“River Mouth Echoes” is a new release by John Zorn’s infamous and great Tzadik label. Sure nothing needs to be said about Mr. Zorn’s activities in the most eccentric styles of music. I just mention this to make clear from the beginning that “River Mouth Echoes” is an outstanding piece of music in some outlandish but mighty fine company. This album outlines the last ten years of Maja S.K. Ratkje’s legislating.
For a start… what kind of music is this? Electronica Extravaganza, Sine Waves, Noize, Clicks’nCuts, Moderne Kammermusik, a Silent Picture Soundtrack or Dada? I couldn’t tell if someone asked me. But be warned anyway, this album is haunting! When I started writing this review I had planned just to skip through the tracks shortly once again and, hence another 66:44 minutes of sweet idleness were spent… or wasted? Well, most definitely not wasted! Though I must admit the first listening was a bit of a …maybe torture is a bit too heavy, but I had to force myself through it.
The sound varieties range from very high frequencies – you couldn’t tell it was saxophone, clarinet, cello, viola, synth etc. if it wasn’t written in the booklet – to some kind of field recording to drifting harmonies. Harmonies in search for other harmonies, harmonies to pair with, sing and swing with for a while to just fade, or to dominate, to leave for a drink and then come back for a chat and yet another drink – rather dreamy! Things sound like improvisations here and there but Maja is a trained musician and composer. Everything sounds exactly the way she wants it to. Too weird, to expressionistic? Could be! But what did people think and say back in the days when “Rhapsody in Blue” or “Bolero” were first performed in public? You know what I mean? I am not even talking of Schoenberg! You avantgardists all know it, don’t you!
When I say improvised I don’t mean freaky harsh sounds that cover the lack of technical abilities – exactly the opposite. Everything sounds fresh, surprising all the way and very spontaneous too. And though this is a compilation, a survey the album comes very much as a whole. Everything sounded so warm, so complete and inwardly self contained. But still this is an album of very strange beauty; and what you not find in there… I found traces of Tango (could be just the bandoneon/accordion in search of friends and harmonies?), a touch of Jacqueline du Pré, (Free) Jazz, Russian Folklore, Chanson and the winds of the cold North. The (German) vocal parts in “Wintergarten” (actually is taken from the soundtrack of Daria Martin’s film “Wintergarden”) sound a bit like the voice of Freya Asywnn, but this is only to the non-German-understanding ears. What she reads/sings there again is pure Dada, crazy stuff “her blooming tits” or “her mother says here eyes were buds” or ” there is no part of you I do not want to devour”… and so on and so on. Pretty weird, but pretty. I you really want get into this album you need to invest a little time, but time that is worth squandered. “River Mouth Echoes” does not come easy but once you got it, it’s got you – enjoy!