Avant Joik is the project of Sámi Katarina Barruk, joik – the traditional form of song in Sámi music – vocal artist and singer-songwriter from the Swedish side of the Sápmi and one of the few remaining speakers of the Ume Sámi language, Norwegian composer-electronics player-vocalist Maja S.K. Ratkje, and Sámi visual artist Matti Aikio from the Finnish side of Sápmi, who also did the cover art. Avant Joik is dedicated to «evoking the eerie, contemplative atmospheres of the North, while the turmoil and distortion of an untamed, forceful nature lurk beneath». Avant Joik performed for the first time at Sónar Festival in Barcelona in June 2018. «Live in Bergen» was recorded at Landmark, Bergen Kunsthall in September 2020.
The album is opened and closes with the pieces – «Surveillance jah Sïlbbaskiđđeme» and «Surveillance jah Fámmuo», both are based on Barruk’s lyrics and melodies, suggesting an emotional state-if-mind and an enigmatic sense of time and space. These pieces present the more experimental side of Avant Joik. Barruk uses traditional Sámi brooches as instruments, processed by Ratkje’s electronics software and vocals. The sparkling brooches are matched by Aikio’s visual images of light being reflected by water and ice: «To show, that they have, that they have, power. / Have skinned our silver because they do not know. / Because they do not know. / But we know, among us, among us, there is power». Barruk sings-chants the emotional lyrics of the first piece as abstract sounds and as a suggestive joik song, using her voice as a poetic instrument, while Ratkje adds subtle layers of electronic sounds and noises and an array of vocal gestures, all intensify the hypnotic delivery of Barruk. The latter piece is more meditative and gentle. Ratkje’s electronics and her imaginative vocal utterances embrace and punctuate cleverly the ceremonial, soaring vocals of Barruk with deep-toned, sonic nods to other indigenous cultures.
«Stuora Várrie» is based on a traditional joik that the performers bring into a windy mountain landscape. Barruk is totally possessed in a shamanistic, joik ritual that sounds as aims to distance evil spirits, while Ratkje mixes abstract yet unsettling, detailed windy sounds to this mysterious soundscape. «Ubmejen Jiännuo» (Ume River) is another traditional joik, from an era when the Ume-river was not yet extensively cultivated for hydroelectric power. Barruk says that when she joiks it she can see how the river was when it was still running free. This is a vocal duet between the traditional, structured joik form of the singing of Barruk and the free-improvised, intuitive and sometimes pixie-like vocalizations of Ratkje. Both complement each other, as Barruk and Ratkje are attentive and imaginative listeners and improvisers.
An insightful and inspiring journey into the mysteries of the Sámi culture.
Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje (v, live elec), Katarina Barruk (joik, v), Matti Aikio (live visuals)