Avant Joik: Live in Bergen reviews (in English and Chilean)

Loop: Avant Joik is the collaborative project of Norwegian Maja S. K. Ratkje on vocals and live electronics, Swedish Katarina Barruk on vocals and joik, and Finn Matti Aikio on live visuals. At first I thought that joik was an instrument, although Barruk uses it as such through the type of singing it is. The joik has been the musical expression of the Sami since ancient times, living in Sápmi, a region that stretches across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia. “Live in Bergen” consist in four pieces recorded live on occasion of the Joar Nango exhibition, at the Bergen Kunsthall festival held in September 2020. “Surveillance jah Sïlbbaskiđđeme” the opener of the LP, reveals Barruk’s narrative under the tonalities of joik and brooches rhythms like percussion instruments. Added to this are the versatile properties of Ratkje’s voice, along with the electronic textures that meander like bursts in an abstract, suggestive, emotional, throaty and dramatic language. On “Stuora Várrie” Katarina sings a chant that looks like a mantra, while the high notes of Majas’s vocals and the buried noises blend together. Ratkje’s guttural and disjointed vocalizations seem to collide with Barruk’s soft singing, although finally go through a dialogue and decant into a silence. “Surveillance jah Fámmuo”, the last song on this album, begins with the traditional brooches creating a rhythm that is also marked by electronic manipulations. While the song continues to flow, Maja expresses herself in her own indistinguishable language. Aikio’s minimalist visuals complements this dialogue between tradition and modernity, wraping it up with subtle images. (Guillermo Escudero)

The Wire: Avant Joik Live In Bergen Bergen Kunsthall DL/LP A main theme of Tim Hodgkinson’s 2016 book Music And The Myth Of Wholeness rests in the parallel between shamanistic musical expressions and free improvisation. While primarily interested in Siberian traditions, many of his thoughts on a nature culture aesthetic apply to joik – a music and singing style indigenous to the Sámi people in the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Similar to Tuvan songs, the primary purpose of these improvised, animistic chants was not entertainment. Rather, they were a way of healing, guiding spiritual and intimate sentiments, evoking persons, animals and landscapes by singing them into being. A few notable artists like Mari Boine introduced joik to dominant Western idioms, but rarely managed to transplant their primordial essence into avant forms as successfully as composer and vocalist Maja SK Ratkje and singer Katarina Barruk have on Live In Bergen. Recorded during the Festival Exhibition 2020 at Bergen Kunsthall, its four pieces owe their soul to Barruk’s transfixing singing as they teeter between the ancient and the contemporary. Meanwhile, Ratkje’s ongoing fascination with the human voice and keen ear for environmental noises allow her to exalt the material by settling electronics into rhythmic patterns – equivalents to the drums that sometimes accompany joiks – and associative cues. Her interventions are sublime throughout, whether manipulating and echoing Barruk’s undulating, voluminous inflection, joining her with extended techniques – humming, whistling, growling, hissing – or shaping percussive sounds from Sámi brooches. The two performances of Barruk’s original “Surveillance” are mesmerizing drones, but their visceral impression is eclipsed by the traditional songs they surround. On “Stuora Várrie” and “Ubmejen Jiännuo”, each splintering vocal thread absorbs you deeper into a memory of a mountainside. As depicted in Matti Aikio’s visuals, a wild river flows there. You can feel the chill of its water, hear the murmur of trees and sense the woodland mysticism of it all. True to the expressive semiotics of joiks and thanks to the empathetic modes of modern composition and instrumentation, these cuts carry not images, but vivid sensations. (Antonio Poscic)

Salt Peanuts: (…) The album is opened and closes with the pieces – «Surveillance jah Sïlbbaskiđđeme» and «Surveillance jah Fámmuo», both are based on Barruk’s lyrics and melodies, suggesting an emotional state-if-mind and an enigmatic sense of time and space. These pieces present the more experimental side of Avant Joik. Barruk uses traditional Sámi brooches as instruments, processed by Ratkje’s electronics software and vocals. The sparkling brooches are matched by Aikio’s visual images of light being reflected by water and ice: «To show, that they have, that they have, power. / Have skinned our silver because they do not know. / Because they do not know. / But we know, among us, among us, there is power». Barruk sings-chants the emotional lyrics of the first piece as abstract sounds and as a suggestive joik song, using her voice as a poetic instrument, while Ratkje adds subtle layers of electronic sounds and noises and an array of vocal gestures, all intensify the hypnotic delivery of Barruk. The latter piece is more meditative and gentle. Ratkje’s electronics and her imaginative vocal utterances embrace and punctuate cleverly the ceremonial, soaring vocals of Barruk with deep-toned, sonic nods to other indigenous cultures. «Stuora Várrie» is based on a traditional joik that the performers bring into a windy mountain landscape. Barruk is totally possessed in a shamanistic, joik ritual that sounds as aims to distance evil spirits, while Ratkje mixes abstract yet unsettling, detailed windy sounds to this mysterious soundscape. «Ubmejen Jiännuo» (Ume River) is another traditional joik, from an era when the Ume-river was not yet extensively cultivated for hydroelectric power. Barruk says that when she joiks it she can see how the river was when it was still running free. This is a vocal duet between the traditional, structured joik form of the singing of Barruk and the free-improvised, intuitive and sometimes pixie-like vocalizations of Ratkje. Both complement each other, as Barruk and Ratkje are attentive and imaginative listeners and improvisers. An insightful and inspiring journey into the mysteries of the Sámi culture. (Eyal Hareuveni)

Record link

Loop: Avant Joik es el proyecto colaborativo de la noruega Maja S. K. Ratkje en voz y electrónica en vivo, la sueca Katarina Barruk en voz y joik y el finlandés Matti Aikio en las visuales en vivo. En un principio pensaba que el joik era un instrumento, aunque Barruk lo utiliza como tal a través del tipo de canto que es. El joik ha sido el modo de expresión musical de los samis desde tiempos antiguos que habita en Laponia, una región que se extiende por el norte de Noruega, Suecia, Finlandia y la península de Kola, al noroeste de Rusia. “Live in Bergen” que consiste en cuatro piezas grabadas en vivo con ocasión de la exposición de Joar Nango, en el festival de Bergen Kunsthall realizado en septiembre de 2020. “Surveillance jah Sïlbbaskiđđeme” que abre este LP devela la narrativa de Barruk bajo las tonalidades del joik y ritmos de broches como instrumentos de percusión. A ello se agregan los versátiles propiedades de la voz de Ratkje, junto a las texturas electrónicas que serpentean como ráfagas en un lenguaje abstracto, sugerente, emotivo, gutural y dramático. En “Stuora Várrie” Katarina entona un cántico que parece un mantra, mientras se mezclan las notas altas del canto y los ruidos soterrados de Maja. Los vocalizaciones guturales e inconexas de Ratkje que parecen chocar con el suave canto de Barruk entran finalmente en un diálogo y decanta en el silencio. “Surveillance jah Fámmuo”, última canción de este disco, comienza con los broces tradicionales creando un ritmo que también es marcado por las manipulaciones electrónicas. Al tiempo que el canto continúa fluyendo, mientras Maja se expresa en su propio lenguaje indescifrable. Las visuales minimalistas de Aikio complementa este diálogo entre la tradición y la modernidad, envolviéndolo con sus sutiles imágenes. (Guillermo Escudero)

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