Nik Bärtsch's Ronin / Nik Bärtsch

Llyrìa

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AllMusic Review by

Those who loved the spidery funk of Ronin's earliest releases Randori, Live, and Rea may initially be put off by the band's latest effort. Easily the "jazziest" Ronin disc to date, Llyria retains much of the precision of the band's previous output, and yet sounds ever so slightly more human than anything they've done before. As always in the past, the compositions (known as "Moduls") are made up of small melodic cells which are repeated and alternated in various patterns. This time out, though, it feels like there's more improvisation (carefully structured, methodical improvisation, of course) going on. The pieces feel less like beat loops and more like the music of a band. "Modul 55" is practically a typical ECM piano ballad, with occasional humming bass clarinet phrases. The album's opening track, "Modul 48," is nearly ambient, with almost no rhythmic forward motion at all. "Modul 47" actually builds to repeated crescendi, the rhythm section constructing one suspenseful arc after another as Bärtsch's keyboard figures recall soundtracks to '70s urban thrillers. In the track's final minutes, it slows down to a half-speed rumble and erupts in almost hip-hop like bass throbs. Ultimately, Llyria may be slightly more organic and emotional than previous Ronin discs, but it's very much of a piece with Bärtsch's overall musical vision, and longtime listeners will enjoy it as much as new ones.

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