Balloon & Needle Trio

HONG CHULKI / CHOI JOONYONG – Hum And Rattle

Apart from the nice U2 pun of the title, this record – entirely realized with a CD player and a turntable – brings an unrepentant, if somewhat moderate assault on the listener’s ears, subjected to an alternance of remorseless frequencies and episodes of extra-charged “tranquillity” for over 73 minutes. The protagonists manipulate their sources with expertise, obtaining uncommonly surprising sounds whose scope goes from ultrasonically acute stabs and extremely sharp interlocutions to quasi-silent segments where only through headphones we’re able to identify some sort of subterranean activity, often based on the exploration of audibility ranges that are better suited to dogs, cats and bats than humans (one can always improve, though). There’s a method to this music, which is why I particularly appreciate it: the performers are listening attentively even before releasing substances, which gives the idea of partially predetermined materials, although that’s probably not the case. There are abundant doses of pleasantly musical noise that, for once, implies a cleverly planned structure instead of exclusively introducing pain and tediousness, Chulki and Joonyong the representatives of an open-minded aural diplomacy that tends to leave exasperation aside in favour of an almost total sonic acceptability, disintegrated constituents notwithstanding. This release could be seriously cherished by those who welcome the products of Ferran Fages’ acoustic turntables. A well conceived, stimulating work.

JIN SANGTAE – Extensity Of Hard Disk Drive

Sangtae expresses himself through amplified hard disks, in case you missed it. This passion started fifteen years ago while working part-time at Yong-san electronic market, and he has tried both to increase the knowledge and enhance the techniques for making the machines work according to a musical sense. In certain circumstances the composer manages to achieve something that could be (very vaguely) defined as such, especially in terms of rhythmic pulse; yet the problem that is going to push a lot of people away from this CD, I suspect, is that many of the sounds produced are so unforgiving, so harsh, so intrinsically inharmonious that only a sadist might be willing to repeat the experience more than once. In truth there’s no actual music here, but a series of characterless mechanical events, some of them interesting, others just silly or plain dreary. I’m sorry to report that, in general, the contents of Extensity Of Hard Disk Drive are not remarkable enough to justify their release.

CHOI JOONYONG / HONG CHULKI / SACHIKO M / OTOMO YOSHIHIDE – Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves

Despite the above positive review of Hum And Rattle I’m not the least envious of artists expressing themselves with CD players and turntables these days; how can they find innovative ways of making music without producing the same results from a record to another? Most times a success is not waiting behind the corner, all those skip-click-fizz-and-buzz practices often turning into a litany for the destruction of the residual hopes of listening to a cleverly conceived recording. Luckily, this one (“recorded during Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide’s trip to Seoul for concerts organized by RELAY”) doesn’t belong to this category, especially in virtue of its rather interesting combinations of colours. This stuff is only for the well-versed, of course; not sure that the melange of maniacal sputtering, vituperation of harmonic construction, bizarrely hesitant oscillations and unsympathetic hiccups is going to appeal to those who love to hear some old-fashioned consonance in their wine-influenced evening sessions; in the final track, Otomo is even heard torturing an electric guitar. In general, nothing memorably new under the sun, although the sonic concoctions generated by this quartet tickle the nerves quite efficiently. With headphones on, in front of a muted TV set airing Criminal Minds, the session made for an experience halfway through occult encoding and electrophysiological stimulation. Alternatively, you may be willing to listen to Mozart or Vivaldi and get brainwashed for real.

Balloon & Needle

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