The two sides of Long Decay And New Earth document the rehearsal of a piece on 28th December 2019 and its performance on the 29th. The source material comes from Jiyeon Kim’s piano mixtape, which was released under her 11 moniker last year. Before even pressing play, this premise brings with it a flock of contradictory ideas around transience, legitimacy, documentation and origin. By presenting the rehearsal and the performance side-by-side and releasing them, the very notions of rehearsal and performance are collapsed – the rehearsal accrues an audience and thus ceases to be mere practice, while the performance loses the physical room and real-time execution that characterise it as a performance in the first place. The original songs on piano mixtape were mostly recorded digitally before being replanted to cassette, only to then be sent through an eight-track digital sampler for the purposes of this new record, augmented through processes such as backmasking and pitch adjustment, as well as being overdubbed repeatedly on tape until degradation started to occur. And what significance should be prescribed to the decision to release this album under a real name as opposed to an alias, thus implying a translation process involving two identities rather than an act of self-remixing? The lines between analogue and digital, then and now, music and medium, self and pseudonym…all are brought to futility as Jiyeon Kim folds the two halves together. Analogue is digital, then is now, music is medium, self is pseudonym.
And finally, pressing play: snippets of piano appear like scribbled figures upon a splattered canvas of cassette interference. In the process of chopping and looping, whole notes are often severed – string resonance flickers mid-flow and wobbles upon the ever-thinning fidelity of the magnetic tape. Ironically, the extent of Jiyeon Kim’s manipulative handiwork – the transit back-and-forth between analogue and digital, the overdubbing, the sampling – generates a natural flow that conceals the presence of a human player. Occasionally it adopts the effect of raindrops travelling together upon a car window, quivering and criss-crossing as they go, all moving at different speeds yet united by a common medley of vehicle vibration and aerodynamics; a ballet of fragile forms and atmospheric incident. The repeated overdubbing also renders unclear the distinction between the instrument and cassette, as crackles gather force and cease to be a background detail, exhibiting as much undulating intricacy as found in the piano. As easy as it is to feel spun into wonderful conceptual contradictions by the album’s premise (particularly as the rehearsal and performance begin to emerge as very distinct pieces, albeit sharing the same precise duration), the sound invites the listener to quieten the mind and simply attend to these pieces. As much as I find myself questioning the theoretical fabric of Long Decay And New Earth, the idling beauty of this record demands nothing of me.