There were moments - long, magnetic spells, actually - during a recent set by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at Joe's Pub in New York when the Swiss instrumental quintet seemed more like a double trio: two percussionists; a bassist and one band member exhaling low, sustained drones on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet; and Bärtsch on both acoustic and electric piano, one hand on each, playing hypnotic overlapping riffs that were more pulse than melody. The music was a subtle, accelerating excitement, a trance-fusion melting of the '71 Pink Floyd, the '68 Grateful Dead and the rhythm armies in Miles Davis' electric bands - minus guitars and trumpet. There are no song titles on Ronin's latest album, Holon (ECM) or 2006's Stoa (ECM) - the tracks are numbered - because the colors, lift and flow in this fusion speak for themselves. -- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, April 03, 2008
With the zen-funk quartet RONIN founded in 2001, Nik Baertsch proceeds with the work on his RITUAL GROOVE MUSIC together with Kaspar Rast (drums), Thomy Jordi (he replaced Björn Meyer on the bass in 2011) and Sha (bass/contrabass clarinet. Percussionist Andi Pupato joined the band 2002-2012). Their music consistently follows the same aesthetic vision under various instrumental guises: creating the maximum effect by minimal means.
Despite the multiplicity of the band’s influences, Ronin’s music always possesses a strong individuality. They incorporate elements of disparate musical worlds, be they funk, new classical music or sounds from Japanese ritual music.
However, these forms are never merely juxtaposed in a post-modernist fashion but instead amalgamated into a coherent new style. Ultimately, these sounds and rhythms are highly idiosyncratic. The music consists of very few phrases and motives, continually combined and layered in new ways. Ronin thus creates a consistent aesthetic across all levels of musical expression. Composition, phrasing, sound structure, performance, and musical form all combine to form a system of interrelated elements. (Michel Mettler)