Hong Chulki/Will Guthrie - Mosquitoes and Crabs (CD)
Recorded in Seoul, South Korea at Mullae Arts Village in 2016, the duo of Australian drummer/percussionist Will Guthrie and improvising noise artist Hong Chulki release 8 pieces with concise works under 1 minute to larger improvisations up to 8 minutes, contrasting interesting rhythms with indescribable electronics, found sounds, and unusual environments. Six-panel digipak, photos by Michael Rosenstein.
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(released March 27, 2018)
Hong Chulki - turntables, guitar, electronics
Will Guthrie - drums, percussion, electronics
recorded by Taku Unami, Mullae Arts Village, Seoul, South Korea, 20-22 October 2016
mixed and mastered by Taku Unami
produced by Jon Abbey
photography by Michael Rosenstein
design by Yuko Zama
Bill Meyer, Dusted
Over the course of nearly 20 years and perambulations through the fields of electro-acoustic improvisation, avant-classical composition, field recordings, and conceptual sound art, this method has held true: Erstwhile Records’ Jon Abbey loves to commission records from duos who have never worked together before. Mosquitoes and Crabs is a recent example. Will Guthrie is an Australian percussionist who lives in France and tours the world with the likes of Roscoe Mitchell, Oren Ambarchi and the Ames Room. He’s game to groove and swing, but he likes a lot of noise. Hong Chulki is a recovering instrumentalist who has been making noises and enacting performances in Seoul, Korea for a couple decades.
Chulki and Guthrie recorded this CD during a three-day encounter in Mullae Arts Village, a combined arts / light industrial complex which was recently a filming location for the Avengers 2 movie. The Venn diagram of their shared interests gives you the broad outlines of what this set might sound like but won’t clue you in to at least one essential fact. This is music is all about the details and the way they either enhance other aspects of the work or draw attention to themselves despite what’s happening around. Simple cohesion would be boring; when you can even tell them apart each man’s efforts may impart some combination of confusion, discomfort, mutual enhancement and purposeful non-acknowledgement in pursuit of… beauty? Documentation of the world they live in? A good time right this minute? Take your pick, because they’re not talking.
Beyond recording and instrumental details (Hong – turntables, guitar, electronics; Guthrie – drums, percussion, electronics), the most informative thing about the CD digipak is its gorgeous photographic images (Disclosure; Dusted scribe Michael Rosenstein took them and posted them to Instagram, which is where Erstwhile designer Yuko Zama made their discovery) of metallic decay. It may not be clear which parts of this album are the result of spontaneous interaction and which are post-hoc constructions, although you can make some guesses by the number of sonic layers and the incidence of abrupt edits. But it again and again it returns to the sound of something decaying. They don’t just capture sound with contact mics, they drag said objects vigorously enough that you can hear them bumping the things closer to the end of their useful lives. They don’t just blast some static, they lovingly render its harsh edges so that you’ll think twice before letting your ears get to close to the speakers lest something sharp catch a lobe and slash it. And they don’t just play a rhythm, they break it apart lest its regularity get in the music’s way.
This isn’t a straight-up noise record. Guthrie is a drummer, and he likes a beat, and Hong is one turntablist who knows the value of a good repeating skip. Both elements come together on track six, locking into a pattern for a moment before shattering so that bird calls, shakers and traffic sounds can tumble out. Track seven follows this with a dubby drumbeat, which is quickly stopped in its tracks by a hilariously apropos sample. Again, the moment of rupture allows the music to spill forth, this time in a dribble of free improv-sounding exchanges between a clattery kit and rising bonfire of electricity. Where they playing together, or was this music assembled? Hard to say for sure, but Hong and Guthrie sound like they were playing when they put it together.