Of Life, Recombinant tells multiple stories at once, opening up a wide aperture and displaying stunningly drawn vistas. The four-song suite makes for a fantastic headphone album, as small details invite your attention ever more deeply throughout…. The fugue-like state is but one-layer of Park’s suite. As they progress, ‘Game: Mutation,’ ‘Naught Opportune,’ ‘Are Variant,’ and the 30-minute ‘Of Life, Recombinant’ continually pitch one direction, pivot on multiple axes, and branch out in new directions. That’s true as much for the sonics—with pre-recorded material mixed and matched over itself—as it is for the emotional throughlines, in some cases leading listeners down long corridors of chilly anticipation, in others playing up the subtle intimacy of quiet tones…. And unmistakably, Park’s guitar is itself a treasure chest of delights—long, thrilling sections of beauty fold into chilly, dread-inducing dreamscapes, each of which will enchant and delight in equal measure. [Read the rest…]
Elsewhere, J. Vognsen, writing in Perfect Sound Forever, asked composers and performers (including myself) for our thoughts on failure in the context of creative work: “Why does some music end up not in the ears of listeners but in the dustbin, or perhaps never leaving the mind of the creator in the first place?”
Every piece I do leaves behind detritus of a creative life: abandoned exercises, studies, mockups, etcetera. A lot of my time and energy as a performer, specifically as an improviser, is spent in preparation; off-stage, in practice and in study. Testing things out, sometimes speculatively, sometimes with a particular goal in mind, sometimes creating studies to more clearly define a problem or problematic; these exercises and studies can help me hone in on a particular technique or strategy, they can help me discover better ways of getting from A-to-B….
But sometimes the creative detritus can be unplanned and have a greater impact—a greater impact on energy expended, on time and effort. [Read the rest…]
The piece is very much worth reading. In particular, I enjoyed reading, and really related to, Carla Kihlstedt’s take (“my creative failures… fall into three basic categories: The Hollow, The Half-baked and The Missed Marks”), and Nick Didkovsky’s telling of The CHORD Origin Story is a total blast.
EP available to stream via the free Bandcamp app, and to download in multiple formats including lossless.
I recall the exact moment I knew this group was something special, when, fifteen minutes into the 40 minute improvisation, the broken-machinery-rattle-buzzes-and-bumps of the guitars were joined by the melismatic lines of the soprano saxophone. And the trio refused to collapse that juxtaposition—letting that idiomatic dissonance remain standing—creating its own logic by force-of-will.
— Han-earl Park
Ten years ago, May 27, 2012, at ABC No Rio in the Lower East Side, Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky took the stage for the first time as a trio. Before the events of 2020, the plan had been for the trio, after the release of a new album, to go on tour. But, as the rogue piece of genetic material danced its dance with humanity, the trio had to rethink that plan.
Park selected an excerpt from the recording of the trio’s Derby, 2017 performance to serve as the foundation for a new piece by the trio. He created custom music-minus-one mixes starting with a mix without the saxophone part. Sikora then recorded a new saxophone part. Park then created a mix with this new saxophone part, but without Didkovsky’s 2017 guitar. Didkovsky then recorded a new guitar part, and finally Park recorded a new guitar part to replace his 2017 performance.
So fascinating—it is clearly, undeniably Eris, but also not Eris—the components are all there but the interactions/atmosphere is totally different.
— Catherine Sikora
It’s like peering into a parallel universe and listening to what Eris in that world sounds like.
— Nick Didkovsky
And for the ‘B-side,’ the EP includes a remastered edition of the original source recording made in Derby five years ago.
Eris 136199 plays on the crossroads of noise, melody, rhythm, space, density, contrast, synchronicity, asymmetry, serendipity and contradiction. Eris 136199 is the corporeal, cyborg virtuosity of constructor and guitarist Han-earl Park; the noisy, unruly complexity of composer, computer artist and guitarist Nick Didkovsky; and the no-nonsense melodic logic of composer and saxophonist Catherine Sikora.
Han-earl Park is the instigator and mastermind behind Eris 136199, as well as groups including Sirene 1009 with Dominic Lash, Mark Sanders and rit., and co-conspirator in projects with Richard Barrett and others. Park is the constructor of the machine improviser io 0.0.1 beta++, and of Metis 9, a playbook of improvisative tactics. He has performed with Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Dunmall, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Josh Sinton, Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen, Ingrid Laubrock, Gino Robair, Tim Perkis, Andrew Drury, Pat Thomas and Franziska Schroeder. His ensembles have performed at festivals including Freedom of the City (London), Brilliant Corners (Belfast), ISIM (New York), CEAIT (Los Angeles) and Sonic Acts (Amsterdam).
Saxophonist, improviser and composer Catherine Sikora, known for her big sound and lyrical melodic work, works as a solo performer and with Eric Mingus, Enrique Haneine, Brian Chase, Han-earl Park, Ethan Winogrand, Christopher Culpo and Ross Hammond. In recent years Sikora has toured in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. She was a featured soloist in Eric Mingus’ radical reimagining of Tommy by the Who (Adelaide Festival 2015), and was artist in residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris in 2014 and in 2020.
Guitarist, composer, and computer music programmer Nick Didkovsky has composed music for Kathleen Supové, ETHEL, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Meridian Arts Ensemble, New Century Players, ARTE Quartett, as part of the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet, and his own bands Doctor Nerve, Vomit Fist, Häßliche Luftmasken, and others. His compositions and guitar performances appear on more than 50 records. For over 30 years, his avant-metal big band Doctor Nerve has fueled Didkovsky’s intricate compositions with the energy of rock, punching holes through the walls between heavy metal, contemporary music, and improvisation, and performing at festivals including Moers, FIMAV, and the Whitney Museum’s ‘Whitney Live.’ With computer music pioneer Phil Burk, Didkovsky developed the computer music language Java Music Specification Language (JMSL).
Artwork by Han-earl Park with Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky.
Special thanks to Corey Mwamba and Chris Trent. Derby performance presented by Corey Mwamba/OUT FRONT!, and with the awesome support of our Kickstarter backers. Track 2 includes material previously released on the limited edition album Problematica (2018).
Track listing: Ballad of Tensegrity I (≥ 5:12), Ballad of Tensegrity II (2:28), Peculiar Velocities I (3:46), Peculiar Velocities II (3:36), Sleeping Dragon (5:22), D-Loop I (≥ 6:16), D-Loop II (5:13), Polytely I (≥ 5:01), Polytely II: Breakdown (5:33), Anagnorisis I (2:09), Anagnorisis II (2:19). Total duration ≥ 46:54.
Track listing: Therianthropy I (≥ 3:43), Therianthropy II (8:56), Therianthropy III (3:55), Therianthropy IV (6:30), Adaptive Radiation I (6:44), Adaptive Radiation II (8:48), Adaptive Radiation III (5:54), Universal Greebly (10:58), Hypnagogia I (8:03), Hypnagogia II (4:45). Total duration ≥ 68:25.
As part of the ‘New Work’ series, Jazz Right Now has published my piece on work(ing) during these pandemic times; times of “uncertainty, anxiety, and of doubt.” In the article, I reflect on the perverse desire for artistic ‘productivity’; the breaches between public and private spaces; the artistic commemoration this time, this condition; and the need for creative work that frustrates:
The rogue strand of RNA danced its dance with humanity. It’s beautiful in its own way. Poetic—messy, terrifying, mesmerizing—in its own way.
New words and expressions entered the vernacular. Old words came to denote less—more specific things—but encapsulate and carry more meaning: of fear, uncertainty, yes, but also fascination. We’re being transformed, across porous borders, through language. Soon, those of us who lived through this, might share these as shorthands. ‘Variant’ means something. It has a texture and resonance and feel and vibe that can’t be captured by a Merriam-Webster.
I reflect on how pre-pandemic cultures (and culture-industrial complexes), with its obsession with authority and coherence and narrative, ill prepared us for the complexity and discord and messiness of the present. That maybe if we had held closer these prickly, uncomfortable, inconvenient, noisy heterophonies we, as societies, may have been more capable of facing the chaos, or dancing the dance of humanity v. RNA. [Read the rest…]
Thanks to Cisco Bradley for inviting me to contribute to this series, and thanks so much to Cristina Marx for the photography.
We listen, we wait. Breathing deeply, relaxed enough yet ready to be sucked in by some vortex of illusion. We absorb the blows of sudden mutations connected by threads of metallic (in)coherence. Twisted harmonics, miscellanies of tones whose fluidity belongs more to states of exhausted drowsiness than labyrinths of analytical overspill. Superimposed images gradually losing the distinctness we had laboriously achieved in our mind. Bursts of paroxysm that, in the long run, disclose unexpectedly appeasing qualities. Each spin adds further layers of interpretation, not to mention the sheer aural thrill. As per Park’s words, “I’d like to think that listeners might find their way into their own space, and find their world refracted through it.” There will be no problem with that, if that audience is awake and profoundly receptive. [Read the rest…]
I really appreciate that Massimo Ricci embraced the subjective and poetic. It’s the kind of approach that I’d hoped that reviewers would take when writing about this work.
Elsewhere, Ken Waxman of JazzWord describes a bullet-train journey of ‘sound mutations’ between moments of ‘guitar-ness’ and the guitar as ‘sourced textures’:
Sometimes bell-ringing strums, power crunches or mechanized drones are emphasized to the extent that expected guitar sounds are at a premium and arise unexpectedly…. The concept is evolved at its greatest length during the almost 29½-minute title track. With whispered sibilant vocalized noises sometimes snarling in the ether, muted rumbles inflate to voltage buzzes that include oscillated hisses with silent interludes before hardening into a wavering horizontal line. As over-amplified knob twisting tones and shaking bullet-train-like rumbles become aurally prominent besides the electronic impulses, by midpoint is appears that a psychedelic-era freak-out may be in the offing. Although the narrative echoes from harsh to harsher, yet following an elephantine-like chord variation fragmented parts blend into nearly opaque solid matter and abruptly stop. Like a notable train trip, gratification come from sights glimpsed… not the final destination. [Read the rest…]
And, writing in salt peanuts*, Jan Granlie finds “a kind of meditative music for sophisticated souls”, a music that is “consistently melancholic while simultaneously arch-modern and exciting”:
Og selv om dette er musikk som krever en del av lytteren, skal man gi gitaristen tid. Man skal lytte gjennom hans lydverden flere ganger og etter hvert plukke opp detaljer og, kanskje også, forstå hva den godeste gitaristen vil fortelle oss. For selv om dette ikke er det enkleste historiene, så er det fascinerende å følge med i hva han skaper av lydbilder med gitaren. Og i sistesporet, «Of Life. Recombinant», hvor han har «damer på rommet», og er platas hovedspor som varer i nesten en halv time, skjer det utrolig mange spennende ting man skal følge med på. [Read the rest…]
I think where Nº 8, for me, fell short is how it was unable to engage with the vernacular of wah-wah guitar. I mean, if you wanted to strip the wah of all its funk, that was how to do it. So Nº 11, I hope, goes some way toward redressing that. [Read the rest…]
These are stories about failures. Failures of imagination, of peoples and groups, of how lofty goals can be deceptions. And those deceptions can be limiting, and affect violence. I want to move to a point where we can discuss, critically, both the utopian promises of the practices, processes, tribes and communities surrounding improvisation, and their destructive and violent potentials.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the above stories of improvisation-in-crisis are from events with self-professed lofty goals…. I think, in both cases, those of us involved took community, solidarity, resilience, trust and empathy for granted. It’s not just that the groundwork of trust and safety was never established for the group (although that’s part of it), but that we lazily subscribed to the dogma that the nature of improvisation would itself somehow save us. [Read the rest…]
Thanks to Laonikos Psimikakis-Chalkokondylis at The Sampler for asking me to write the piece. In writing this piece I’m indebted to exchanges and conversations with several improvisers. Big thanks, in particular, to Caroline Kraabel, Corey Mwamba, and Lauren Sarah Hayes.
Han-earl Park digs deep into techniques and sounds and presents a fresh palette for the guitar. Pyrotechnics abound, but not in any kind of traditional sense. [Read the rest…]
Plus, with the inclusion of Catherine Sikora’s corners (“absorbing, pushing against and playing off the natural reverb”), and Nick Didkovsky’s CHORD IV, aJazzNoise’s selection almost like an informal Eris 136199 reunion!
Keith Prosk also chooses Of Life… for his Top 10 at Free Jazz, and in his review at harmonic series, Prosk writes of a music that “explores and rearranges material, or things whose characters seem similar though never the same, through its durations”:
Along with what’s kept there is always something left and something new. The country twang tune with popping harmonics from ‘Naught Opportune.’ The unsettling mandolinesque trill or quivering sustain in hazy delay from ‘Are Variant.’ The distorted suck, psychedelic and ecstatic, in slow crescendo from ‘Of Life, Recombinant.’ In its representation of real-time activity that ruminates on its material, it is as if it provides a glimpse into the improvising process, whose hushed reality of painstaking practice might often be misinterpreted as something closer to strokes of inspiration out of the ether. In between chaos and composure, it is something closer to the complexity of life. [Read the rest…]
Park’s approach changes, from jangling notes, to ambient passages, to twangy folk themes, to long-held chords. In doing so, he incorporates extended techniques into more conventional practices to the point where the former guide and direct the latter. [Read the rest…]
I had also due to help behind-the-scenes at the launch event for mumei, the profoundly curious and adventurous music journal edited by Ryoko Akama and Heather Frasch. That event is taking place on Saturday (December 18) at KM28, Berlin. Should be a fascinating evening; please check it out if you’re able. [Reserve seat…]
Han-earl Park (guitar). A solo performance, plus a discussion (with Corey Mwamba) as part of The Sound of Science. Also performing and presenting: Johnny Hunter’s Pale Blue Dot with Mark Hanslip, Seth Bennett, Gemma Bass, Aby Vulliamy and Michael Bardon. Presented by Jazz North East.
Free but ticketed.
March 20, 2022
18–22 Ashwin Street
London E8 3DL
This suite might be my first self-consciously poetic work if not for the fact that I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was when I was in the middle of it (visibility low; uncertain, uncertain, uncertain). Of Life, Recombinant is the work in which I most want listeners to hear, in it, themselves.
Thanks again to the project director at NEWJAiM, Wesley Stephenson, for inviting me to have my work represented on this most awesome label. Thanks also to Annette Krebs for helping me, with one simple question, to decide to release these listening guides to my listeners.