I would say that among the artists that are using traditional Korean instruments and instrumentation and evolving it, Park Jiha is among the top composers and performers. There is a lot of genre mixing, most often with traditional Korean and electronic music. But what she does differently is use the core of the sounds and elevate them into contemporary audio experiences.
The Gleam is a long album. 50 minutes over eight songs. But this is how Park Jiha’s expertise and ability really shine. In her music, there’s equal importance of silence and tone. Tempo is very regulated and precise to allow the chosen instruments to play completely and not rush to move to the next verse.
Most first-time listeners of traditional Korean instruments will be introduced to historic songs. What Park Jiha does is create an entire universe. The layers she uses all create structure. Partially keep your focus on the main melodies while constructing the exterior foundations through the audio. Talking through each song reduces the initial impact they will have.
This album is meant to be heard from “At Dawn” to “Temporary Inertia.” You don’t get the true impact hearing tracks out of order or as singles. Park Jiha has a deft hand in the composition adding and subtracting at precise points. I will say “The Way of Spiritual Breath” is my favorite track, right in the middle of the album. It combines and harnesses many key signatures of her arrangement style.
I will say that The Gleam won’t speak to everyone and I don’t think it’s meant to. More people might enjoy the “Korean traditional plus electronic” music that’s becoming popular, but there should be an equal eye on the artists who are evolving directly through the existing values. Park Jiha’s The Gleam will be a classic and surprise many people who might miss it in 2022.