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by mmph

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Dialogue 00:58
Spirit 03:10
Harvest 04:47
Avnue 04:35
Moon Jar 04:20
Harvest II 03:45


It's been five years since Korean-born, Los Angeles-based sound designer and composer Sae Heum Han, aka mmph, released his last EP Serenade on the Tri Angle label in flurry of activity. "Harvest" arrives after an unintentional pause; three years ago, Han was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that immediately changed his priorities. Bedridden and exhausted from medication, he was only able to work on music for around an hour each day - the rest of his time was swallowed by rest and precarious trips to hospital in the midst of a global pandemic. Now in remission, Han looks back on this period as a time of emotional evolution where the ideas behind "Harvest" could be unravelled. The album emerges from his desire to reconnect with the Korean music he heard when he was growing up in Seoul, using these discernible timbres as building blocks to decorate with his advanced palette of electronic sounds and processes.

Han's music has always balanced precariously between the rigor of classical training and the relative open-endedness of electronic experimentation. This duality is still present on "Harvest", but Han's canvas has widened slightly. He continues to blur the line between the traditional and the modern, emulating and mirroring Korean instruments with synthesizers and sound design elements, and blending them with acoustic sounds and live percussion samples. But where his previous records and scoring work highlighted his ability to weave baroque forms into tight, contemporary sonic tapestries, this album adds the drama, yearning and spirituality of folk. On 'Dialogue' for example, pitch-warped traditional vocals twist through an ensemble of bizarre future-ancient sounds; fluttering strings dissolve into spiked percussive barbs and synthesized wails cut through walls of industrial noise.

'Spirit' follows quickly, coaxing listeners into a trance state with its flurry of microtonal string plucks and irregular percussion. Han is a master of breath control, letting his brief moments of negative space interrupt any expected regularity and guide the track away from electronic music's expected grid. This just about prepares the ground for the title track, a labyrinthine maze of dramatic compositional motifs and dizzying sonics that mutates from gugak forms into a cacophony of pneumatic blast beats before snapping back. From here the album lurches towards the dancefloor for a moment, absorbing and contorting cantankerous club rhythms on 'Avnue' and 'Moon Jar', slowing to a crawl on 'Harvest II'. Despite hijacking its theme from the title track's blast beat section, it transforms into a ballad, acting as a fittingly tearjerking finale.

The record is rounded off by a trio of remixes that draw Han further into the SVBKVLT family. Egyptian producer ABADIR chops up 'Harvest' and reassembles it into a jerky banger, extracting its dancefloor potential and evolving hardstyle thuds into spectral concertina flexes. 'Moon Jar' meanwhile is turned into twitchy trance by Shade Seoul's NET GALA, and Yen Tech stitches together 'Avnue' and 'Dialogue', creating an anxious backdrop that shuttles mmph's android folk to the modern metropolis.


released April 26, 2023

Artwork by Sae Heum Han
Mastered by Raphael Valensi


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