Six years have passed since Live, the last release from Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, the long gap bridged in 2015 with Continuum, an album from Mobile, Bärtsch’s all-acoustic project. “I wanted to give Ronin the peace and space it needed to develop,” says the Swiss composer-pianist. “Not to put it under pressure, and to take all the steps necessary before the next record- ing.”
Awase, recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in October 2017 and pro- duced by Manfred Eicher, updates us on the progress of one of the most original bands around, as well as the present-day status of ritual groove music, Bärtsch’s all-purpose term for his self-invented idiom equidistant from jazz and funk and contemporary composition. Almost by definition, rituals can’t be rushed, and Ronin has had some changes to absorb. With bassist Thomy Jordi replacing Björn Meyer in 2011, and percussionist Andi Pupato departing the following year, trimming the line-up from quintet to quartet, Ronin has gradually become a subtly different band. A leaner, more agile animal.
The members of Ronin meet every week, as they have done for many years now, to puzzle out the implications of Bärtsch’s pieces in workshops and performances at the Zürich club, Exil. The group is, says Nik, still coming to terms with the demanding final piece here, “Modul 59”. It is one which, he says, points the way to the future. “It begins from basic ideas, in this case to do with triplets, and builds until it becomes a sort of polyrhythmic, polyphonic carpet of sound. We’ve rehearsed and developed it extensively, and it still keeps surprising us.”
Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin are touring widely with the music of Awase in 2018. For details visit www.nikbaertsch.com and www.ecmrecords.com