Review: Manja Ristić – The Black Isle (Flag Day Recordings, May 24)

Artists working in the areas of field recording and electroacoustic composition will often describe certain actions taken to produce their music as “interventions,” a somewhat abstract term whose definition is not always easy to uncover. In Manja Ristić’s work, however, her interventions are at the forefront of the sounds at play, and I love it so much because the relationship between observer and environment is always given due representation (not an easy task, in my opinion). The Black Isle cements itself in physical locations, but the auxiliary sonic additions never cease to influence or directly interact with them; Ristić’s careful violin scrapes introduce tension to bubbling hydrophone recordings and whimsical birdsong, heavy footsteps crunch leaves, quiet orchestral samples unseat the natural atmosphere and cast eerie, spectral shadows over the proceedings. There’s even moments in “Black Forest” where what I think is the click of a camera shutter occasionally crops up, providing even more of the strong, established human presence that is often shied away from in this sort of thing. The Black Isle, true to its ominous title, is some of the darkest material I’ve heard from Ristić, her focus on the aforementioned duality of observation and action casting everything into an uneasy, uncanny realm of whispers and rustles and uncertainty.