Ballister Trio – Mechanisms (CF 245)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A free improvising trio walks into a club and begins a live performance by ripping the ears off its listeners. No joke here, just that flexing muscular music isn’t for the faint-at-heart. And certainly the trio of saxophonist Dave Rempis, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is an audacious one.
Mechanisms is their second recording. Their first, Bastard String was self-produced in 2010 and, like this disc, recorded live. It is difficult to imagine this trio recording in a studio, rerecording or editing its music. The trio plays live, raw, and uninhibited.
The players are quite familiar and longtime collaborators in bands such as reed multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band. Rempis and Nilsson-Love can also be heard in School Days, and the Chicago saxophonist and cellist both play in Vandermark 5 and various local ensembles.
The three lengthy pieces heard here wander from quietude to noise. Each piece releases a cathartic rush of energy. Although the players forage and rummage about, it is not aimless; they are planning a course. “Claprock” opens with Nilssen-Love digging a foundation with his tom-toms as Rempis finds an intemperate balance on tenor. The pause for cymbal work and thundering bass drum is a prelude to the adrenaline rush to come. Lonberg-Holm’s cello can pluck single notes or, via electronics, singe with a current that begs the question, is that a guitar?
Ballister Trio might start with the question Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun (FMP, 1968) raised: what do we do with all this energy? Rage, yes; but there is more. Rempis, trading between various saxophones, plays until exhaustion, his ferocity incomparable. The trio burns, but not for the sake of combustion. In between the uproar is the meat, the viscera, and the heart of sound. This trio finds beauty in the maelstrom.