Norway’s Maja S. K. Ratkje has built a formidable reputation for vocal and electronic experimentation. Despite that pedigree, this is a performer who can still find room to challenge her compositional methods, and this latest release for Rune Grammfon is case in point.
Accompanying a Norwegian National Ballet realisation of Knut Hamsun’s 1890 novel Sult, to compose the score Ratkje ditched her electronics and employed a broken pump organ subjected to all sorts of Cageian preparations. The output takes the form of curious, and occasionally unsettling, drones and tones, over which Ratkje threads her distinctive voice, itself ranging from quiet murmuring to powerful rapture.
The result is a suite of nine intense pieces that have the power and breadth to utterly displace you. The urgent note clusters and noisy cycles that open a track like ‘et hvitt fyrtårn midt i et grumset menneskehav hvor vrak fløt om’ (roughly translating as ‘a white lighthouse in a muddy sea of humans where wrecks floated about’) will either quicken your pulse with restless energy or cause massive panic depending on the way you approach it. Closing track ‘Kristiania’ is perhaps the most fragile, unadorned moment here, containing a wistfulness that disguises a turbulent, volatile centre.
Sult by Maja S. K. Ratkje is released by Rune Grammofon on March 8 2019.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.