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Product details

  • Audio CD (19 Dec 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,425 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

Product Description

Eagerly-anticipated second ECM album from Swiss pianist-composer Nik Bartsch and his committed young "Zen-funk" band Ronin, whose label debut 'Stoa' received rave reviews all around the world in 2006. 'Holon', again features "ritual groove music" that "throbs with a pulsating dynamism" (Observer Music Monthly) but it's developed thanks to the band's growing confidence and also to ECM's glowing sound-mix.

Nik Bartsch's music occupies a niche all its own, equidistant from contemporary composition, funk/soul grooves and scattered world musics. In some ways further removed from jazz than the other idioms, it has nonetheless been warmly embraced by the jazz community, its grooves and interlocking rhythms now frequently heard also at jazz festivals, as well as new music spaces and rock clubs. "Zen funk" is one of Bartsch's terms for his pieces, "ritual groove music" another. It is music that can claim the widest influences - in interviews Bartsch has referenced Stravinsky, Morton Feldman, Bartok, James Brown, the Meters, ritual music of Japan, folk music of Greece, Romania, Sweden. It is much more of a 'body music' than the music of the Minimalists to which it is frequently compared.

Ronin - the name alludes to the freelance warriors of old Japan - is a group resolutely dedicated to interpreting and developing the compositions of Nik Bartsch. In their hometown of Zurich the group maintains a residency at the Bazillus Club, performing every week and recently notching up its 150th gig there. It is this steady work on the material that encourages it to blossom. Bartsch is an intelligent composer whose chosen performance group is an enlightened 'dance band': "To me music is an art of motion, and thus akin to dancing...An ecstatic groove and an ascetic awareness of form and sound in composed music are not mutually exclusive: they can form combinations that take our senses by surprise." What has changed since Stoa? "We have simply reached a even higher level of playing. The band as an organism is much further developed." The recording at Studios La Buissonne in southern France was also more of a collaborative process than its predecessor, with producer Manfred Eicher contributing creatively to the whole: "The mix is unbelievable, an integral part of the compositions."

Nik Bartsch - (piano), Sha - (bass and contrabass clarinets, alto saxophone), Bjorn Meyer - (bass), Kaspar Rast - (drums), Andi Pupato - (percussion)


(4 stars) Diverse influences...Zen-like grooves, added with a healthy dose of imagination...strangely hypnotic music. -- The Observer Music Monthly, (Stuart Nicholson), February 2008

(4 stars) Meticulously horological...minute changes in key or sudden rushes of speed and volume resonate with disproportionate impact. -- Financial Times, (David Honigmann), March 1, 2008

A sound somewhere between Steve Reich and EST...played with such elan that it's hard not to be seduced. -- The Guardian, (John L Walters), March 7, 2008

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Deckard Descartes on 2 Mar 2008
Format: Audio CD
Austrian pianist Nik Bärtsch created quite a stir in the jazz world when he released his first album on ECM almost two years ago. Holon is the follow up to Bärtsch's ECM debut Stoa, continuing the musical journey that began on the predecessor. Bärtsch's music is difficult to characterise; for it is not exactly jazz. Rather, it falls somewhere between minimal music, funk, avantgarde and jazz. The music is often centred around repetitive themes reminiscent of the great minimalist composers, such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass (on of my all time heroes) and Terry Riley. In addition, though Bärtsch and his fellow musicians exclusively rely on acoustic instrumentation (apart from Bjorn Meyer's electric bass), there is more than one reference to progressive types of dance and electronic music. However, those who are familiar with Bärtsch's work, particularly the ECM debut, would surely agree that his musical explorations are really about groove and rhythm. Here Bärtsch's mix of hypnotic grooves with minimalism and funk is, as far as I can tell, unique. He and his fellow musicians are masters at playing with the groove, providing an interesting and captivating listening experience. Despite the deceptively simple repetitions, the grooves are complex and always subtly changing. This is really what makes the music so colourful.

Bärtsch seems to be quite a character, too. He cites (amongst other things) Japanese martial arts and Zen philosophy as well as 70s funk as his inspirations. With his shaved head, black robes and goatee, Bärtsch actually looks a bit like a monk. Indeed, though it is hard to pin down, the music seems somewhat meditative: resting, yet constantly evolving (if that makes sense).
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By BigLankyGeordie on 29 Feb 2008
Format: Audio CD
Normally I listen only to electronic music like Boards of Canada, PLAID, and Autechre and in terms of composition (if not format) they do have something in common with jazz but I am really relatively new to jazz.

I have listened to one or two albums on the excellent ECM label already, which I sought out to try out some of the more experimental jazz and even classical music emerging now. However I have never listened to anything in the Jazz genre which is anywhere near as sublimely beautiful and downright addictive as this album.

The earlier Nik Bartsch album was good but this is just awe-inspiring, magical listening. The first time I played it I was doing some work on my laptop and within a couple of songs I just had to stop and listen wholeheartedly to the music, it was so good. I am no expert on Jazz so I dont know what to compare it to, I just found it very uplifting, with the pulsating sound rising to masterful crescendos all the way through the CD.

I have never bothered to write a CD review before and I have bought lots of CDs via Amazon but this made me want to tell the world about it. Fantastic, I simply could not recommend it more highly. I am just hoping they tour in the UK soon.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Gaffney on 18 Mar 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was so pleased to see Lanky Geordie's review... What he has managed to sum up in his review is an honest appreciation for what is a staggeringly good album. You don't need to be a Jazz intellectual to understand/appreciate/dig (man) what's going on here... you just need to open your ears and your mind. Someone a whole lot smarter than I am once said, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like." Hmmmm... If there was a bit more of that, there would be a far wider acceptance for this type of music. Some people fear Jazz because of the elitist tag that goes with it. This album, like many other great albums on ECM and similar labels (like ACT), speaks a universal language that doesn't necessarily need translation: just the sharing of the pleasure it brings. Fantastic.. I'm off to buy some of his other albums now!
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