Comprised primarily of challengingly primitive rhythmic bursts and metallic honking, Jin Sangtae’s “Extensity of Hard Disk Drive” makes an excellent addition to the Seoul-based Balloon & Needle label’s ongoing microscopic investigations into the nature of sound, but not as much of a first choice for most listeners’ music shelf.
That’s not to say that “Extensity of Hard Disk Drive” is a bad album– by no means is this true. Throughout, Sangtae presides over his disk-drive-become-feedback-speaker with great aplomb, avoiding any of the obvious “accessing” noises so frequently used to signify a stereotypically cold digital world. Instead, Sangtae focuses wholeheartedly on destructive-sounding transient crackles, bonking, and other relatively overlooked sounds. Often, Sangtae allows them to play out fully, apparently unconcerned with his current choice’s overall ability to convey any sort of message to the listener.
On one hand, I find myself welcoming Sangtae’s explorations.. His liner notes detail his efforts to limit the ambient presence of the recorded sounds’ existence in the studio space over the course of creating these works, playing “as if the sound were locked inside.” This is a great point, and I do find some interest in imagining this process playing out over the course of the album.
On the other hand, I feel like I’m missing something important. A vital element of much Balloon & Needle output has been the exploration of “cracks” between noise and silence, or between the medium and the product– when labelhead Hong Chulki uses a turntable sans vinyl, it’s to shift vibrations directly from the medium itself, without a middle step. Sangtae is doubtless aware of this, but fails somewhat in the execution thereof, most likely due to the average listener’s unfamiliarity with his instrumentation. I know what a turntable sounds like, so the appearance of Chulki’s “cracks” allowing the turntable to speak directly to me are apparent and significant. Sangtae’s “disassembled hard disk drives” are quite a bit more esoteric, and don’t produce sounds like I’ve heard before– I need the familiar to guage the unfamiliar.
“Extensity of Hard Disk Drive” is available from Balloon & Needle as release bnn22.
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