Kang Tae Hwan Trio – Love Time

3 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Kang Tae Hwan?

The ‘trio’ here is Hwan, Makoto Kawabata, and percussionist Ichiraku Yoshimitsu, but this is very much alto-player Hwan’s show: leading the fifty-minute long track (which roughly breaks down into three sections) with his open-ended, breathy sax playing.

This is not jazz, and while its improv, it doesn’t have the same sort of wandering scope the genre lends itself to, Hwan staying pretty focused on some warbling ranges of notes.  Which, especially in its opening and closing sections, in which Kawabata and Yoshimitsu issue incidental sounds (apparently on sarangi and bowed percussion) that sound like restless ghosts chattering in the background, is closer to minimalism, but this also isn’t the study of silence or of pared down sound I’d associate with that scene; Love Time is very restless, even if that restlessness only rarely manifests itself above a whisper.

A low rumble of drums starts in, and then at the half hour there’s a pause before our trio breaks out into some magnificent (relative) noise of horns, guitar shimmers, and drums.  This in itself is fairly brief, but its a wonderful shock given to how Hwan has warmed us to his wayward, quiet playing.

The track settles into its final section, very much reflecting the first but feeling more purposefully like a cool down, though one that easily loops into the album’s start again, should you hit repeat.

And you can.  Admittedly, excepting the one section of musical outburst, I wasn’t necessarily grabbed by Hwan’s playing or Love Time’s possible concepts, but I noticed that I was able to keep it on repeat for quite a while, not bored by it.  Because it’s not soothing and not background noise, befitting its place on the VHF roster: there’s a sense of emotion and an artist behind the work.  But, by the same token, I’m not sure its something I’ll actively seek out to play.