Contemporary music from everywhere

Manja Ristić – The Nightfall

RistićThese four new compositions from Serbo-Croatian artist Manja Ristić serve as both delicately assembled soundscapes and environmentalist anthems. Entitled simply “Summer,” “Autumn,” “Winter” and “Spring,” Ristić has delivered a deeply touching album.

Born in Belgrade in 1979, Ristić is a violinist who has branched out into composition and research/curatorial work in electroacoustic, improvisational and experimental music styles. After graduating from the Belgrade Music Academy in 2001, Ristić earned a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of Music in London in 2004.

“Her work is largely focused on exploration of synesthesia in AV performance, intuitive composition and sound ecology,” according to the album’s notes. “Sound art merges instrumental improvisation with field recording and electronics, developing concepts of creative listening.”

As is customary with Naviar Records releases, each of the four pieces is based on a haiku poem.

“Summer” references the work of Peggy Willis Lyles. It’s a sparse, relaxed piece offset by a variety of noise elements. Some are unnatural and disquieting, others are environmental sounds that add to an overall sense of peace. A short vocal adds a gorgeous bit of emotion.

“Autumn” takes its cue from a poem by Inahata Teiko. This feels tense by comparison. There’s a buzz in the air, next to a kind of rumbling percussion. Ristić delivers a tightly, rather strained violin performance. By the time the rain starts in the piece’s second half, there is a sense that the mood is darkening.

“Winter” takes us further in that direction. Jean-Louis Kérouac delivered the inspiration for this one. Vinyl surface noise mixes with a woman’s belabored breathing and heavy industrial sounds in the distance. Either we’re headed for something difficult, or its coming at us. The video excerpt up on Vimeo does nothing to lighten the mood.

Finally, “Spring” arrives with a nod to poet Michael Dylan Welch. The sounds of children playing outside again is a welcome relief after the oppressiveness of “Winter.” And Ristić is back with her violin. The treatments she applies to the instrument that launched her career represents just how far she’s evolved artistically.

She has partnered with numerous artists, performers, conductors, movie and theatre directors. On this album though, the work is all hers. This is the product of a major talent, still early in her career.

Kevin Press

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