LABELS: Rune Grammofon
PERFORMER: Maja Ratkje (voice)
CATALOGUE NO: RCD 2028
The divide between the conservatoire avant-garde and the musical underground (if anyone still uses the word) is fast becoming a thing of the past. No label better represents this tendency than Rune Grammofon, which exists under the wing of ECM and which offers a catalogue that ranges from near-establishment composition (Arne Nordheim) to highly abstract post-jazz (Supersilent). This particular disc is a good vantage point from which to ponder the label’s overall perspective. The music is essentially a series of duets for Ratkje’s voice and the technology of the recording studio, with her vocal utterances being processed, edited and generally sliced and diced into a furious collage of sound, by turn chilling and chilled. On the one hand, anyone whose musical tastes extend to the more uncomfortable end of contemporary ambient electronica will take this music in their stride, while on the other there’s also a direct lineage between Ratkje’s work and the rather sterner experiments in extended vocal technique which were so beautifully humanised by Cathy Berberian.
The recorded sound is not to my taste, having a slightly distanced, almost recessed quality, but this may well be as much an artistic aspect of this CD as is Ratkje’s gymnastic voice. Roger Thomas