Photo: Nah Seungyall
Late last year Seoul composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Park Jiha digitally released her elementally experimental second album Philos on sub label Tac:Til. We’re pleased to see that last week, the album scored an international release through that label’s parent Glitterbeat. It’s also been made available on vinyl to streaming services for the first time.
Philos is a complex yet accessible work. It is one of singularly intense introspection on which Park applies her expertise as a player of the most emblematic of traditional Korean instruments and a master theorist of its music forms with her already encyclopaedic knowledge of western forms of genre and composition. This enables her to connect traditional Korean music’s sounds and structures to western forms that flirt with aspects associated with post minimalism, ambient, post rock and chamber jazz. She also puts field recordings to stunning use in her quest to embody and represent the sounds of her local environment. There is certainly sentiment for the familiar bustle and the incessant voluminous hum but little time the social disconnection and environmental complacency that comes from urban living.
Unlike with her first solo record Communion, Park worked in solitude as she created Philos which allowed her the time to focus purely on experimenting with sound to create different textures without having the concern of having to direct others to achieve her ends. Another difference was not to use western instrumentation and focus solely on three Korean instruments. To that end, Park plays double reed (piri), mouth organ (saenghwang) and hammered dulcimer (yanggeum) with aplomb which she interweaves with a plethora of sounds from the heaving Korean capital, both subtle and overbearing. The album also contains spoken word poetry from Lebanese poet Dima El Sayed. In her interview with Bandcamp she stated;
“I really wished to have Philos represent the soundscape of my own environment. Working alone with these instruments and my own imagination as the one and only limit is the best part of it all…I’m still working on the sound texture possibilities of traditional instruments, but without the burden of coordinating a whole team of musicians.”
The instruments are representative of each song’s content and meaning. Witness the instant announcement from the piri in opener ‘Arrival’ as it ushers in every other instrument used on the record and the way the yanggeum represents the rain in ‘Thunder Shower’. ‘Walker: In Seoul’ is a perfect example of how well she has combined the field and instrument while on ‘When I Think Of Her’ the saenghwang together with her own vocals capture the deep bonds shared in the complex relationship and lived experience between mother and daughter. The introspection and focus on Park’s interaction with the everyday sounds of her environment turns outwards momentarily as she poignantly reminds us through the poetry of Dima El Sayed, who herself reads every word she penned, that some in the world would give everything to live under just rule and for a moment of normality and peace in their own shattered environments.
Philos is a deeply personal record that succeeds in achieving both Park’s thematic and sonic aim. While often sparse, minimal and leaving plenty of room for thought. there is an intensity of connection constantly at work. One where the listener gets a sense that every minute matters. There’s also a level of confidence and authority that permeates the album in both style and substance. And that’s more than suggestive that with Park’s future endeavours she will continue to build connections and artistically represent both the personal and the political, continually advancing the musical envelope with lasting effect for many years to come.
Watch the video for ‘Arrival’ below and stream ‘When I Think Of Her’ in our Experimental & Electronic Playlist on Spotify here. Philos, out on Glitterbeat can now be accessed on all streaming platforms and can be purchased on vinyl and digitally here.
2. Thunder Shower)
3. Easy (Poem & Reading by Dima El Sayed)
6. Walker: In Seoul
7. When I Think Of Her
8. On Water
Park Jiha (KOR)
From the album, ‘Philos’, Glitterbeat.