fri 03/02/2023

Park Jiha, Stone Nest, K-Music - timeless evocative East-West soundscapes | reviews, news & interviews

Park Jiha, Stone Nest, K-Music - timeless evocative East-West soundscapes

Park Jiha, Stone Nest, K-Music - timeless evocative East-West soundscapes

Mesmerising Korean multi-instrumentalist is a talent to watch

'There are scary monsters and super creeps in space as well as tranquil harmony'Ikin Yum

Even those with the most tangential connection to pop music will be aware that K-Pop is all conquering, and the likes of BTS and BlackPink are on some metrics the most successful of recent acts anywhere. But at the same time, there is also a growing awareness that there is a burgeoning Korean indie and art music scene, the flames of which have been fanned by what has become one of London’s most interesting and enterprising annual festivals, K-Music.

This year's K-Music had another bumper crop of talent, the most intriguing being Park Jiha, a Korean multi-instrumentalist who creates immensely evocative soundscapes. The venue, too, was a treat – Stone Nest is a welcome cool newish place, slap bang in the middle of the West End (with a very lively bar underneath).

To describe Park Jiha’s instruments probably won’t mean much to the average reader but her musical armoury includes the piri (a double reed bamboo instrument), the yanggeum (a zither/dulcimer equivalent) and the saenghwang (a slightly scary-looking mouth organ with 17 bamboo pipes). What stopped this just being a virtuoso display of indigenous Korean instruments was Park’s clever use of laptop, which enabled her to build layers of music and effects to create something entirely new-sounding. It's telling she has been chosen to perform at both the leading “world music” showcase festival WOMEX and the equivalent classical one, Classical:Next, as it’s difficult to place this music in any kind of box. It could easily be programmed in a jazz or folk festival as well.

The music initially seems rather like meditation music or even New Age, and you do get drawn into a trance-like state, but unlike those musics where nothing much actually happens, when things start flirting with being overly pretty, Park throws in some crunchy dissonance. There are scary monsters and super creeps in space as well as tranquil harmony.

This lack of genre is allied to a sense of timelessness and lack of place – the music inhabited somewhere neither East nor West exactly. It would work both as the soundtrack to a science fiction film set 500 years in the future, as well as for a medieval epic. Some indigenous music like gamelan is timeless, but this seems new – just think of most pop or jazz and classical music and a music buff can normally place it within a year or two. Park has quite a charismatic presence, aided by subtle lighting, and came over as pleasantly self-effacing and tentative in her end of show comments. Her latest album The Gleam is out on one of the more interesting and adventurous current labels, Glitterbeat. She describes both the album and the concert, accurately but enigmatically, as a journey through light and darkness. A singular and brilliant artist to watch.

The music would work both as the soundtrack to a science fiction film set 500 years in the future, as well as for a medieval epic

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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