Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ballister -Mechanisms (Clean Feed, 2012) ****½

By Philip Coombs

Two weeks ago I was rushed to our onsite medical facility with an extremely elevated heart rate. The attending nurse asked some of the expected questions; 'Are you taking any different medications?', and, 'Are you under any unusual stress?' She strapped me to an ECG machine and and it read 174 bbm. Then it occurred to me. I was listening to the latest Ballister release 'Mechanisms' on the way in on the bus. I explained this to her. She decided to call an ambulance immediately.

This is Ballister. Handle with care. Named after the origins of the crossbow, Paal Nilssen-Love (Drums), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello, Electronics), and Dave Rempis (Saxophones), collectively pull back the arrow with all their might and pull the trigger with no regard for innocent bystanders.

Recorded live during the last show of their first tour, track one, Release Levers, is a track full of ideas. It is a vital core concept of an album like this that either makes it work or it fails miserably. Without a constant influx of these new fresh ideas, it could become very boring quickly.

Nilssen-Love is all over his drum kit on this one. He starts with brushes, then turns to bells and cymbals and eventually getting to his sticks to end with a pounding rock beat that proves once again that a drummer of his originality and prolific output can only be compared to himself. This recording may in fact be one of his best or at least one of his most concise. Rempis is right there with him in terms of ideas, concepts and density, and certainly deserving of more respect as a purveyor of improv. Lonberg-Holm is the glue that keeps them together adding his cello in some very unique ways. Somehow the three of them never seem to repeat themselves.

Track two, Claplock, is in itself a rare thing of beauty. It completely transcends three guys improvising on stage. This track sounds like a direct result of three musicians, beaming with mutual respect at the end of a tour after driving long hours, eating together, talking about music and scrolling through each others MP3 players late at night. It is the culmination of each player's history and vision wrapped up in 17 minutes.

The final mechanism of the crossbow, Roller Nuts, sees everyone out of the gate at the same time. Okay, check pulse. Relatively normal, good. All three musicians are giving it everything they have left. It is their swan song as it were, their last time to play together. This is no theoretical improv moment, this is the real deal, combining years of playing and even more years of listening. Either of them can simply hint at a structural or rhythmical change and the other two dive right in. You can feel the energy from the room and no moment is left to waste. Lonberg-Holm's cello processing and electronics are at their most prevalent on this track and there are points where you can almost hear Rempis' saxophone crying out for a break before it explodes.

This is why my cardiologist and I give it 4½ stars.

Can be purchased on Instantjazz.  

1 comment:

Richard said...

I just picked this up, and it really is excellent.
I hadn't heard Dave Rempis in such a prominent role before, and now I'll have to go track down more.

The interaction between the three is great, and it is amazing how much variation they are able to develop in such a minimal setting.

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