w.m.o/record label
desetxea net label

Uncertain Times

Ryu Hankil, Jin Sangtae, Taku Unami, Mattin - 5 Modules III


I'm a little late to this extraordinary recording, having owned it a while but only just found the time to play it. However as Mattin's partially incomprehensible sleeve notes suggest we all need to reclaim our own notion of time, this probably doesn't matter so much. Time is definitely a central theme of this CD. Ryu Hankil is credited with playing clockwork with a contact mic, and for much of the recording the listener is removed from any preconceived notions of how time is used in improvised music, left with broken parts of a strangely unfamiliar clock ticking, long silent spaces and periodic long passages of electronic drone that do not allow for any flow, yet also somehow also avoid tension. There seems to be little connection between the sound events that occur, and whilst the rhythmic turning of odd deconstructed clockwork-like sound features throughout the piece there is little symmetry to the overall construction that jumps viciously from pin pricks of sound dropped into silence to brittle blasts of digital noise.

I'll be honest I don't know what to make of this CD. It falls somewhere between the emptiness of some of Unami's past music and the raw, dirty electronic sound that is becoming synonymous with the fast emerging Korean improv scene. In places the use of mutated clock ticking and subdued laptop hum produces some interesting shapes picked out of the silence, but in other places the harshness and sheer volume of a drone and the overall ugliness of the sounds used make this a difficult listen. Here and there we are presented with long passages of repeated sounds that resemble the recordings of clockwork slowed right down, each "tick" extended into a rougher sound event. By all accounts Unami heavily edited and reworked the live recording in post production, and its possible these passages are the result of him slowing the music down, again playing with the notion of time. Its also possible that one or both of the laptops are responsible for producing these sounds in real time. There is a definite sense of uneasy imbalance thoughout however, caused in part by this feeling of slowed time.

The music is improvised but there has had to have been some considerable discussion about the shape of the music beforehand. On another sleeve note Hankil mentions that he gained a lot from the musical relationships formed between the quartet, which can be divided into two established duos (Unami/Mattin and Hankil/Sangtae) meeting for the first time. The odd, fractured feel of the entire 55 minute piece resembles more a Radu Malfatti score played with broken electronics than it does an improvisation, and it seems unlikely that this music was arrived at without either some degree of predetermined approach or massive post production treatment. If this music is indeed the result of four musicians playing together and discovering common ground then it is remarkable that they have all arrived here in this strange unorthodox place.

So a CD that has really got me thinking, the kind of challenge we are used to from Mattin and Unami. I can't help but feel I am missing something important here, something that has caused this music to take such an alien, uncomfortable form. Its miles from easy listening, an intriguing mystery at best, downright impenetrable at its worse, but a disc that has certainly got me thinking hard about its nature, and wondering what on earth I am meant to do with it. Challenging stuff, in the very best sense of the word.

Posted by Richard Pinnell at 9:51 PM


Ryu Hankil/Jin Sangtae/Taku Unami/Mattin - 5 Modules III



The third release on this intriguing label out of Korea is an improvised quartet though the innocent listener could be forgiven for hesitancy in ascribing either of those two terms. As member Ryu Hankil (clockwork, contact mic) writes in his liners, there’s certainly a composed-sounding feeling to the single, 55-minute piece (divided into 11 five minute tracks, presumably to enhance airplay possibilities). Additionally, its overall sparseness seems, superficially, to have possibly emanated from a single individual, not four. But neither is the case as Jin Sangtae (laptop, radio), Taku Unami (laptop) and Mattin (laptop) are on hand as well.

In his brief accompanying notes, Mattin dwells on perceptions of time and one of the obvious components of the recording is the near metronomic rhythm of many sound elements which are churned out in slow, mechanical precision. The other salient feature is how “empty” the soundscape in which they’re tick-tocking is. Its sublimation level might approximate that of MIMEO’s “sight”, a work with which I found myself making comparisons even though their methods of construction are vastly different. The “interruptions” here are more aggressive, even at times strident, but there’s at least the surface aspect of tension in the wait between occurrences. The timepiece nature of many of the sounds almost necessarily conjures a semi-paranoid feeling and when, on a couple of occasions, a loud complex drone emerges, often in startling fashion causing several jumps in the chair, I was thinking in terms of systems failures, misalignments in the otherwise regular, if only rarely heard, rote temporal progressions as delineated by the ticking. In fact, the more one hears the piece that way, the more dystopian it becomes.

More concretely, one does wonder what, if any, strictures were in place during the performance. It’s a fascinating direction, in any case. Ryu Hankil writes, “This could be consumed as music, but it makes me think of something different than that. I still cannot say what it is.” Good question, but causing the listener to think is reward enough for the time being.


Posted by Brian Olewnick on August 12, 2007 7:30 AM

number 591
week 35

Certainly a difficult release on offer is the one by 5 Modules, a collaborative effort by Rya Hankil (one clockwork and contact mic), Jin Sangtea (laptop, radio), Taku Unami (laptop) and Mattin (laptop). They question 'time' here. When are you silent and when do you play? That sort of thing. There is, in good Japanese tradition, a lot of silence on this release, and only short blocks of sound, or rather noise that is. Two extreme opposites that sometime make sense, a little bit. If you don't pay enough attention, than you are completely lost in this. Lots of silence, occasional loud noise: two things to drive the unaware listener up the wall. (FdW)

Richad Pinnel

Best records of 2007

13. Ryu Hankil, Jin Sangtae, Taku Unami, Mattin – 5 Modules III

There seemed to be a never ending stream of releases in 2007 from just a handful of musicians in South Korea. Most were worth hearing, but this one stood out from the rest as something different, slightly unsettling and somewhat confusing. Its far from coincidence that the names Unami and Mattin are involved. I wrote about this release here back in September and to be honest I'm still not even sure that I like the CD, but its certainly one I've played over and over in an attempt to fathom it all out. Manual