It’s disarming to hear a piano played like that. I mean it as a high compliment, but the melody on opening track “snow” carries the slow, plodding concentration of a grade 1 practice exercise. It’s simple to the point of being tuneless, and perhaps that’s the whole point: when the façade of composition is removed, all that’s left is an instrument resounding in a room. My focus settles on how pedal sustain melts the notes together, or how the accompanying brush kit skims over keys as pebbles on placid water, or how a layer of microphone noise lingers over the mix like frost on a window. The fact that the second track, “gust”, opens on a succession of arpeggiated cascades and cut-up percussion only affirms my theory: the opening track, while still pleasant on its own, is a means of listener calibration, stimulating an awareness of tonal quality that frames the understanding of the album thereafter. The record is not only a duet between pianist Jiyeon Kim and drummer Sang Yong Min, but a dialogue between human intention and the feral interventions of environment and circumstance.
This act of priming only strengthens the association between the earthly artefacts in the track titles. The aforementioned tonal flurries on “gust” start to resemble little clustered uptakes in the breeze, somersaulting over the syncopations of hi-hat and cymbal; the held breaths and plosive releases on “stone” feel like objects being dropped from a cliff edge. So spacious is 11min’s sound that each action sits upon its own plinth in empty space, framed by echoes that have been sculpted with equivalent care. What’s remarkable – and this is even evident during the album’s 14-minute reconstructive circumambulation, “snow keeps falling(snowREMIX)” – is that the players are each reverently aware of the space they occupy. They make room and time for eachother. The piano poises itself in the air to give the bass drum a lower expanse in which to rumble. The fidgeting of cymbal goads the piano into constant movement but never hurries it along. Such an awareness is only possible when a band attune themselves to the physicality of sound, and while 11min don’t worship this principle to the extent of discarding their exquisite melodic sensibilities, the album is nonetheless a bodily excursion at its root.