Maja S.K. Ratkje - River Mouth Echoes [Tzadik - 2008]River Mouth Echoes takes the listener on a varied, manic, strange and beautiful sonic journey mixing together noise, modern classical, improvising, jazz, orchestral music and Ratkje breathtaking and sometimes frightening voice.
The six pieces on offer are taken from over a 10 year period and really show Ratkje’s ability to work in many different sonic disaplines and harnessing different genres to make powerful, emotional, violent, strange and beautiful music. Opening up the album from 2005 we have the track Øx which finds Ratkje processing Rolf-Erik Nystrøm's alto sax playing, so the resulting track alternates between searing, perching and jarring noise tones and eerier harmonic smokiness as the sax tips back towards its original shadowy form. Later on Wintergarden finds her using just her layered voice tone with minimal synth inventions. She mixes and layers beautiful hums and whispers, vocalising, purrs ,growls and all manner of words and sounds to build a frightening, gorgeous, alien and powerful track – that ominous and strangely finishers with Ratkje saying “tell me darling did you taste his food?”.
Towards the end of the album we have waves II B that was composed between 1997 and 1998 and is an intense doomy piece of dramatic and shifting modern orchestral music played by Oslo Sinfonietta. It shifts from rumbling big drums and discordance string storms, to sinister droning brass drafts and hovers, to panic rushers of tinkling lit tones- all to give a track that’s dark moody and powerful yet at the same time playfully light footed.
River Mouth Echoes is a highly rewarding, always surprising and varied collection of works that managers to cover a wide range of emotion states and sonic textures. Ratkje has a very fresh inventive and clever take on composition, weaving together musical and harmonic tones with noise and discordant elements. Truly a breath taking experience and one of this years experimental highlights. Roger Batty