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K-Pop Beyond The Charts: Former Onnine Ibalgwan Keyboardist Daytripper Finds Beauty in Unexpected Places On 'Brownpaper' [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | September 22, 2014 05:10 PM EDT


K-Pop Beyond The Charts is an occasional review column highlighting Korea's modern day musical innovators who have yet to find mainstream success.

The American composer John Cage once said, "wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise."

"When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating."

Cage was onto something. When a car alarm goes off in the distance, it can be irritating. However, when you start bobbing your head to the rhythm, it begins to feel like the introduction to a song.

Korean electronic pop artist Daytripper takes that same open-hearted approach to our world of noises. On his 2004 album "Brownpaper," Daytripper is able to turn everyday mechanical sounds into buoyant instrumental pop.

Daytripper is the alias of Ryu Hankil, a Seoul-born graphic designer and sound artist, best known for playing keyboards in Seoul-based modern rock outfit Onnine Ibalgwan (translated as "Sister's Barbershop"), as well as co-writing and producing the group's third album.   

In 2001, Daytripper went solo, immersing himself in increasingly more experimental methods of composing music, incorporating abandoned objects into his collection of source materials, placing typewriters and telephones alongside his synthesizers and laptops.

"Brown Paper" was Hankil's second record under the Daytripper moniker, and it's a sophomore album in the best way possible. It's confident and lighthearted, the sound of a songwriter with the winds of experience at his back.

The opening track, "Accessories Concert," sounds like a handful of simple items suddenly gaining sentience. Gradually, a rhythmic see-sawing emerges, and an effervescent chord progression binds it together as music.

We hear these little beeps and clicks every day, and rarely think twice about them. By using them in carefully arranged patterns, Hankil creates satisfying musical sculptures.

The word "carefully" shouldn't be underestimated, though.

Hankil rarely allows these sounds the run of the place. He puts them to work in useful ways, either arranging them in makeshift percussion ensembles, or shaping them into jagged, primitive melodies.

On "While Waiting for a While," the album's bounciest cut, one imagines a tiny army of toys strolling in goofball lockstep. Occasionally, Hankil's busted machines sound similar to the music of modern avant-pop artist Hauschka, whose prepared pianos are another innovation pioneered by our aforementioned friend John Cage.

Elsewhere, on "Night Cat," what appears to be the sound of knives being sharpened develops into a stuttering backbeat.

Guessing where the cutlery ends and the drum programming begins becomes a sort of game. Now the listener is seduced into viewing these noises with the fascination that Cage spoke about and that Hankil clearly possesses.

The clutter of noise is almost always accompanied by some sort of traditional means of electronic music making. For example, "Horizon Divers" features some punchy drum machine programming and the lovely miniature "Playing Hide" showcases a burbling air organ.

The concept of "Brownpaper" works best when Daytripper's music focuses on rhythm; when these noise collages err more on the melodic side, things tend to get a little dicey.

To put it another way, we didn't just get rid of dial-up modems because they were slow. Their high-pitched whines, or things that sound like them, seem to pop up in a few of Daytripper's songs and it's at that point that the noise truly annoys.

In the years since "Brownpaper" was released, Hankil has abandoned the Daytripper moniker and focused on a prolific career in avant-garde improvisation. He appears to have moved beyond repurposing everyday sounds to inventing sounds of his own, creating rattling electronic noisemakers of his own design.

Although his Daytripper persona has been retired, at least for now, it's good to know that Hankil is still out there finding beauty in things others would rather ignore.

Listen to "While Waiting for a While" from the 2004 Daytripper album "Brownpaper" RIGHT HERE 


Jeff Tobias is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and writer currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Lately, he has been studying the music of jazz bassist Charlie Haden and hatching a scheme to steal a yacht.

Tagged :  daytripper, brownpaper, ryu hankil, Brown Paper


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