Ballister is a three man wall of sonic anger and noise that is 1/3 Chicago, 1/3 NYC and 1/3 Norwegian. Atonal and often arrhythmic, Dave Rempis sets the tone with several long shrieks on alto saxophone as drummer Paal Nilssen-Love catches up dynamically, and once he gets going, he’s off on a metal free jazz drum excursion that somehow still swings. Often Fred Lonberg-Holm, the electric cello and guitarist of the band is simply there to make percussive background noise on a very distorted cello. I guess you could say he’s comping disharmonic content. Even though it’s very low in the mix, as the drums and saxophone are the clear focus here of thematic movement, it’s important and acts as a chordal instrument would.
While the first cut, “Cockloft” is about dynamic highs and lows, mostly together as a trio, the second cut, “Smolder” is more about staccato and rhythmically avoiding each other, only catching each other every so often to build something, only to have it immediately disintegrate. Rempis is on bari while Lonberg-Holm is playing an effected guitar. As the guitar takes over for a soft melodic break, Rempis and Nilssen-Love eventually stumble back into the mix with a fury that sees them through the rest of the song.
Ballister is very heavy and heady music, but it also very much has a swing component that fits it squarely in the jazz world. This 2013 release is their third in as many years, and is a live recording from April 7, 2012 in Casa del Popolo in Montreal, Canada. They performed at the All Ways Lounge at 2240 St. Claude Ave on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014.