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Bora YOON (b. 1980)
Sunken Cathedral
O viridissima virga [10:25]
Father Time [3:34]
Finite Infinity [4:38]
In Paradisum [8:54]
Jansori Pansori [4:09]
O Pastor Animarum [4:27]
Speratus [2:04]
Little Box of Horrors [9:04]
Weights & Balances [5:35]
Semaphore Conductus [7:19]
New American Theater [5:20]
Doppler Dreams [7:15]
Performed by Bora Yoon (various instruments).
Also featuring:
Sekou Sundiata (Poetry and performance in “New American Theater”)
Chris Eddleton (cymbals, metal percussion in “New American Theater”)
Peter Scherer (Percussion in “Jansori Pansori” and “Weights and Balances”)
Sympho (symphonic performance in “Speratus”)
New York Polyphony: Male vocal quartet in “Semaphore Conductus”
rec. no details given
INNOVA 880 [73:15]

Described as “a cartography of blood, synapses, circuitry, memory, and spirit” Sunken Cathedral is the latest from Korean-American composer Bora Yoon, who can also be heard here as a multi-instrumental and vocal performer.

The concept of Sunken Cathedral is of a “sonic journey through the subconscious and the architectural chambers of the body”, the cycle illuminating the vast topics of life and death, and “the cyclical/recombinant nature of the universe.” This release appears as a CD, on a double LP vinyl package, and as an iPad graphic album.

This is an impressively produced recording, and if you are intrigued by binaural effects then listening through headphones will set your pulse racing. Startlingly vivid bells and birdsong decorate the medieval-style vocal lines of the opening O viridissima virga, and each track has its own set of layered sonic perspectives: the ticking of Father Time larded with singing bowls and celestial voices. A piano lends a sort of Tom Waits familiarity to Finite Infinity, while sublime vocals form an overlapping mini-ensemble. In Paradisum builds nicely over a gently rhythmic electronic pedal tone but doesn’t seem to communicate anything new, and Jansori Pansori conjures a pleasantly transparent exotically rhythmic atmosphere over recorded telephone messages.

Absorbing the spirit of Hildegard von Bingen, O Pastor Animarum brings soaring vocals over ecclesiastical bells, creaking planks and a gentle swell of water, and Speratus continues the medieval feel with more singing, surging strings and a harp all placed in a distant acoustic which succumbs to the bumping and crackling of a Little Box of Horrors, over which a Laurie Anderson type text is whispered and declaimed. Weights & Balances has a nice folk/jazz simplicity to it, constructing a sleazy bar-room atmosphere with a healthy dose of darkly understated threat. Semaphore Conductus is inspired by the conductus medieval song form, with Morse signals and other subtle effects surrounding the undulating vocals of New York Polyphony. With its rich blend of harmonies and effects this is one of the more durable tracks here.

To conclude, New American Theatre promises to be a dramatic miniature with Sekou Sundiata’s convincing reading, though his text’s power is undercut by the ongoing feeling that it consists of a list of aphorisms. The final Doppler Dreams is a “kinetic choral work”, originally made for sopranos on bicycles who performed riding around an abandoned swimming pool.

This is a remarkable album and one which rewards exploration on a multiplicity of layers. If you are interested in what is happening at the cutting edge of today’s multi-media cross-over music making then this is a good place to look. Expertly performed and superbly produced, this is a recording which has plenty of value. As to what you will make of the actual content I fear I will have to sit on the fence. Bora Yoon’s world is deeply honest and personal, and is indeed highly communicative. I like what I hear, but it doesn’t fill me with thrills of newness in terms of experience, move me to my core or inspire me to get up and work harder with a growing sense of inadequacy. The riposte to such comment should be, “if thou doest dislike my Fancies, let me see thine”, to which I would reply, “happy to comply but I doest like your Fancies, they just doest not rocketh my world to its foundations.”

Dominy Clements