Ristic / Dzukljev / Markovic

Super Silent Mice in Space

I was first introduced to the notion that rats laugh and mice sing by Simon Finn’s 2009 album by the same title. Most of these sounds are not audible by the human ear but having a garden flat in London, I was not overly surprised. According to researcher Jaak Panksepp, for instance, a rat’s laughter comes in the form of high-frequency 50-kilohertz ultrasonic calls, or “chirps,” that are distinct from other vocal emissions in rats. On the other hand, Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, a biologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, studied the songs of mice in the wild, which, according to an article in the Smithsonian, “Played back at slow speed, sound a little like the wooing song of a whale, a plaintive rise and fall.”

While none of the above is specifically relevant to Super Silent Mice in Space, all three performers, Manja Ristic (violin, built instruments, sound objects, cardboard panel, editing), Marina Dzukljev (prepared piano, sound objects, percussive instruments) and Dorde Markovic (prepared electric guitar), endeavor to “explore micro-tonalities on the threshold of silence”. However, rather than the silent pauses de rigueur in countless electro-acoustic releases of recent times, the trio seem to allow for breathing spaces in order to let the interaction between them develop more organically, while incorporating the ambience sound and the audience’s presence into the sonic texture at the same time.

There’s great affinity in evidence within the performer’s interplay and it comes as no surprise that Manja Ristic and Marina Džukljev are habitual and congenial collaborators, as their excellent and recent improv performance at Cultural Center Parobrod testifies.

In this instance, though, aside from exploring the fabric of their chosen instruments (violin and piano respectively) both Manja and Marina adopt a selected array of sound objects expanding their aural vocabulary. Solitary piano notes often trigger a muted and circumspect response, but rather than carrying a melody, they are left suspended, suggesting possible openings that never translate into precisely delineated linear paths. And yet, while attempting to be super silent, these “mice” in space, seem prone to engage in playful activity, something that they mostly refrain from, preferring to opt for a sobering game of sonic hide and seek. Things do get occasionally boisterous, with the piano exploding into “fou rire” on Faceless Times, and Mice Mind (( Bursts )). Elsewhere, Markovic’s prepared electric guitar adds an extra layer of spirited mischievousness but the overall tone remains sparse.

The inclusion of uncanny elements, like the ghostly soprano voice that can be heard on Zauvek Dom, add an otherworldly quality that permeates the album. What was presumably one long improv session is carefully edited into separate tracks that flow seamlessly into one another with no forced twists or turns, guaranteeing the successful outcome of this engaging live recording.

Super Silent Mice in Space is available here as a digital download.


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