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Holon

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 5, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Eagerly-anticipated second ECM album from Swiss pianist-composer Nik B rtsch and his committed young 'Zen-funk' band Ronin, whose label debut "Stoa" received rave reviews all around the world.

Review

"This is music that throbs with a pulsating dynamism" -- Observer Music Monthly

There were moments - long, magnetic spells, actually - during a recent set by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at Joe's Pub in New York when the Swiss instrumental quintet seemed more like a double trio: two percussionists; a bassist and one band member exhaling low, sustained drones on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet; and Bärtsch on both acoustic and electric piano, one hand on each, playing hypnotic overlapping riffs that were more pulse than melody. The music was a subtle, accelerating excitement, a trance-fusion melting of the '71 Pink Floyd, the '68 Grateful Dead and the rhythm armies in Miles Davis' electric bands - minus guitars and trumpet. There are no song titles on Ronin's latest album, Holon (ECM) or 2006's Stoa (ECM) - the tracks are numbered - because the colors, lift and flow in this fusion speak for themselves. -- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, April 03, 2008
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
1
30
6:28
Play in Library $1.29
 
2
30
14:52
Album Only
3
30
8:00
Album Only
4
30
7:16
Album Only
5
30
9:41
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9:23
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 5, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B000ZWWRXG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,971 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Simone Oltolina on May 3, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
*THE CONTEXT...*
In the world of jazz 'avant-garde' there are two main currents: on one hand, you have the musicians who are simply content with re-enacting the canon (Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, sometimes to amazing results it must be said) while on the other there are those who prefer to push the envelope by going, if ever slightly, beyond the boundaries of the genre.

Mostly this is done by combining jazz with 'other things', i.e., influences coming from different musical fields. Hence, a lot of experimentation mixing jazz with electronics, hip-hop, minimalism, indie rock, etc.
While this 'mixing' concept is in no way new (didn't bossa nova stem from the jazz+latin music formula?), it can often produce exciting results.
Matthew Shipp work with Thirsty Ear, ups and downs notwithstanding, is a good example (or at least a widely publicized one)

*...AND THE ACTUAL REVIEW*
Nik Baertsch's Ronin Quintet does the same, fashioning a record that borrows from minimalism, funk (especially in the use of bass), IDM and, just like some other reviewer noted, middle-eastern motifs.
He (Nik) calls this concoction 'Zen Funk', I call it 'good enough to deserve 5 stars'.

Each composition is based on hypnotic piano modules (think of minimalist repetition) played by Baertsch himself. This is the foundation on which the other instruments play, either by building the groove or by showing amazing interplay and exciting solos.

This album is truly amazing and has been on heavy-rotation in my player since the day it reached my mailbox. Kudos to NB for pushing the genre to new directions and, most importantly, for delivering such an exciting record.
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Format: Audio CD
Not having listened to Stoa, I really had little idea what to expect here. I looked at the somewhat strange titles & thought maybe I was in for a John Cage-esque experience & although certainly there are elements of Cage, there's much more of Steve Reich, Christian Wallumrod & even Esbjorn Svensson here, meaning that whilst every piece is structured such that you can often predict when an established, largely minimalist pattern is going to change, you're often surprised as to exactly how this happens & where the change leads. In virtually all cases, the changes are exciting, engaging & never one-off (ie. each piece changes instrumentation, mood & dynamic several times &, apart from three brief blazing saxophone interludes in Module 45, these are never abrasive). Further, the Middle Eastern modes of Module 44 were a delight.
If there's to be a minor criticism, I found the 14' 51" second piece took a little TOO long (6' 57" to be exact) to change out of its initial Reich-esque pattern, which, on just this one occasion, fell on the wrong side of the thin dividing line between rivetting/mesmerising & annoying/repetitive minimalism.
Minor criticism(s) aside, an excellent album.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
What a treat to be turned on to new music that is firmly grounded in what I'm familiar with - here, like a mix of British Prog rock circa 1979 (think mellower Brand X), hip minimalistic drone chamber music (Steve Reich), polyrhythmic heavy mental rock (King Crimson), and grooving jam-band (Widespread Panic) - while simultaneously breaking into new sensibilities (synthetic music at it's best).

As we'd expect from EMC, recording and production quality is top tier. But more importantly, the band is great (piano, clarinet/sax, bass, drums and percussion), the tunes are interesting, and flow seamlessly into a beautiful whole. Perhaps since it's Swiss we should think of it as "existential" jazz, instead of "Zen". Whatever, the name is only a label...

"Being an agile organism, our band makes decisions on phrasing, tension and musical direction in a fraction of a second. It reminds me of a school of fish moving across a coral reef with lightning speed. Are the fish faster than thought? An instant later they are peacefully afloat in the translucent sea as if nothing had happened." Nik Bartsch (from the liner notes)
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Format: Audio CD
....if they were signed to ECM!!! One of the top 5 releases of the decade....shoulder to shoulder with Claudia Quintet's equally captivating For. Loosely conceptualized around six piano based modules, this is far from your usual atmospheric driven ECM sound. This become obvious minutes into the second track, when the hypnotic ambience is traded for groovy 6-string electric bass lines atop a killer piano vamp and an even more lethal phat hi-hat/snare hits. Adding to this dimension is the sound of the bass clarinet, grooving in a way not heard since the days of the Mwandishi recordings. Definitely Eicher's trademark production is still present here, but there is less emphasis on space while leaning more towards the improvised jams one associates with say 70s jazz-rock experiments. Brilliant.
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Format: Audio CD
Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch is back with his ensemble Ronin, featuring Sha on bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and alto saxophone; Björn Meyer on bass; Kaspar Rast on drums; and Andi Puato on percussion. Back too are the snappy song titles such as "Modul 42"and "Modul 41...37." What is new on this outing is the increased emphasis on acoustic sounds, with Bärtsch now employing an acoustic piano. Overall, though, the music has the relentless rhythmic pulse and minimalist structure that characterized the group's ECM debut recording, Stoa.

Perhaps because of the sound of the acoustic piano, however, Holon makes a different musical impression than did Stoa, the newer release sounding more like jazz and less like minimalism. When I reviewed Stoa back in Issue 105 of The $ensible Sound, I said it sounded more like jazz than classical minimalism; with Holon, that claim can be made more emphatically, meaning that Holon is the release more likely to be embraced by more traditional jazz fans.
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