Syklubb Fra Hælvete

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Together, Maja Ratkje and Hild Sofie Tafjord represent the electronic half of the all-female improv quartet Spunk -- even though the former is also a singer and the latter plays French horn, among other instruments. Their duo, Fe-Mail, could be described as a female answer to Jazzkammer. Besides Norwegian origins, the two units share a taste for noise constructions and a subtle, dry sense of humor. Syklubb fra Haelvete is released by the label TV5 as a pink-colored vinyl LP. The calendar-type swimsuit picture on the cover offers another example of Ratkje's fondness for mischievous misleading and contrasts. If anything, the seductive, over-feminine photograph doesn't prepare you for the aural assault it wraps up. The pair produces harsh noise out of samplers and electronics, adding occasional voice, harmonica, and miscellaneous acoustic instruments whenever they feel like it. "Modogin" and "Water Music" feature rare vocals from Ratkje. The latter track is the LP's highlight; relatively quiet, it is made of processed water sounds (or what sounds like it), feedback, a couple of chords plucked on a zither (or maybe directly on the strings of a piano), sampled voice, and slabs of noise. Through its extremes it reaches a beautiful yet fragile balance happily destroyed by the onslaught of "A Merry Day in the Woods," a track that overshadows Merzbow's early-2000s material. "Nincompoop" includes an innocent-sounding track of harmonica that gets blown out of proportion and splattered across the walls. This album is very different from Spunk's delicate improvisations, but if you liked Ratkje's solo debut, Voice, Syklubb fra Haelvete is something you will most likely enjoy.

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