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Friday, March 30, 2018

Ballrogg - Abaft The Beam (Clean Feed, 2017) ****

By Stef

Ballrogg is a Norwegian trio with Klaus Ellerhusen Holm on b-clarinet and bass clarinet, Roger Arntzen  on double bass, and Ivar Grydeland on pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo and drum machine.

They call their music "free chamber americana", and that is an apt description. The music is gentle, friendly even, yet still sufficiently creative and disruptive to keep things interesting. A first band that comes to mind as a reference is the Tin Hat Trio, because of its equally gentle and creative approach to 'americana', but then Ballrogg is a less rhythmic, more open-ended, free version.

The three musicians manage to create a wonderful and calm sonic universe, dreamlike almost, shifting between the pleasant and the dark, slowly, with precision and caution, treading lightly, beautifully. Their attention to timbral value is exceptional, with no superfluous notes or sounds.

The band's first two records were duo recordings, much more directly influenced by the music of Jimmy Giuffre and Eric Dolphy, but it is clear that guitarist Grydeland's background in "Dans Les Arbres", the minimalist Norwegian-French ensemble, adds a role to the overall sound, already on "Cabin Music", the previous album, but even more so on this one.

Vulnerable and strong-willed. We like it that way.

In the meantime, Grydeland has been replaced by David Stackenäs, and you can watch a video with the latest line-up below.