Seoul, February 17, 2023, https://www.dotolim.com
Time passes but Dotolim stays. The miniature experimental music venue changes locations, yet keeps on going. 2013 it was located in a shared office building. 2015 it was in a regular apartment. Now in 2023, its new place is a single basement room, still in the same area around Hapjeong and Sangsu Stations.
On the Friday night I visited, the space was almost fully occupied. That means around 20-30 people were in. Jin Sangtae was courteous as always, welcoming visitors and collecting the entrance fee at the door. It was a bit cold, especially the floor.
First KIM9 김구 was playing, accompanied by visuals of HERA 강해라. The sound was a rough rhythmic noise passed through a number of filters. Reminiscent of machine noise like that of a traveling train or heavy factory machinery. Yet it was smoothed out and filtered, hypnotic and rather pleasant to listen. This sound was the background to KIM9’s spoken word poetry laid on top of it. It was in Korean, so I cannot speak much to its contents. It was clearly pronounced in a calm voice. Maybe some stream-of-consciousness monologue? The accompanying projection by HERA also felt like a stream-of-consciousness drawing. In fact it was a projection the live camera feed pointed at the table where she was drawing with a black pencil on a long strip of paper. The paper strip was slowly moving in front the camera as she drew abstract shapes in shades of graphite grey. Sometimes I believed to see faces and landscapes, window views, but it may as well have been my imagination.
Next was Mingu Jang 장민규 playing together with Jin Sangtae 진상태. Mingu Jang played electric bass guitar with a lot of reverb and string-plucking, a kinda melodic ambient transitioning into industrial when he powered up the effect pedals. Jin Sangtae gave me a bit of a deja-vu with his spinning harddisk platters. The metal grinding I remembered from my last visit was a bit subdued this time, on one hand by grinding paper instead of metal, on the other hand by reducing the relative volume. Nevertheless, he definitely likes the sound of grinding, i.e. pushing a stationary piece of material against the flat surface of spinning piece of material. The sounds of Jin and Jang were weirdly contradictory. Jin’s very thin and metallic, Jang’s very broad and echoey deep. Jin’s completely non-musical and non-melodic, Jang’s still referencing the traditional harmonic scale of the bass guitar.
After a short break, the grand finale followed, featuring KIM9, Jang and Jin. It was three different worlds attempting to attentively work together towards a common or no so common goal. KIM9 built a rhythmic yet not melodic wall of noise. Jang chimed in with his own interpretation of a melodic yet not rhythmic guitar based reverb noise and Jin tried to keep up by grinding his paper and metal sheets on the quickly spinning torsos of hard disk drives. Strangely I found Jang’s guitar and his occasional melodic string plucking as the most out of place element. He also seemed to be the one most frequently drifting off into his own space leaving the other two a bit behind. Nevertheless the pure energy of improvisation made the performance memorable and worthwhile.
Big respect to Jin Sangtae for keeping Dotolim up and running and also for keep bringing in new blood – all the performers were approx. in their 20s or early 30s. I suspect Jin is a vampire living from young sound artists’s creative energy. But why not, as long as he shares his prey with the wider public. His success can maybe also be attributed to staying small. He seems to be doing everything by himself. The Dotolim venue remains, despite changing places, of the same small size of a living room. Keep on going!