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K-Pop Throwback: He6 Make A Big Sound On 'Running Man' [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | March 31, 2014 01:32 PM EDT


Can a space be overwhelming?

Sure it can. Think of the Grand Canyon or the Saharan desert. Or just think about outer space (perhaps, in a limited capacity). This can be unhealthy.

In He6's nine-minute burner "Running Man," the first element of that overtakes the listener is the sheer avalanche of space on the recording.

From the early 1960s onward, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production methods emphasized room sound, meaning either microphone placement aiming to exploit the natural reverb of a cavernous space or a synthetic means of recreating that effect.

He6 sounds like a large group playing in an even more humungous space.

From the very first full-band hits, leading into the feverish snare rolls, it's clear that He6, (led by guitarist Kim Hong Tak), wanted to flood the listener with sheer atmosphere.

They succeed.

By the time the tambourine comes in, you're gasping for air, drowning in the sheer overindulgence. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

He6 take that Spectorian overkill and fuse it with the kind of meandering, vaguely funk-infused rock that's now the stuff of television documentaries exploring the "utopian" 1960s or the "lost" 1970s. In other words, boilerplate psych with a blaxploitation twist.

Again, that's totally fine.

In the late '60s in Korea, guitarist/bandleader Kim was one of the progenitors of K-pop and K-rock. Though not a founding member of He6, he was recruited to add some fireworks as lead guitarist.

The group was originally known as He5, but upon adding a ripping flautist (prominently featured on "Running Man"), they naturally became He6.

Kim's fuzzed-out guitar solo that kicks off "Running Man" is actually rather methodical, first see-sawing up and down the length of an octave, then climbing up in ever-widening intervals before climaxing in some modest pyrotechnics.

The song's expansiveness gives the members of He6 a genuinely democratic showcase; after Kim, the organist, the flautist, the bassist and the drummer, all take solos. I'm pleased to report they all acquit themselves in full.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned production craze for craving a big sound does the bass solo no favors. While the bassist displays affable competence (often the highest praise a bassist can hope for), the room sound muddies up his would-be star turn.

The ensuing percussion freakout returns the song to its original heart rate, full of agogo bells and tambourines.

Once the group has cycled through all its soloists, each member of He6 gets one more brief moment in the spotlight before the song ends.

Does "Running Man" really go anywhere? Not really.

Is that a stylistic requirement of this kind of psychedelic mania? I'd argue that it isn't.

If anything, "Running Man" is refreshingly a-programmatic, forgoing the heavy-handed New Age spiritualism often present in the psych rock pantheon.

It's just a jam, period.

If it's "about" anything, "Running Man" is about a man running. Is someone chasing him? Great, then it's a chase scene. End of story!

Check out He6's "Running Man" RIGHT HERE

Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, he has been researching the history of tuning systems and working on his jump shot. 

Tagged :  he6, Running Man, psychedelic, kim hong tak


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