Sima Kim
Freudvoll Und Leidvoll






South Korean electro-acoustic Drone musician Sima Kim is currently gyring toward an even more wondrous but distinct J-Pop-accentuated phase of collaborations, but he has not forgotten his rural roots of reveries and droning dioramas, and so for a short moment and interim stop, he is back with a short two-track release called Freudvoll Und Leidvoll (taken from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), released in June 2014 on the Russian Dronarivm label. Run in turns by designer Dmitry Taldykin and curator Bartosz Dziadosz, Freudvoll Und Leidvoll is a pro-printed 3’’ CD release, limited to an edition of 75 copies housing a six-pages photobook and dried flowers. The release can be ordered and streamed at Bandcamp where a digital version is also available. As the listener already gathers, Freudvoll Und Leidvoll sports a twofold concept, similar to Sima Kim & Saito Koji’s Light And Gravity (2013, Twice Removed Records). This should come as no surprise, for Sima Kim is probably the artist to know a thing or two about amplified euphonies towering above a saccharified rivulet of melancholia. The rustic contemplation was already running on all pentatonic cylinders on his debut Songs (2012, Twice Removed Records), and this state is worshipped, if differently so, in 2014 as well. Unapologetically loop-based, drowning in drones, masking its instruments and begging the listener for a second thought in terms of the aural realization of joy and pain, Freudvoll Und Leidvoll may be tiny on the outside, but harbors weighty meanings and strings qua its frequencies.


It is probably a bit too portentous to start an album with the tentatively titled happy track, a track which then turns out to be the shorter (and less harmonious) one of the duo, making all the delusional and ubiquitous yin and yang allegories obsolete. Both pieces have therefore be approached from a different angle, with the first one being, quite obviously so, Freudvoll. Literally translating into joy-filled, Sima Kim obviously shies away from Dutch high-NRG protons – despite almost having decided to make the Netherlands his home throughout 2014 – and rather fathoms a dualistic physiognomy of this Drone piece: neither completely hazy nor keen on an all-encompassing clarity, the string-based complexion is of an argentine freshness. Embedding a legato aorta awash with light in the epicenter, with recurrent mellow faux eruptions in b minor taking a stand to prevent an overly exhilarative epiphany, Freudvoll’s superimposition is close to being ecclesiastic and divine, not in the sense of theophaneia, but a strongly symphonic undertone in the veins of John AdamsShaker Loops (1978). And indeed, the legato washes become grainier as the piece progresses. The granuloma does not inherit jitters or blotches, but rather invokes a soft oscillator whose veiled hammering accelerates a certain tension with the aid of longitudinal airflows and bolstered cloud bursts. In the end, the almost nine minutes of Freudvoll are hued in a gray twilight, emitting a pale afterglow that delivers the rhizomes of gravitas in an otherwise quasi-ethereal multiplex.


When Freudvoll is already dithery and seesawed in terms of a homogenous gestalt, then Leidvoll is certainly alike. And indeed do both pieces share a clandestinely cloudy similitude, the twist being Leidvoll’s seraphic – if also highly oxymoronic – cannelure of glacial warmth and interstices aglow with illuminants. This second track can be called an example of the Drone genre as well, but it is also lofty and keen on its sustain phases, presenting a majestically oneiric two-note theme whose sylvan-angelic compound promises solace and contemplation. Not entirely elysian, nor alloyed with crestfallen antipodes, Leidvoll is wonderfully soporific, sumptuously diaphanous. The grainy state is once again a signature element, allowing helical transparency and opaque adjuvants to mesh over the course of eleven minutes. This intermixture or mélange has another side effect: it is not clear which instrument serves as the base frame for this composition. Every electro-acoustic instrument could serve as the nucleus, whether it is of the stringed kind, demands mallets or sports black and white keys. The looped state meanwhile is easier to grasp: the intrinsic loop lasts between five till seven seconds, is repeated ad inifinitum within Leidvoll’s temporal boundaries and manages to not progress or mutate. The result is most welcome: a blissful apotheosis, a final state that is so unlike the malevolent title (translating into “full of suffering”) that it offers the consoling realization of having overcome an obstacle… or better still: of overcoming all obstacles. What seemed to be the dark piece now turns out to be the celestial crystal.


Freudvoll Und Leidvoll works with parameters that are both precise and diffuse. Surprisingly, the light of Freudvoll is no more precise than the shadows of Leidvoll are diffuse. So what went wrong in this regard? From an aesthetic point of view, everything works well. Sima Kim is not so much playing with the expectations of the listener, but specifically the anticipations of his fan base. The prospect of dichotomy, the premise of hybrids, all of these instances are found aplenty in Ambient music, and with this notion firmly in place, Freudvoll Und Leidvoll works as a counterpoint, a pillar of otherness. The best thing about Freudvoll being slightly portentous and Leidvoll spawning more languor and rapture than expected is as follows: the listener does not need to care about this! Sima Kim’s little release works entirely well when it is stripped off any faux-erudite explanation or philosophical train of thought. Freudvoll’s nebulous aurora, its softly metallic ctenidium of bokeh bursts and lur(k)ing atmosphere of faraway dangers is both self-explanatory and self-sustaining as is, even without the concept it is clearly embedded in. Leidvoll meanwhile is similarly silvery, albeit less progressive than Freudvoll. Its state is frozen solid, and this petrified halt is most wonderful in light of the shimmering fractals, the cherubic camouflage of its instrument-based traits. It is the vestiges of that unknown instrument that are augmented, the phantom frequencies and helicoidal heterodynes. Freudvoll Und Leidvoll works on both levels, the aesthetic and aural one, light and darkness, joy and fear. The result is neither distinct nor distinctive, but a zoetropic blur that is so alike Sima Kim and his complete body of works that this album is an essential sparkler of the South Korean’s vivid mind.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 353: Sima Kim – Freudvoll Und Leidvoll (2014). Originally published on Jun. 25, 2014 at