Just a few months after Dey Kim’s stellar full-length release Decoded & Interpreted, the modular synth master returns with Chitchat, a duo album with Sun Ki Kim that explores more free improvisation territories. The first plays modular synthesizers and other electronics, while the latter is on drums. The album contains five songs, each of which titled “Chitchat” followed by a numerical sign.
I went into Chitchat thinking the album will be a longer piece divided into shorter segments for convenience sake. Something like a lengthy cut-up studio improvisation. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Though numerically titled, there is no continuity between the songs. If anything, there is a purposeful discontinuity between them. What I mean by that is that here we have five vastly different pieces that explore an array of sounds and textures, especially electronic ones. A bit less so with the drums.
Sun Ki Kim’s drums are recorded in a very spacious and three-dimensional way that creates an astounding sense of space. It’s as if the drummer’s almost constant barrage of relentlessly fast and technical rhythms and blastbeats occupies all of the space at ones. A bit like an attack on the senses coming from all directions at once. It’s very interesting, albeit a bit tiring after some time. It would’ve been even more tiresome if the Dey Kim’s synths were recorded in the same way.
Luckily, they aren’t. They are much more centered and easier to pinpoint in space as if grounding the drummer and giving a bit of a focus to his performance. This choice by the two artists is very interesting and made me think of a concert I had with the free jazz madmen from Konstrukt more than ten years ago where my no-input mixing board worked as a center towards and around which the almost grind-level blasts of the magnificent free jazz project floated.
Yet, there is a big difference between the concert from a decade ago this album makes me think of and Chitchat. And it is the mastery with which Dey Kim plays his instrument. The sheer breadth and scope of the sounds he makes and the control he has even over microscopic details is simply breathtaking. There are beautiful atmospheric drones, video game-like bleeps and bloops, glitchy clicks and pops, and even a bit of full-on noise music (“Chitchat 3”). It is exciting and it gives a lot of variety to all of the songs herein.
Like many similar projects, the two artists leave the final song, “Chitchat 5” for exploring other modes and ideas. In this case, it is sparser drumming and more spacey and atmospheric electronics. The latter are somewhat Lovecraftian with their sweeps reminiscent of cosmic winds and otherworldly voices.
“Chitchat 5” is also the only song on this project that has something reminiscent of a song structure, in this case post-rock-like one. It starts off slow and airy and it builds and builds, reaching a predictable but also kind of satisfactory climax before ending somewhat abruptly. However, though the most song-like among these chitchats, it is also the least interesting among them because it doesn’t say much anything new.
Chitchat seems to be an apt title for this effort by the two musicians because neither the album as a whole nor the songs that constitute it feel like fully realized or deep conversations between Sun Ki Kim and Dey Kim. Rather, they are more like pleasant and friendly chats between people who do not yet know one another and are just starting to get comfortable in each other’s company. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it slightly diminishes the value of repeated listening to the album. Nevertheless, Chitchat is an interesting collaboration between two talented musicians.