Review: Manja Ristić – The Desire of My Heart (sirr-ecords, Sep 17)

You’ve probably noticed I try to keep things diverse in terms of what I cover for the site, so my having reviewed four releases by Serbian sound artist Manja Ristić is a testament to her consistent talents. Four is a lot, but it’s been almost two and a half years since the last one, and The Desire of My Heart marks her first collaboration with the fabulous Portugal-based sirr-ecords netlabel, so this is a no-brainer. Ristić does both short sketches and extended soundscapes well, and though this 27-minute piece feels quite episodic and is even contextualized as a “meta narrative in three stages” by the artist herself, it mostly belongs to the latter category in terms of its presence and pacing. It begins with a distinctive sound that should be familiar to anyone who’s checked out any of her past work: the close, tactile effervescence of hydrophone recordings, the tools “buried in the stranded sediments of a dry Posidonia Oceanica algae” on Silba Island to capture the elusive textures. The aquatic void often hinted toward by these minuscule cross-sections is supported sonically by the unbroken hum of a restaurant ventilation system, building tension with subtle twinges of darkness until it’s broken by what I would wager is the wheel Ristić “salvaged from shallow waters in the Adriatic” and interacted with using “wooden sea debris, electrical coffee mixer, soft xylophone stick, and a pine cone” (the extreme care and detail she puts into performances or observations that end up only occupying a few minutes of the final product is part of what makes her work so rewarding to listen to). A hesitant saxophone blares apathetic elegies, the circuits of a plastic megaphone seize and sputter, massive clanging bells are rendered small and soft by distance. The shape of humanity—personhood—is here, but it is merely traced, outlined, an “empty” socket one must fill themselves; thankfully, here one size fits all.