Aug 11 2017
If there’s one musician who most completely embodies the true hopelessness of nailing down the qualities in music I most enjoy, it’s Han-earl Park. My first encounter with the guitarist’s music was long ago, in my role as the Download of the Day editor for the AllAboutJazz site. My initial reaction to the guitarist’s music was what the fuck. And it still is, even today, after many many years of familiarization with his particular style. His music is messy. The thoughts seem scattered. The ideas, unfocused or, perhaps, simply manic. His music is aggressive and acerbic and gets in your face and won’t back down. And that he’s able to pull all that off with two notes or two thousand or two million is the proof that this music sources from a musician who has successfully tapped into that creative well and developed a personal method for transforming the ineffable into a form of communication.
All of those messily scattered manic ideas impart a meaning in its message, and I know this is true, because time and again my immediate recoil reaction to Park’s music slowly changes to a detached fascination. Somehow, time and again, despite his music presenting all of the qualities that would typically get me to hit the pause button, instead, it engages me to the very end. There are not many musicians who consistently display the ability to instigate such a quick turnaround within the span of one song. Han-earl Park is one such musician, and no better example exists than his new release Sirene 1009.
Sirene 1009 is a soundtrack for a seizure. It’s spasmodic and flails about wildly. The music is disconcerting. But it enters these fugue states of focused intensity that border on meditative, and it is the most powerful sensation to experience even the tiniest hint of serenity at the center of so much chaos. It’s unsurprising to discover that the three-part “Cliodynamics” suite was recorded live. Even via the recorded medium, there’s a palpable electricity transmitted by this music, and its voltage isn’t the least bit muffled for not having been there in person. That it was recorded at Cafe OTO is also perfectly logical, as the London venue has been the scene for all kinds of wildly unconventional, singularly original music.
Mostly, Caroline Pugh‘s vocals are of the wordless variety, and so dramatic are her renderings of human sounds that it’s not inconceivable she created an alternate lexicon specifically for this recording. Park’s guitar style can be the sonic representation of slash-and-go rush hour traffic, and of significance to the success of this session is how he simultaneously captures the immediacy of individual cars in motion and the oddly hypnotic flow of mass traffic viewed from an isolated location. On bass, Dominic Lash slings out notes like stones across the surface of water. There’s a sudden burst of velocity and a magnetic patter of rhythm, and with one action, the bassist adds both melodic and rhythmic textures to a canvas that might not otherwise keep its brushstrokes contained. That said, when Lash breaks into a passage of bass arco and maintains that as his sole interest for a time, the music certainly doesn’t suffer for his abandonment of a rhythmic role. Besides, drummer Mark Sanders does a remarkable job all on his own at providing definition to music that is never clear-cut and direction to musicians capable of moving everywhere all at once.
This album is brilliant. This album is insane.
Your album personnel: Han-earl Park (guitar), Dominic Lash (double bass), Mark Sanders (drums) and Caroline Pugh (voice, tape recorder).
Released on Park’s label Buster & Friends.
Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Music from Cork, Ireland.
Available at: Bandcamp