Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baloni: Fremdenzimmer

Baloni (group)
Fremdenzimmer (Clean Feed; 2011)
Joachim Badenhorst (clarinet; sax)
Pascal Niggenkemper (bass)
Frantz Loriot (viola)

Blending the urgency of improvised music with spacial aesthetics of classical chamber music, Baloni have debuted with the phenomenal and flawless, Fremdenzimmer (Clean Feed; 2011).

If you've been with us for awhile you know I have become a huge fan of both Badenhorst and Niggenkemper in the last year. They've teamed up again along with Frantz Loriot to compile 11 tracks of beguiling expertise and beauty.

I guess a way to describe it is free form improvised classical? Maybe? I guess?

"Lokomotive" moves in just as the title says. The train leaves the station slowly and builds up steam. The music sways and shifts like a Steve Riech piece but is challenging at every turn. A hypnotic number that utilizes space and calm that leaves you motionless. Badenhorst's manipulation on clarinet with Loriot and Niggenkemper's counterpoint structures on "Searching" had me sitting intensely trying to figure out which instrument to focus in on. It's a  dense piece with moving parts that are both quiet and bold. Niggenkemper and Loriot really shine from the halfway point through to the closing notes of this piece. Their string work is impressive and full of life.

"4am" is fragile and haunting. The trio, while starting on a structured path make it clear that within the borders of this piece they will roam freely with ideas. Loriot's plucking provides the creative constant within "4am." The backdrop is Badenhorst and Niggenkemper's one tone that locks the listener in and also sets in place the next piece, "27'10 Sous Les Neons."  A playful number which feels like it could be a commissioned piece for an avant-garde ballet.

The title track, I believe meaning "guest room" in German (someone please correct me if I'm wrong), is possible not the guest room you'd want to stay in. This is a delicate and well-crafted piece that has many angles and edges. Badenhorst and Loriot are unified in sound and compliment each other even during the slightly aggressive exchanges.

At a time when music needs to move forward, Baloni is one of those rare groups that can show us the way. Fremdenzimmer is an album of unexpected exchanges, harmonies and patterns that fans of challenging and introspective sounds must give a priority listen.

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