Maja S.K. Ratkje / Jon Wesseltoft / Camille Norment / Per Gisle Galåen – Celadon


In today’s music world, performances and recordings revolving around drones are by now a dime a dozen. Thus, finding the right motivation for individuating genuine nutritional components after having discarded the chaff has become harder. Insubstantial albums may even sound radiant at the outset, but in a couple of listens the bluff is easily identified by the specialist. Other releases, perhaps defined by a higher degree of humbleness, touch more effectively on interior issues. A third variety exists, that of an experiment with the resonating properties of a given space that might or might not produce a profound connection with an audience (which, in turn, might or might not be escorted towards transcendence by the music). Celadon belongs to this category, having been taped in a Norwegian mausoleum known for its natural acoustic enhancement of what occurs into it.

The presence of not one but two harmoniums (Wesseltoft and Galåen) represents a decisive attribute in terms of “conventional droning wisdom”, and a glass harmonica (Norment) cannot fail in eliciting a sense of hypothetical pureness. Ratkje’s voice remains on a relatively quiet invocational level in the first two tracks “Beneath The Bough” and “The Green Flood”, becoming more vibrant and, in some circumstances, nastier (not necessarily in unforgettable ways) in the 30-minute “Afterglow”. The latter is theoretically the album’s climax; in truth, it could have benefited from less emphasis on the most obvious aspects of choral overtones and theatrical vocalism.

The names of Terry Riley, Catherine Christer Hennix and Diamanda Galàs thrown like bird feed across the web have probably already convinced those who trust superficial associations in lack of autonomous judgment. From this side, the only remote comparison I thought of was Charlemagne Palestine, whose falsetto is occasionally — and quite bizarrely — reminded by some of Ratkje’s acute pitches. To the people who quote the Greek Serpenta, I politely suggest to retrieve a copy of Galàs’ Schrei X and get back to reality. Here we have a strong enough vocalist attempting, with some up-and-down, to fit in a good-sounding but never intrinsically moving environment of consonant drones.