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Ryu Hankil / Hong Chulki / Nick Hoffman - SONNE  LP

Recorded live at Art Space Mullae, Seoul, June 2009

Drawing and design by Nick Hoffman
108 copies w/ download
Released May 2012



Just Outside (Brian Olewnick)
May 26, 2012

Ryu Hankil/Hong Chulki/Nick Hoffman - Sonne (Pilgrim Talk)

Fans of the musicians associated with the Seoul axis (and I'm one) have certainly come to expect a fair amount of...difficult listening. Edges are usually not just rough but rusty and jagged. This collaboration with the American Nick Hoffman, recorded in Seoul in 2009, might actually stretch that metaphor into the poison-coated zone. It's severe. Excellently so. One is almost tempted to say, "malign". It's a couple of harsh, harsh tracks spread onto two sides of an LP (also available for download at bandcamp, code: gmbx-k37p), scouring one's ears, upsetting the dog, making the room deliciously uncomfortable, flinging detritus, emitting high screech after high screech, refusing to accede to any categorizable form, resolutely opaque.

Good stuff, very invigorating; give a listen.

The Watchful Ear (Richard Pinnell)
September, 2012

Pilgrim Talk

Sonne is a vinyl or Bandcamp enabled download release on the Chicago based Pilgrim Talk label. The disc contains two fifteen minute long tracks recorded in a concert setting in Seoul, 2009 by the trio of Seoul based Ryu Hankil and Hong Chulki alongside the visiting American Nick Hoffman, who also runs the Pilgrim Talk label. As with quite a few of the releases involving the Seoul crew, while I did enjoy this release, I suspect I might have enjoyed attending the concert at which it was captured quite a bit more. The album is on the noisier side of things, a mix of various electronics, feedback shrieks, clattering, vaguely percussive elements and who knows what else in there, but having been lucky enough to have witnessed Ryu Hankil and Hong Chulki perform live a few times over recent years I suspect that the aural results of this meeting may just have been the tip of the iceberg. certainly there is enough variation in there to make me suspect that watching the concert could have been a lot of fun.

There is no instrumentation listed on the sleeve, but given the date of the recording and having listened a good few times I am pretty certain that Hong’s turntable and electronics are in use alongside the clattering motors and objects used a lot by Ryu Hankil at that time. Exactly what Nick Hoffmann is using is anyone’s guess. Previous releases by Hoffman have seen him use an amplified electric sewing machine on occasions, and certainly that would fit with the way the music sounds here, but I am guessing. Its a harsh affair then, occasionally really very harsh indeed, with just about every sound dirty and gritty in its finish, and sometimes really quite fearsomely abrasive. There are shrieking squeals of feedback, metallic scrapes that get right under the skin and a general feel of lo-fi sound capture amplified up to high volumes. This isn’t to say that Sonne is always a particularly loud album however, with some parts, such as the opening minutes of Side B actually quite subdued, but even when the music slips away into these quieter spells there is a grainy, rough-edged menace to the music. Picking your way through it as a listener feels a little like trying to walk through a scrapyard full of old cars, there is a path through it all, but along the way you are likely to get scratched and grazed by various jagged, rusty surfaces.

In many ways there is a lot here to be found in common with much noise music, from the hand-drawn monsters of the sleeve to the non-CD format to the raw, brittle atmosphere of the sounds used. There is however a very strong sense of restraint and placement running through these two sides of vinyl that sets it apart from the bulk of what could be put into that genre. Despite the occasional volume and the ugliness of the sounds put to use, they are arranged carefully with a sense of communal progression between the musicians clearly audible. While it is rarely easy to tell exactly who is making which sound, there is a consistent feeling of sounds applied either to compliment or counterpoint others. This isn’t just three guys making a racket, and that’s what sets this music, and the Seoul scene in general apart from much other noisier improvisation. All in all, this is a perfectly good, if not necessarily remarkable addition to the output of that tiny Korean scene, and one does wonder how much better the trio could get with more time and without the geographic restraints that made this session a one-off. I am also very certain that this is one release that could never live up to how it must have looked / sounded in the room, but this can only ever now be a moot point.

Vital Weekly 834 (Frans de Waard)
June 2012

In 2009 Nick Hoffman of the Pilgrim Talk label and an improviser/composer in his own right went on tour in Japan and Korea and met up with Ryu Hankil and Hong Chulki, both improviser in their own right, using a variety of materials, including turntables, CD players and MD recorders. This record – limited to merely 108 copies – was recorded on the first night they played together, in an abandoned factory turned in a concert/venue. The cover doesn’t specify which instruments have been used, but they must be of some electric/electronic origin, I would say. Heavy type improvisation, in which feedback plays an important role, along with the amplification of objects, taken to the limit. Crude, rough noise based improvisations, hissing, objects falling and loud most, but not all of the times. Quite nice music I’d say of three highly gifted improvisers playing with unusual means. This would be something to see in concert one day – the record is nice, but a substitute for the real thing. (FdW)

The Sound Projector (Ed Pinsent)
May 2013

Ryu Hankil / Hong Chulki / Nick Hoffman
Some vinyl overlooked since May 2012 from the Pilgrim Talk label. In these quarters we like Nick Hoffman and his many low-key projects which cover quiet improvised music, Black Metal, and power noise, but are mostly quite hard to classify. We also like the way he doesn’t boast or gab loudly about his achievements. This vinyl is also unassuming in spite of its freaky, bloodthirsty cover image, and the music resists simplistic appraisal. Sonne documents a trio comprising Hoffman, Ryu Hankil, and Hong Chulki and was recorded in Korea. American Hoffman is actively engaged in a hands across the water programme with Asian improvisers. He’s done more for Korea than the United Nations Security Council, that’s for sure. Both of the young Korean players here have moved away from their respective pop group / rock band beginnings, and taken turns into their own form of weird and far-out exploratory improvisation, one of them inspired to do so by Otomo Yoshihide. Now they both make odd noises with electrical devices, Chulki in particular choosing to subvert normal functions of his various playback devices. This shortish slab of vinyl has many of the label’s hallmarks, being decorated with old engravings and Hoffman drawings that invoke Satanic, morbid or esoteric themes, and the music itself is not explained at all. All we know is that it was recorded in a former industrial complex of some sort. Intentions, ideas, role-playing – even a simple instrument list – all of this contextual detail is denied to us, leaving us face to face with the stark void of strange and haphazard-sounding crackles and rumbles, interrupted by clonking percussive strokes. I much prefer it this way and while the music may occasionally appear baffling, boring and pointless, it is also very honest and has a rawness that is very bracing. For my previous speculations on the unique qualities of Pilgrim Talk releases, see this post. Limited pressing of 108 copies!

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