AMN Reviews: Han-Earl Park – Of Life, Recombinant (2021; New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings)

Guitarist Han-Earl Park normally works in abstractions, but even more so on this solo effort. The material on Of Life, Recombinant is mostly from a single take but was the result of Park’s improvisational studies over the course of several months.

Throughout, he amplifies his electric and puts it through varying amounts of processing. The notes are largely undistorted (there are exceptions) with modest echo or delay. Every few minutes, Park’s approach changes, from jangling notes, to ambient passages, to twangy folk themes, to long-held chords. In doing so, he incorporates extended techniques into more conventional practices to the point where the former guide and direct the latter.

While improvisation clearly has a significant role, there are moments where patterns emerge and Park explores variations on odd themes. Thus, the album avoids coming across as a “random bunch of notes” or “some guy fooling around on the guitar for an hour.” In fact, some of these pieces might not sound much like a guitar at all upon first listen – the quieter interludes and swells are only given away by rattling strings and slow vibrato.

The self-titled piece is a 29-minute capstone, with heavily processed ambiance (including what sounds Park played backward) and a softly growling crescendo or two, as well as a few whispered and static-laden vocals by Anne Wellmer. Aggressive outside experimentation toward the end sets this track apart as an unusual representative of an unusual album.

Of Life, Recombinant was released November 26 on New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings.