Maja S. K. Ratkje: River Mouth Echoes

Norwegian sound artist Maja Ratkje has a new record out on the American label Tzadik. We here bring you some facts and impressions of the record as penned by Ida Habbestad of MIC’s Norwegian on-line musical journal Ballade.

Maja Ratkje: River Mouth Echoes

By Ida Habbestad
Translated and abridged by Christian Lysvåg

For this new release Maja Ratkje has put together a selection of recordings of her compositions, spanning the last ten years. The key-word is intensity, which is apparent already from the very start: a single note is allowed to endure, through distortions and sonic explorations, to a point where the listening becomes very physical and even painful.

The juxtaposition of such intensity and complete calm, manifest as tiny natural noises, or even total silence, is defining for this record, which is full of contrasts. There are contrasts between the different constellations that appear; from the complete Oslo Sinfonietta, via the trio Poing to Ratkje all by herself. And there are contrasts between warmth and cold, and between acoustic and electronic elements, which at times interweave but still stand firmly apart.

Yet the record comes across as a unity, something which is most evident in the transitions between the different compositions. Rather than separate pieces the compositions are compiled in such a way that the sonics and timbres are not interrupted, but morph into new forms.

Ratkje’s ability and willingness to explore a single sound, or develop an idea as far as absolutely possible is evident throughout the album. It is also a record which presents instrumentation and timbres that are rarely heard in new-musical contexts.

In the liner notes Ratkje relates that she finds that all the compositions on the record are related to the oldest one, “Sinus seduction”. And she presents the view that perhaps it is just as much the case that a composition, rather than ever being completed, always releases new perspectives and opportunities.

Maybe it is such a notion of a common source that allows this record to be experienced as a unity despite its many stark contrasts and contradictions?
In any event River Mouth echoes is a splendid introduction to the innumerable incidents and possibilities that permeate Ratkje’s production.

«River Mouth Echoes»
Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje
Tzadik, 2008

With:
Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje
POING
Fretwork
Oslo Sinfonietta
Christian Eggen (conductor)
Torben Snekkestad (saxophone)

John Zorn (executive producer)

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