The only true non-places are those of the mind: but being able to give them a tangible form doesn't always equate to the delineation of a balanced, pictorially satisfying landscape, nor does it solve the inner mystery from which it originated. In the creation of an audio document, even the simplest sonic occurrence derives from an idea and a gesture, even if only pressing the record button: and it's precisely the gesture - be it overt, dissimulated, concealed, or mediated - the absolute protagonist of the free exploration conducted by South Korean sound artists Choi Joonyong and Jin Sangtae in their latest collaboration under the aegis of Erstwhile Records, after twenty years of activity still firmly presiding over the territories of the most radical expressive otherness.
Unlike many free impro sessions, in the credits for Hole in My Head the objects and instruments used by the two artists are not specified, while to them is more generally attributed the 'music' of the album, recorded by Taku Unami between February 7 and 10 of this year at two cultural venues in Seoul (the Dotolim space and the Oil Tank Culture Park). But although these sessions can easily fall within the field of an alleged non-music - that is, foreign to a more or less canonical "playing" -, it's suprising how the duo manages to create a compelling dramaturgy based almost exclusively on the juxtaposition of concrete sounds produced live in variable relationship with the surrounding space, here and there crossed or surmounted by alienating collages and electronic incursions.
For the purposes of individual listening, the acousmatic quality of the sonic instances involved remains essential: in the larger picture of the work, in fact, even recognizable phenomena such as a handclap, or a ping pong ball bouncing on the ground, comply with the process of abstraction through which Joonyong and Sangtae give equal dignity and depth to each discrete element. Industrial clangours and para-rhythmic interventions on heterogeneous materials, minute glitchy punctuations and obtundent noise saturations become the indistinct traces of their passage, non-significant in the same way, a shapeless theme of the urban periphery and a counterpoint to the natural resonances and the birdsong that occasionally repopulates the gloomy open-air views.
Despite the emotional detachment and the objectifying yearning typical of the Far Eastern experimental scene, the specter of anthropic abuse of the landscape, albeit involuntarily, seems to make its way through the folds of Hole in My Head, a sense of bitter artificiality that persists precisely because of the context in which the sound gestures are forcibly inscribed, among the concrete barriers that identify and delimit the ever-expanding domain of modern civilization.If Toshiya Tsunoda's field recording archive captured the invisible changes in the port ecosystem through the detail of strategic microphonations, Choi Joonyong and Jin Sangtae exhibit the violence - sometimes quiet, other times brutal - of a senseless and insatiable human action, the apparently reassuring facade of a decay of which, sooner or later, we ourselves will be the ones to pay the price. - Esoteros