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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Han-earl Park (박한얼) - Of Life, Recombinant (New Jazz And Improvised Music Recordings, 2021)

By Lee Rice Epstein

We’ve covered guitarist Han-earl Park (박한얼) extensively, and he remains one of the foremost innovators on the instrument. Recently, Park released Of Live, Recombinant, which is the first long-form solo recording in his discography. With a rich variety of recordings already available (including a really excellent duo album with Paul Dunmall on saxes and bagpipes and a couple of recent albums featuring the stellar Eris 136199 trio, with Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky), it’s like discovering a new galaxy in Park’s universe.

Think of Park as an artist like George Lewis, whose work reflects decades of study and reflection on modes of expression and models of economic distribution. In this way, 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. In conversations about the album, David Lynch has recurred as a touchpoint, and Andrei Tarkovsky might be another one for listeners. 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. If any of that sounds vague or like descriptions are being kept at an arm’s length, that’s largely because the album very deliberately establishes a direct connection with each listener. Overdetermining any one person’s interaction with Of Life, Recombinant feels like a disservice to Park’s mission, which seems to point towards using the guitar, in all its guises, to establish a direct connection with the audience, allowing—much like Lynch and Tarkovsky—the listener’s subconscious to write its own associations and unearth what’s hidden within. 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.

Available on CD or digitally