Classical Music Finds Its Funky Side

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Modul 35"
  • Artist: Nik Bartsch's Ronin
  • CD: Stoa
  • Genre: Classical/Funk

On his transfixing debut, Stoa, Nik Bartsch creates a five-part song cycle that highlights his immaculate piano playing and keen accord with his band Ronin. The Swiss-born pianist and composer calls Ronin's music "Zen-funk," an apt description for the magnetic "Modul 35."

Swiss-born pianist and composer Nik Bartsch describes his band's music as "Zen-funk."

Swiss-born pianist and composer Nik Bartsch describes his band's music as "Zen-funk." Marc Wetli hide caption

itoggle caption Marc Wetli

On "Modul 35," Bartsch initially references modern classical composer Steve Reich by laying down a luminous circular groove, peppered by Andi Pupato's subtle but discernible cymbal work. About four minutes into the song, just when the repetition has begun to wear out its welcome, Ronin flips the script. The mood grows darker by way of the deep-funk undertow of bassist Bjorn Mayer and contrabass clarinetist Sha, while Kaspar Rast slips in some of Clyde Stubblefield's "funky drummer" innovations underneath Bartsch's sparse, blues-laden piano melody.

Like many of Bartsch's colleagues on the ECM label, "Modul 35" is notable for its trance-like seduction and pneumatic aural quality, not to mention its nod to European classical music. Still, the song's playfulness helps bring out the composer's inner club kid.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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