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Llyria CD

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD, 27 Sep 2010
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Product details

  • Audio CD (27 Sept. 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B003T2OX7W
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,638 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

'Llyria' is the third album from Nik Bärtsch's Ronin and follows on from 'Stoa' and 'Holon', the ECM recordings that established the exciting young Swiss band on the international scene. Leader and pianist 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, moving on from its early "Zen funk" and "ritual groove music" formulas. Reed player Sha shines brightly here, and lyrical melodic themes make themselves felt. But this is, Nik Bärtsch suggests, more than its predecessors a drummer's record. Its beats are lovingly crafted by Kaspar Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato.

The new album is named for Llyrìa, the luminous, mysterious creatures that live in the ocean's depths, for Bärtsch a metaphor for the music: "We keep casting our nets in the same waters - and sometimes we find forms that are completely surprising, even to us."

The album is also available as a double 180-gram audiophile LP.

Personnel: Nik Bärtsch (piano), Sha (bass clarinet, alto saxophone), Björn Meyer (bass), Kaspar Rast (drums), Andi Pupato (percussion)

BBC Review

Although this is his third album for ECM, Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch has been releasing albums of what he calls "zen funk" or "ritual groove music" since 2001. Sparse but always elegant, his compositions are pared-to-the-bone affairs consisting of crisply constructed acoustic piano patterns occasionally wreathed in electric Fender Rhodes ghost notes.

Against slivers of melodies graced with a Satie-like simplicity, the rest of the musicians tug and gnaw at the rhythmic opportunities his pieces gleefully expose. In another situation the brass player, Sha, might be expected to run away with freewheeling solos; but here, like every other musician in the group, he stays close to the immediate space around the themes. His sax offers up soaring notes of purest silver, whilst his parping contra-bass clarinet often digs deep, doubling Björn Meyer’s subterranean bass guitar runs.

Sometimes the pair will lock horns, and then go in and out of phase with Bärtsch’s constantly tumbling rhythms. This creates a complex hive of activity that’s both hugely entertaining and deeply rewarding.

Similarly, drummer Kaspar Rast, who has worked with Bärtsch since they were kids, keeps rock-solid time with only the most minimal of rolls and twists around the kit, keenly wedded to the less-is-more principle. With percussionist Andi Pupato adding exotic metallic dissonances and brilliantly imaginative counterpoints, their grooves quickly establish a relentless quality that sweeps up everything in its path.

With everything so tightly controlled, it can sometimes feels akin to being inside a large, perfectly-turned clockwork mechanism. Yet it’s this painstakingly created environment where even the tiniest of shifts in time or motion take on an almost cathartic grandeur.

Frequently astonishing in the depth and richness of its conception, Bärtsch’s grasp and exploitation of tension and release is fascinating. His music thrillingly combines a Steve Reich-like minimalist aesthetic with the kind of effortless funk-punch reminiscent of a Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock. That said, nobody currently on the scene comes close to sounding like this remarkable, and remarkably accessible, outfit.

--Sid Smith

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on 12 October 2010
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