Maja Ratkje – Sult

sultMaja is a Norwegian electroacoustic opera electronica improviser … if you haven’t already, please adjust your seats, tighten those assholes, and firmly cap those coffee cups because this is gonna be a bumpy motherfucker.

I understand the reluctance toward contemporary, well, anything. A contemporary art exhibit, ever been to one of these motherfuckers? I don’t mean the “check out these dope paintings” kind, I mean the “we don’t have anything to say, or talent to speak of, so we just called it contemporary” kind. They’re truly fucking terrible. Having someone throw paint, scream in your face, and make some vague reference to saving the environment is an unoriginal and dull way an egoist reacts to not getting enough chocolate chunky cookies as a kid. Then there are artists like Maja, she’s a whole other bag of marbles. And, don’t worry, she hasn’t lost a single one.

When Paul McCartney listened to Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge, that bobble-headed motherfucker got inspired to lay down something new. He threw down similar effects on his song “Tomorrow Never Knows”. This also inspired that awesomely fucked up rising clusterfuck of an orchestral part in “A Day in the Life”. Three pianos and a harmonium just going to town before playing out the same last chord with reverberated glee. Shit is now part of the pop music cannon. Without the genius and strangeness of Stockhausen, it would’ve never been made. This is the world Maja lives in: up on that musical hill experimenting with strange sounds that, one day, bobble-headed pop stars will be called geniuses for because they copied it.

After being in a quartet named Spunk, Maja threw down a solo album called Voice in ’02. The entire album is made up of her vocals. It’s freaky, beautiful, and compelling all at once. It can go from sounding beautifully ambient tones to sounding like she’s trying to shit out a car door. She began winning awards left and right, meeting other awesome artists, and stretching out her creative wings. This is what led her to sitting down in front of an iron lung of an organ modified with PVC tubes, metal tubes, guitar and bass strings, glass and metal percussion, and a miniature fucking windmill. On an instrument she wasn’t comfortable with, she made improvised music atop of the balletic interpretation of a Knut Hamsen novel, “Sult”.

What comes out in the end is this album. Maja plays each doohickey on the organ monster in front of her. She uses both her hands and her feet while singing out these songs. The debilitated state of the organ emits the handcrafted, cottage-like, homey feel that was so popular in the heydays of Múm and Sigúr Ros. She creates music that’s unconventional (it is contemporary classical after all) but she creates songs that sound like they would appear on an art pop album next year, and on a folk-pop album the year after that. She lives and creates in the avant-garde. But she doesn’t make art to confuse or distort like those cookie-less painted fucks. She creates in order to speak to the heart of a subject, despite any convention.


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