RATKJE: “And Sing” – Cikada with the Oslo Sinfonietta with vocals by Maja S.K. Ratkje – 2L

RATKJE: “And Sing” – Cikada with the Oslo Sinfonietta with vocals by Maja S.K. Ratkje – 2L multichannel SACD and Pure Audio Blu-ray – 2L-124-SABD (9/30/16), 44:00 [Distr. by Naxos] **:

Ultra-contemporary music that will not be pleasant for all listeners.

I hardly know how to review this disc from 2L. It contains two works for vocalist and instrumental group.

Most of both tracks consists of odd vocalizations, and frankly wailing sounds that left me unsettled and uncomfortable. I love contemporary classical music, but I think this short collection will be a little far out for most of our readers, this reviewer included.

This album interleaves the composer’s own voice as a performer with the ensemble sound of Cikada and the Oslo Sinfonietta. In And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep the voice is pre-recorded, and the sound files are played through speakers placed among the musicians. In Concerto for Voice, the composer is performing live a solo part for amplified voice, using much wider dynamics and improvisation. While performing has influenced and inspired Maja S. K. Ratkje’s composing, the opposite is also true – even though it’s too simple to say that she improvises like a composer and composes like an improvising musician.

One thing I can say that is semi-positive: 2L gives us standout audio, especially if you listen to a surround system. The sounds are dramatic, and pop up all over your listening space. The disc offers an Atmos track with vertical sounds, but on my equipment it played back as a 7.1 channel disc listening on my home theater setup. The sound was startling and emotional. Unfortunately, I also found it unpleasant. I found it difficult to listen to both tracks in one session, so I broke the experience up. In retrospect, that was a mistake as it prolonged the experience.  I can listen to John Cage, Glass, Nehybel, John Adams and Pärt all day long, but while I can acknowledge that there is creativity and art here, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

If your taste runs to the most avant of the avant-garde, don’t be put off by my experience. It’s totally immersive music. But it’s not a pool everyone will want to jump in. Like all 2L productions, it’s a real audio thrill, but beware your neighbors’ reactions.

The disc is offered in multiple formats, a decision I commend 2L for. Disc 1 is a multichannel SACD. Disc 2 contains Pure Audio Blu-ray, 2.0 LPCM 192/24, 5.1 DTS HDMA 192/24, 9.1 Auro-3D (which also plays back as 7.1), Dolby Atmos, and tracks in the new MQA format, plus the lower resolution MP3 files.

—Mel Martin

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