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EYVIND KANG - Ajaeng Ajaeng

Only a couple of purchases into listening to tapes (again; but in the 1990s I didn't buy much new stuff, but mainly used it to pirate and kill the music industry) I'm already feeling that exploring a "new" medium brings me to music I otherwise wouldn't have noticed.

Getting Phurpa's "Hymns Of Gyre" tape a while ago lead me to checking out other cassette releases from Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ label. And before I could even think about it, this seventy+ minutes meditation music marathon was on its way to me.

EYVIND KANG - Ajaeng Ajaeng (Tape) (2020)

Eyvind Kang is a jazz / contemporary classic / experimental composer and multi-instrumentalist, who among many others has been working with the likes of Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson and Mr. Bungle.
The latter's Trey Spruance even appears on this very album.

"Ajaeng Ajaeng" is a collection of five sound explorations based mainly on two traditional Asian instruments, which are partly combined with classical European instrumentation.

The first of those is the Indian tanpura, a long-necked lute, which isn't used to play melodies, but to provide a constant droning sound, which weaves other-worldy overtones in combination with other instruments. The first two duets with the self-explaining titles "Tanpura & Harpsichord" and "Tanpura Study" dive deep into this characteristic, creating a tapestry which rewards the attentive listener in a very profound way which I can hardly pin down, because this particular experience is such a rare occurance.

We're not even half through the album as the next two shorter tracks (three+ and seven+ minutes) introduce Yoon Na Geum and Han Lim on the traditional Korean court music zither called ajaeng.

While "Push Off" works as a nice little interplay, "Time Medicine" builds a rich ambient atmosphere, in which the weird ancient snarling of the ajaengs counterpoints with majestic strings and tubas.
This is the part of the album fans of the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and similar doom jazz explorations will probably find the easiest to get into.

As fascinating and captivating this music spreads its magic in my ears, I get that not everybody will be able to fully immerse into such primal experimental soundscapes.
This goes especially for the title track "Ajaeng Ajaeng", which solely consists of the So Ajaeng and Dae Ajaeng roaring, crawling and crackling around each other for almost half an hour!

There's no way around it: You can easily describe this track as being caught in the middle of a concrete pipe, with one guy electrically shaving a giant panda bear on one end and a Sunday morning leaf blower maniac on the other.
This is something that requires the right receptive mood and ability to just lose yourself in the hypnotic dance of frequencies. Otherwise you will be left standing on the sidelines in baffled confusion.

But once you're in the "zone" (which might just happen "accidentily" while it is playing), these sounds are truly and deeply rewarding.

After Senyawa & Stephen O'Malley's "Bima Sakti", I've fallen in love with yet another drone masterpiece utilizing authentic traditional Eastern sound sources.

The tape of "Ajaeng Ajaeng" is limited to a hundred copies, but besides the digital version there's also a double vinyl available now.

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