Download of the Week: Awase by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

Photo courtesy: Jonah Holthaus / Courtesy of ECM Records.


Nik Bärtsch – Ronin ECM 2603

Some albums casually insert themselves into your life without you even noticing.

Like your most comfortable pair of sneakers. You don’t even think about choosing to put them on when you are kicking through the half-dozen pairs piled in the closet by the front door as you leave the house.

You just automatically seek them out and shovel your feet into them.

Music is like that too. You think you’re listening to an LP here and there and then without even noticing it you realize that you’ve been loading it up in your music playback queue four or five times a week because it’s so damn comfortable.

Composer and pianist Nik Bärtsch’s Awase is that kind of comfortable album for me. It’s my white, slip-on high-tops equivalent.

The May 2018 ECM release arrived via my inbox as a link to a 16/44 WAV download and has been in less-than-subtle heavy rotation ever since.

A little album background first. Nik Bärtsch and his on-again, off-again Euro-based crew Ronin has been away from the studio for a while and the group has seen some turnover in the last few years. The quartet is currently comprised of Bärtsch on piano, Sha (Stefan Haslebacher) on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Thomy Jordi on bass and Kasper Rast setting the pace on drums.

This October, 2017 effort recorded at Studios La Buissonne is interpreted by my mind as a jazz-fusion temporal unwinding. What I mean is, that I use this latest release as a way to deprogram my mind from the never-ending list of “to-dos” that dominates my waking life.

Cuts are not short overall, which I love as I get pulled right into the quartet’s groove.


  • 1."Modul 60" – 5:08
  • 2. ”Modul 58" – 18:19
  • 3. "A" (Sha) – 8:23
  • 4. "Modul 36" – 13:37
  • 5. "Modul 34" – 8:51
  • 6. "Modul 59" – 11:01

The tracks contain addictive tempo and percussive qualities that translate as a wash of harmonics and patterns that vibrate at just the right textural and timbral frequencies (for me) which elicits a lowering of my shoulders and a state of almost hypnagogic semi-consciousness. The difference being, as relaxed and in-tune as I become with Bärtsch’s compositions (some of which are redos off previous releases – no matter) I don’t want to close my eyes and sleep, instead I become energized – as if a cord has snaked its way into my spinal column and is feeding me energizing electrical impulses.

According to the ECM website Awase ”… is a term from martial arts, means “moving together” in the sense of matching energies, a fitting metaphor for the dynamic precision, tessellated grooves and balletic minimalism … “ of the album.

Seems like Bärtsch nailed the name for the album, because that’s exactly what I feel listening to the poetic flow of instrumentation and the absolutely standout efforts by each member of the group to, as closely as possible, literally connect the listener to the flow of energy within each song.

Highly recommended.

Available for purchase HERE

ECM Records/Verlag
Edition Zeitgenössische Musik GmbH Postfach 600 331 D - 81203 München
49 (0)89 851048

vclements's picture

I somehow stumbled upon this on Tidal about a month ago.
Very interesting recording, well worth a listen.