Nik Bartsch's Ronin

The ICA - a different kind of ambience to some of the gigs I've frequented of late.  What a cultured group of individuals are to be found snuggling in this cozy nook just up the road from her maj. OK, so no one jumps around when the band finish a number, but on the positive side I won't go home wearing half a pint of Red Bull like I did at Les Claypool on monday night. So the ICA gets a thumbs up from me (but not the person who'd written the graffiti in the Gents - it read "You Bourgeois Cunt". There you go Banksy, that's how you do it).

Anyway. I digress.

Nik Bartsch has a musical mission and it's all about the crosstalk of rhythms. Ronin is one of his two bands, (the other is called Mobile) both of which share material and some members. Referred to by the ICA as "Zen-Funk" , it's a Jazz textured Steve Reich style experiment in rhythmic interplay, perhaps even more accurately called Math-Jazz. Anyway, before you all get visions of Howard Moon doing that Jazz face, it's important to understand that this band has a solid groove. The band play figures or riffs, patterns and pulses, but no wig-out solos or smug chords. The drummer might be playing in a different time signature to the piano, but a third rhythmic strand from the percussionist might lock them together in a new weird way that somehow makes your feet move.

Using acoustic instruments, plus electric bass, and some deftly applied reverb and delay, the band introduce musical patterns gradually, letting them take root in your head before something else joins in. Woodwind player Shaa creates mighty rasps from a contrabass clarinet, and smooth round tones from an alto sax. Bartsch himself is a very active player for a minimalist - confining his minimalism to the notes and figures played, but constantly plunging into the guts of the piano to mute the strings, pluck them and strum them with a drum-stick. In fact the whole band have this approach - to get maximum variety of tonal sound from the repeating figures (and keeping it funky).

The band really seemed to enjoy themselves - they had a nice crisp sound and were warmly received by the crowd. Absolutely recommended - next time they visit, be sure to check 'em out.