“Dave Rempis is one of the artists that I admire most on the contemporary scene,” Ken Vandermark, one of his mentors in Chicago, said, “he is completely dedicated and disciplined in his approach to music. (…) This is how the music moves forward, through the activity of innovative people with Dave's attitude and generosity.”
Rempis loves to be independent, for him it’s enough to have a platform to release his projects and to have direct contact to the people who buy and listen to his music. Moreover, Rempis’s label is deliberately avoiding working with Amazon, iTunes and the other outlets independent labels typically use to reach the market because he doesn’t believe in the stumble-upon-theory. He said that he has spent years building his network within the music, and that his own label was the first chance he had to communicate with his fans immediately. This is more important for him than winning a handful of potential sales “through a faceless corporate entity that’s profiting off so many other artists.”
Not only is this a very likeable attitude, but whenever you have the chance to talk to him you’ll find that Rempis is simply a very nice and interesting guy. In the next three days we will have a closer look at his most recent releases.
Ballister – Worse for the Wear (Aerophonic, 2014) ****
Michael, one of my boyhood friends, is an amateur scuba diver. Once he told me that he was drift diving, a type of scuba diving where the diver is transported by the currents caused by the tide. The current gave him the impression of flying and allowed him to cover long distances underwater, so that it was possible for him to see more habitats and sea life than usual. He said that he felt as if he was completely helpless – yet in a fascinating way. First he felt shocked, then he just let himself go and at the end – after he was released from this force of nature – he needed to relax and orientate himself. That’s how you might feel when you listen to “Fornax”, the first track on Ballister’s Worse for the Wear, an album recorded live in Chicago on their spring tour in 2014.
From the very first second you are in the middle of sheer power and raw energy – after playing together for more than five years Dave Rempis (saxes), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (percussion) obviously don’t need to warm up anymore. They started their Chicago set with enormous velocity, it’s a whirlwind of emotion and sound listening to Rempis’ soulful and almost classic free jazz saxophone, Nilssen-Love’s surprisingly mad but dry-as-a-bone drumming and Lonberg-Holm’s electronics which seem to be put through the meat grinder. On top you get some grindcore vocals for free.
Ballister’s typical characteristics like abrasiveness and immediacy are juxtaposed by introspective passages and moments of almost quiet beauty which result in a complex, tight, yet accessible structure. There are moments of sudden stops when one of the instruments seems to be left alone (like the sax after 13 minutes in “Fornax”, like the drums just a few minutes later and like the cello as well at the end of the same piece) which has a breathtaking effect because there is no lack of intensity – the track has just zigzagged to move off in a different direction. Only Nilssen-Love’s Chinese gongs announce the end of this tour de force.
“Scutum”, the second track, basically takes the same line, although Lonberg-Holm mainly does it without electronics concentrating on pristine cello sound (at least at the beginning). “Scutum” is darker and a more desperate listening experience than “Fornax”, since the calming moments have gone. “Vulpecula”, the last track, at least provides some of them, albeit in a discomforting manner.
In a nutshell: A typical Ballister album for people who like their first four releases as well as a great chance for beginners.
Listen to “Scutum” here:
You can buy the album from InstantJazz or from the label