Ryu Hankil, Hong Chulki, Nick Hoffman – SonneSeptember 23, 2012
Vinyl and Bandcamp Download
Sonne is a vinyl or Bandcamp enabled download release on the Chicago based Pilgrim Talk label. The disc contains two fifteen minute long tracks recorded in a concert setting in Seoul, 2009 by the trio of Seoul based Ryu Hankil and Hong Chulki alongside the visiting American Nick Hoffman, who also runs the Pilgrim Talk label. As with quite a few of the releases involving the Seoul crew, while I did enjoy this release, I suspect I might have enjoyed attending the concert at which it was captured quite a bit more. The album is on the noisier side of things, a mix of various electronics, feedback shrieks, clattering, vaguely percussive elements and who knows what else in there, but having been lucky enough to have witnessed Ryu Hankil and Hong Chulki perform live a few times over recent years I suspect that the aural results of this meeting may just have been the tip of the iceberg. certainly there is enough variation in there to make me suspect that watching the concert could have been a lot of fun.
There is no instrumentation listed on the sleeve, but given the date of the recording and having listened a good few times I am pretty certain that Hong’s turntable and electronics are in use alongside the clattering motors and objects used a lot by Ryu Hankil at that time. Exactly what Nick Hoffmann is using is anyone’s guess. Previous releases by Hoffman have seen him use an amplified electric sewing machine on occasions, and certainly that would fit with the way the music sounds here, but I am guessing. Its a harsh affair then, occasionally really very harsh indeed, with just about every sound dirty and gritty in its finish, and sometimes really quite fearsomely abrasive. There are shrieking squeals of feedback, metallic scrapes that get right under the skin and a general feel of lo-fi sound capture amplified up to high volumes. This isn’t to say that Sonne is always a particularly loud album however, with some parts, such as the opening minutes of Side B actually quite subdued, but even when the music slips away into these quieter spells there is a grainy, rough-edged menace to the music. Picking your way through it as a listener feels a little like trying to walk through a scrapyard full of old cars, there is a path through it all, but along the way you are likely to get scratched and grazed by various jagged, rusty surfaces.
In many ways there is a lot here to be found in common with much noise music, from the hand-drawn monsters of the sleeve to the non-CD format to the raw, brittle atmosphere of the sounds used. There is however a very strong sense of restraint and placement running through these two sides of vinyl that sets it apart from the bulk of what could be put into that genre. Despite the occasional volume and the ugliness of the sounds put to use, they are arranged carefully with a sense of communal progression between the musicians clearly audible. While it is rarely easy to tell exactly who is making which sound, there is a consistent feeling of sounds applied either to compliment or counterpoint others. This isn’t just three guys making a racket, and that’s what sets this music, and the Seoul scene in general apart from much other noisier improvisation. All in all, this is a perfectly good, if not necessarily remarkable addition to the output of that tiny Korean scene, and one does wonder how much better the trio could get with more time and without the geographic restraints that made this session a one-off. I am also very certain that this is one release that could never live up to how it must have looked / sounded in the room, but this can only ever now be a moot point.