MAJAAP reviews (in English, French, Italian, Portugese, Swedish, Norwegian)

Signal to Noise: “Jaap Blonk has finally met his improvising match in Maja Ratkje. Whereas most improvisors have trouble keeping up with Blonk’s speed and theatrics, Ratkje goads him on and often instigates the pace. From Norway, Ratkje is best known for her work in Fe-Mail and Spunk, where she utilizes electronics, computers and other maniacal machines in addition to her voice. This release finds her countering Blonk’s raw voice with her own. And by voice I mean lips, spit, teeth, throat, breath and vocal cords. Having seen Blonk play in over a dozen different contexts and heard a significant number of his recordings, I’m pleased to report that these 2001 and 2002 sessions with Ratkje display his best sides: the astonishing range of his vocal delivery and the alacrity with which he manipulates his high-velocity sonic ideas. Not since his record with Mats Gustafsson and Michael Zerang has he sounded so engaged with the details of timing and balance. Considering the already impressive body of recorded work by Ratkje, the rarity of hearing her voice without any electronic filters should be treasured. She possesses and unleashes a mob of extraordinary vocal techniques, leaving me aghast at the persistent deprivation of sonorities that formal languages impose on communication. Over half of Majaap’s eighteen tracks are under two minutes long – none reach the five minute mark -– giving the listener a kaleidoscopic array of aural bursts. There’s no better soundtrack for freaking out new neighbors than a solid blast of these highly energetic and suggestive raw vocal duets.” (Andrew Choate)

The Wire, Issue 247, 2004: “Dutch interpreter of sound poetry and vocal improvisor Jaap Blonk is a robust, bodily performer whose utterances always sound enfolded in flesh and muscle. The Kontrans disc comprises 18 tracks recorded in Oslo and The Netherlands, and Ratkje’s own strong and flexible naked voice leads or closely shadows Blonk through thickets of babble and animal exuberance. In her higher register she sometimes approximates rapid fiddle squeaks, but mostly the pair’s nonsensical chatter, guttural and sibilant, punctuated with weezing, snorting, humming and squelching spittle, is a plunge into the fertile reserves of the human body’s own sound making capabilities. Crucially, given the voice’s potential for unruliness, Ratkje and Blonk shape and pace their improvisations with clarity and agility as well as a palpable sense of fun.” (Julian Cowley) “Improvised vocal music! A mainstream hit? Don’t think so, not on this planet. But in my household it happens that a CD with music of that kind get frequent play. Makigami Koichis “Kuchinoha” was a such record. His ability to make sounds mouth and throat alone and his intensity and timing was absolutely stunning, and at the same time musically delightfully. Now I have a new record of that calibre, a duo recording with Maja Ratkje and Jaap Blonk.18 tracks recorded in Norway and Holland. Top quality sound, top quality performances. The virtuosity of the two is all way mind-bending and that’s also hilarious. What kind a nuts gets this skills? The masters of fast and articulated qua-zak-rax-bark-ka-ka-ka …ha,ha. But most important, they show a great understanding of music. On each track different possibilities of the duos are presented and attacked. Its all ways easy to get into the songs early on (catchy) and then your taken on a ride with plenty of twists and surprises. Fascinating and appealing, yet too much to grasp. Repeated listening guaranteed. Well done!”

Vital Weekly 420: “If one is familiar with the work of Jaap Blonk, then this release will be a double pleasure in hearing. Maja Ratkje is the female counterpart of Jaap: their voices are capable of producing virtually any sound, from whispering soft to shouting a loud, producing onomatopeia of fantasy animals and a deep howl from beneath. Certainly not an easy to access disc. Despite the fact that there are no less than eightteen short tracks on this CD, I never looked once at my CD player and somehow played it as one long, continuos track.”

Jazz Word, Oct. 11, 2004: “Ratkje’s pedigree alone confirms the seriousness as well as the silliness heard on these discs. Someone whose works have been performed in films, by the Oslo Sinfonietta and bands like Jazzkammer and POING, she is as committed to these verbal improvisations as much as her notated and electronic scores. Twenty years her senior, Blonk is a self-taught composer and sound poet, whose powerful and flexible voice has led to collaborations as different as those with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and Swedish improv saxist Mats Gustafsson. During the 18 tracks that make up this CD, the pitches the two produce range from giggles, gargles and gurgles to burps, bumps and bellows. When Blonk doesn’t sound like Donald Duck embroiled in a particularly heated argument with Daisy, his sibilant quacks are superseded by tongue smacks, cheek thumps and Bronx cheers. In contrast to his strangled growls and basso, almost Tuvan tones, Ratkje’s output is more nimble, as if the Wicked Witch of the West was dialoguing with a recalcitrant ogre. Warbles and cackles are part of her stock-in-trade, with her vocal chords moving from feline howls and screeches to high-pitched nonsense dialogue that could come from a tiny child or a pixie. She can speedily scream like a cockatoo or peep like a chickadee. Usually, though, these bestial noises bring out the barking from Blonk’s inner pooch. Sometimes, intentionally or not, the verbal intercourse seems almost sexual, as understated titters on her part join with racked throat pressure from Blonk. As they ejaculate quicker and quicker timbres in higher (Ratkje) and lower (Blonk) pitches, his final silence and breathing suggests post-orgasmic bliss, as does her happy nattering subsiding into silence. Other times Ratkje’s and Blonk’s interaction can be compared to a particularly obtuse language instruction tape with the student and teacher both heard clearly, or European train station dialogue, though the words you strain to make out are Professor Irwin Cory-like classic doubletalk.” (Ken Waxman)

LINK TO ALBUM “2 voix. J’ai bien dit 2. Pi l’énergie. Pi l’humour. Pi juste leurs cordes vocales à ces 2 là. Un hollandais, une norvégienne. Et rien d’autre, sauf un peu d’électronique en concert certaines fois. C’est franchement étrange et surprenant cette force dans la voix. Des bruitages à la PHil MINTON dans un jour bien décalqué, le premier morceau me fait penser à l’univers développé par le BOB OSTERTAG d’il y a 10 ans. On entend aussi les BOREDOMS lorsque YAMATSUKA EYE se la joue bien fou de la gorge. Du bas son, des criiiiiii et du vrrrriiii, ca crache, ca crie, c’est rigolo, sonnant ici facon dessins animés ou là facon film d’horreur. Un disque qui tient debout, même empli de silence, même si c’est aussi parfois long, peu importe, il y a ici des titres à étonner ma grand mère même sur son lit de mort. Notez donc bien précieusement ces références.”

Rui Eduardo Paes: “Ratkje, membro do grupo feminino anarquista Spunk, está perfeitamente à altura da visceralidade expressiva do seu parceiro, e isso apesar de não partilhar os mesmos interesses pela poesia sonora, o movimento Dada e o “teatro da crueldade” de Antonin Artaud.” “E ho quindi ascoltato IMPROVISOR, il disco di sola voce che Maja ha realizzato con il sound poet e vocal performer Jaap Blonk. Alchimia e utopia della vocalità. Il rovescio delle voci alienate cui siamo costretti nel quotidiano. Voci critiche. Che infrangono la lingua. Che la investono con una materialità imprevedibile.”

Dagens Nyheter: “Plattan med Jaap Blonk är en serie liveduetter, ett röstlaboratorium för humana och posthumana identiter.” (Martin Nyström) “De to vokalekvilibristene Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje og Jaap Blonk har skapt nok en lydverden som ikke likner noen annen. Samarbeidet mellom de to “unike” stemmene har ført til reiser og opplevelser man skal ha frie sinn for å skape og åpne sinn for å motta. Dette er møter mellom en levende legende innenfor fritt improvisert vokalkunst og en ung norsk musikant som gjennom en rekke utgivelser og band har vist en enorm allsidighet og utrolige kreatve evner. Musikkskapingen er basert på frihet og respekt for hverandre og at det er to svært lyttende sjeler som setter hverandre stevne, er det absolutt ingen tvil om. Disse innspilingene – det er 18 små kutt som varer i tilsammen knapt 45 minutter – er gjort i både Nederland og Norge melom september 2001 og september 2002. De viser oss hvilke enorme muligheter det finnes i det viktigste instrumentet av dem alle, nemlig den menneskelige stemma når det er to slike originaler som kjører løpet. Dette er på alle vis ukonvensjonell og annerledes musikk. Jeg opplever stemmene, “språket” og “samtalene” som situasjonsopplevelser og som ofte humoristiske kommentarer til noe abstrakt – noe de to opplever der og da og som vi som lyttere kan skape våre egne bilder av. Det finnes absolutt ingen grenser for hva de to kan tillate seg eller for hvordan de benytter sine stemmebånd med tilliggende herligheter. De utfordrer først og fremst seg sjøl, men også i voldsom stor grad oss som lyttere. Det betyr at sanseapparatet lett kan få seg et sjokk ved det første møtet, men etterhvert kan man få seg opplevelser som kan gjøre noe med våre mer eller mindre vedtatte oppfatninger om hva musikk og stemmebruk kan være. “Majaap” er, som man sikkert vil skjønne, noe helt for seg sjøl. Gir man seg sjøl muligheten til å dukke ned i denne underlige, dynamiske, humoristiske og på alle vis mangefasetterte verdenen, vil man få oppevelser man ikke får andre steder. Garantert!” (Tor Hammerø)

Smaalenenes Avis: “Det er så man skvetter i godstolen. Plutselig dundrer større og mindre primal-skrik ut av høytalerne. I et øyeblikk er man på nippet til å kaste seg over cd-spilleren for å stoppe utysket, men likevel er det noe fasinerende ved denne platen. Møtet mellom den norske komponisten og improvisasjonsmusikeren Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje og nederlenderen Jaap Blonk, har resultert i en cd som kun baserer seg på deres bruk av den akustiske stemmen som lydkilde. Man kan lett la seg provosere av denne plata – og det er kanskje meningen på en måte, men man kan ikke unngå å bli imponert over den totalt hemningsløse bruk av menneskelige lyder Ratkje og Blonk klarer å få ut av seg. De overgår tidvis både Andebys Donald Duck og Flåklypas Sheik Ben-Reddik-Fy-Fasan. Ja selv ex-pink-floyder Roger Waters 70-talls-plate “The Body” blir blek sammenlignet med “Improvisors”. Ratkje og Blonks utgivelse kan neppe betegnes som annet enn en parentes – en artig parentes vel og merke. Musikken (for de som definerer all lyd som musikk), har blitt til gjennom improvisasjoner i studio, og er spilt inn i Norge og Nederland.” (Trond Erikson)

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