Album reviews

Han-earl Park – ‘Of Life, Recombinant’

Han-earl Park – Of Life, Recombinant
(NEWJAiM9. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Han-earl Park is an active member of the UK improvised music community, appearing in solo guitar contexts as well as working with groups such as Eris136199 with Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky, and with Sirene 1009 with Dominic Lash and Mark Sanders.

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This album is, in Park’s own words, ‘unlike anything I’ve done before, and the music goes to some strange and unexpected places’.  It is a single improvisational suite of solo guitar drawn from a year’s experiments in the studio.

There are four tracks ranging in length from 8.06 mins to 29.22 mins. The first track, Game: Mutation, develops through a series of short choppy phrases at the beginning that create a variety of interesting ‘industrial’ sounds. About half way through there is a short interlude of silence after which different sounds build up; this passage is followed by a second pause which leads into the final section where the sounds, although still in short phrases, are more guitar-like. The track distils the essence of the album with its focus on sounds rather than melodies.

Are Variant unfolds through a series of short, very interesting, but rather sinister sounds reminiscent of a hospital MRI scanning machine. It ends with the breathy sound of a voice.

Naught Opportune has a broader, fuller sound, more ambient and certainly more dramatic. As so often happens in improvised music, the track develops through a series of arcs that build up to a climax and then subside – in this case quite suddenly and dramatically. As in Mutation the final section returns to the actual sounds of the guitar.

Of Life, Recombinant is by far the longest track at 29.22 minutes; again it unfolds through a series of interesting ‘industrial’ sounds that change gradually over the track and hold one’s attention. There is an element of minimalism through the gradual evolution of the sounds, but it is an intense and forceful minimalism very different from that of Reich, Adams et al.

This is another impressive release from the innovative NEWJAiM label that was established in 2020 during the peak period of the Covid pandemic with the aim of providing creative opportunities for improvising musicians. It is their ninth release.

LINK: Of Life, Recombinant on Bandcamp

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