Okkyung Lee occupies a spot in the “young royalty” stratum of the noise avant-garde, the omni-capable improvisers/composers who honed their styles over a stream of physical releases and collaborations through the 90s and early 00s, and have since reached new levels of acclaim and influence (see also: Dilloway, O’Malley, Yeh, Fernow, Wiese). As throngs of half-naked warriors clash chrome against chrome down in the pit of the noise gladiator colosseum, Lee and her contemporaries set up workshops in the Academy and sketch out the most squalling, damaged permutation of modern “classical” “music.” If Lee, more than most, grapples with academic precedents and preconceptions by virtue of her primary means of expression — the cello — her visceral performances blur the line between the balcony observers squinting into binoculars and the pit surging below.
On Ghil, Lee’s full-length due June 24 on Ideologic Organ, she and producer/fellow noise royal Lasse Marhaug erase that line completely, recording her virtuosic cello improvisations onto a used tape recorder in incidental Scandinavian locales: “a back alley in Oslo center; a cabin in the forest on the Nesodden peninsula; and a former hydroelectric powerplant in the mountains outside Rjukan.” Hear “two to your right, five to your left,” one of Ghil’s nine sessions, below (note: every time I do, I’m like “Yeah!!! Whaaaaat???”). Lee’s extended technique shred tactics alone could easily max out this take, but Marhaug’s lo-fi decisions of medium and mic placement result in a master recording of even thicker glorious abrasion.