freelancing in diverse bands, “playing everything from fusion to free-funk, and all kinds of extroverted jazz”.

As Bärtsch’s interest in composition grew and he immersed himself in the practices of John Cage and Morton Feldman, his attraction to live jazz waned: “I just didn’t see the sense of it any more, for me as an instrumentalist”. In 1997 he created an acoustic group, Mobile, which “develops integral musical concepts within a musical framework”.  Continuum, with an “extended” version of the Mobile ensemble is scheduled for Spring 2016 release on ECM.

The band Ronin (named after the freelance warriors in Japanese history who served no master) was born in 2001 out of Bärtsch’s desire for a group that could also work in the clubs and “play with more power”. The pianist has described the band’s work as “Zen-funk” and “ritual groove”: “Our music is somewhere between jazz and modern composition, progressive pop, ritual music, groove music in general”. Writer Michel Mettler has characterised the group’s aesthetic as “creating the maximum effect by minimum means”: phrases and motives are repeated, combined and layered, creating shifting, complex rhythmic patterns which typically build slowly over time with overwhelming dramatic impact.

Ronin has released three studio albums on ECM to date, Stoa (2006), Holon (2008) and Llyrìa (2010), as well as a double CD, Live (2012), which anthologises a suite of concert performances from their appearances around the world between 2009 and 2011, a collection which reveals its own inner logic and dramaturgy.