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Monday, January 31, 2011

Jin Hi-Kim & Gerry Hemingway - Pulses (Auricle Records, 2010) ****

By Stef

Good music really knows no boundaries, neither of style or tradition or geographically. With two instruments, in this case a komungo, played by Jin Hi-Kim, and percussion, played by Gerry Hemingway, a whole world of sound is created : strange, unfamiliar, beautiful and deeply resonating.

Korean artist Jin Hi-Kim clearly leads the dance, with Hemingway adding accents, emphasis or counter-rhythms to her unusual instrument, which she had also made in an electric version. The nature of the string instrument is percussive : the strings are hit with a bamboo stick, and the left hand changes the pitch, but the other strings continue to resonate openly. The result is a quite hypnotic repetitive and addictive mode of music, built around a single tonal center on each piece, but it remains open-ended, fully improvised. Hemingway is the ideal dance-partner, with incredible listening skills and a master at becoming one with the music, to the level of being uncanny.

Yes, the instruments have their limitations, and even after many, many listens, it is impossible to differentiate between the various pieces - at least for the unaccustomed listener that I am - but that does not spoil the fun and the mystery, quite to the contrary, it emphasises and shifts and brings back and diverges and returns in a great mystical wheel of sound, whirring around a pole that is rooted deep in the ground yet facing upward. Anything is possible, but without straying to far. Difficult to get more coherent.

Watch a short performance that will give you an idea of what to expect.

© stef