Heejin Jang – Me and the Glassbirds

4.5.23 by Matty McPherson

Alright before I talk shop here about this tape, I need to give a massive tip of my hat to the PR email. I haven’t received a PR email more inventive this year than the one Z. Emerson of Doom Trip Records enthusiastically threw my way after asking “hey is it okay if I send you this PR email that’s really just a big Notes app message?” Finally! Someone meeting me where in 2023 where I resonate most: a giant litany of font colors and links with information that is more in line with feeling like a Web 1.0 page that just blatantly tells me what I need to know and the links worth sharing if I so desire to go further. Wow! PR-heads…take notes. This is how you grab my attention.

Anyways, Doom Trip’s first 2023 tape of the year comes from Heejin Jang. That’s her there central on one of the most evocative and stylish j-cards I’ve seen in a second; a pristine portrait that glistens with a talismanic quality. She trained as a painter but catching a noise performance in 2012 completely shifted what artistic endeavors she was interested in taking up: painting drawn out of noise, more or less. She makes a clear distinction that what she is doing is not rooted in “art” or “music,” but more just general experience. Her work, at least early renditions, were the result of live Max/MSP manipulation (and have been releasing on tape as far back as 2016). And in the past few years has been building in intensity and its capacity for noise textures without being sunk by the sludge, weight, or expectations. The stray dublab session here, an ESS presentation there, and collaborative soundscape work at the start of the decade have been crucial in trying to create a tactile sensory overload. A genuine desire to lose one’s self in the noise.

Me and the Glassbirds caught my ear because quite simply, Jang seemed to have a grip on concise soundscapes that could be abrasively abstract, but also deeply inviting and inquisitive little puzzle boxes of their own accord. That is to say: Me and the Glassbirds is the first real industrial release Doom Trip has curated in their existence as a label. Not a hyper-EBM inversion you’d think the label would shoot for, but an actual legitimate private press noise release that wouldn’t be out of place on Hot Releases or No Rent. Although neither label exactly curates a focus towards the psychedelia that this mode of crafting provides, the bountiful grip on the present experience that with which one can lose themself in. This is perhaps why it makes sense as a Doom Trip release, foreshadowing the uniquely hypnotic and almost-dance characteristics of Jang’s work.

Listening as a full listen as intended and what becomes apparent is Jang’s restlessness. Her palette is one of sensory depraved loops and reverb washed recordings brushed and chiseled down to gaseous states; two matches made in heaven that also could run around like a monotonous carousel if they so desired. They don’t though. Throughout the release Jang seems to be trying to temporally unstick her loops by any means necessary. Mostly that accounts to viciously ascended forms of jamcom’ing. The layering of sounds and beats give the tape a translucent sleekness often missing in industrial of this size. You can barely picture eggs cracking, timers ticking, messages being sent through power lines, and of course the stray cryptid bird noise. But all the while Jang never keeps her foot in one spot long enough to pinpoint and denote a full lineage. Still, her field recordings, drones, or deconstructed club sleights that come through beckon for a novel way of approaching the familiar. An ever present vibe shifts in real time on the release that seems to keep a listener moving.

All of which is confirmed within the central component of this entire release on Our Brief Eternity. It’s a 13:22 track that begs to catch your ear, if only because it is such an upstanding composition of production sleights and asynchronous melodies constructing a universe of its own accord. Part industrial light machine gun pitter-patter routinized and pitch-shifted, another part deconstructed club with tumultuously swinging breakbeats, as much as one giant amalgamation of reverberated bird ambience absolutely off its rocker. A lot of side A teases these pieces, but they do come together into an actual legitimate soundsystem that I’d bury myself under if given the opportunity. Partially because it seems to carry with it its own textbook of influences indecipherable enough into an amalgamation that parallels Twin Infinitives moments of batshit savant electronic wisdom (Royal Trux’s own strung out savant wisdom is one of the closet ancillaries to these sounds). Our Brief Eternity is immensely less strung out than said Trux album, but I detect a similar mania in the razor sharp execution.

If not that mania, a similar deeply ingrained tenacity to chart a sonic roadmap. Me and the Glassbirds does not tell you the name of this place, it merely suggests that alloys and rare earth metals exist here as birds seem to elicit a metallic call. It’s a dimension that always seems to be just between the harmonics of our music systems and the blurs our eyes end up dashing out; a place that really can only be summoned by fucking with Max/MSP and noise as if to tune in to and find a resonate frequency. With that it’s enough to seriously consider that Jang’s unclassifiable style of sound is indeed tapping into various aberrations and specters just outside this world. That is to say, Me and the Glassbirds is one of the strongest listens of the year full stop, and quite frankly the best tape Doom Trip has put out this decade to date. Here’s to hoping for a second edition.

Sold out at the Doom Trip Records Bandcamp! Pester Z to make more tapes because it needs it damnit!