When Ballister hit the stage at the Catalytic Sound Festival in Chicago in December 2022, no one in the band was quite sure what to expect. Although they’d done a two-week tour of the US in April of that year, their first reunion following an almost three-year break due to the pandemic, you never know what might happen after several months apart. Sometimes that first gig is magic. And sometimes it swims around searching for a center. That’s just a danger of the art form.
But drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s hard driving tom rolls at the start of “Smash,” called all three right to attention. And they dove in with a level of careless abandon that lesser groups would burn through like kerosene. But one of the defining characteristics of Ballister is the band’s ability to shape spewing lava into meaningful form thanks to their many years of shared history. On Smash and Grab, a punk aesthetic wraps itself into the mature sensibility of seasoned improvisers to create one of those rare sets that simply unfolds calmly in front of you like an origami flower. Full-on energy melts into quiet solo explorations by every band member, which in turn morph back into fiery rhythmic juxtapositions that pulse forth like a quasar. Drive and density meet centered patience in a series of unpredictable transitions.
Although the band had already been selecting material recorded during their earlier spring tour for a new release, all that went out the window after this set. As soon as they walked offstage they knew this was it.
For a set of music that was so clearly the one, it also only made sense to treat it as the rare and special event that it was, with a limited edition vinyl pressing. And why not make it hot pink, just for fun? This is only the fourth vinyl LP that Aerophonic has pressed in our 10-year history, and it’s a worthy addition to the other three sold out LP’s on that short list. Despite having released 10 other albums in their almost 15 years of work together, it’s also only the third LP in the Ballister catalogue. 2014’s Both Ends and 2017’s Low Level Stink are both long gone! So perhaps grab yours while you still can? (Also available on cd for the faint of heart!)
Includes Bandcamp download voucher; Spine: AR041 Ballister Smash And Grab Aerophonic. Recorded at the 3rd annual Catalytic Sound Festival December 2nd, 2022 at Elastic Arts, Chicago Special thanks to Ken Vandermark and all of the musicians of the Catalytic Sound Collective ©&℗ 2023 Lonberg-Holm/Nilssen-Love/Rempis. Hand etched runouts