Sima Kim’s album comes with the unimaginative title Songs, probably because he has for the first time added vocals to his minimal ambient compositions. The song titles of the two original tracks in this ep are simply “I” and “II” but thankfully the Korean artist’s work has a lot more to offer than what the song and album titles would indicate.
Kim likes to describe his music as post-classical (certainly a better description than neo-classical) as, like many of his contemporaries, instead of writing music he enjoys experimenting with layers and sound effects until he reaches the desired effect. Songs has all the characteristics of a low-key ambient release: quiet melodies, processed ethereal female vocals, and a general feeling of peace and quiet, which the music contributes to. Kim studied musicology at school and the influence of the likes of Arvo Part in using silence to build sound is apparent. Listening to some of his past work, one can’t help but notice how the usage of drones plays a key role in Kim’s creative process and his ability to create atmospheric sound. All of the above result to melodies that manage to make their presence in the room felt long after they have been heard. While the strings or piano do not drag forever, they maintain the hypnotic feeling produced by repeated sounds.
The addition of vocals (by Chloed) that seem to be coming from under water and hints of a broken beat that appears and disappears are integrated fully into the melodic ambient setting, providing that extra flavor that makes Songs stand out in the vast ocean of ambient music.
In addition to the 23 and a half minutes of original music, the album includes remixes by Darren Harper and Bengalfuel, that are completely different than the tracks they are based on. Harper utilizes silence to increase the tension. Everything is slower and the lullaby-like vocals are barely there, contributing to the sense of isolation. Bengalfuel’s work on the other hand transforms “II” with a semi-industrial drum machine into something entirely futuristic, which decomposes into a million distorted pieces toward the end. Both worthy additions to a wonderful collaborative effort. (John Kontos)