Multi-instrumentalist Oan Kim has just put out one of the most evocatively beguiling albums of recent months, under the name Oan Kim & the Dirty Jazz, streaming at youtube. He’s like a one-man Twin Peaks soundtrack, playing sax, keys, guitar and occasionally taking the mic, frequently abetted by drummer Edward Perraud and trumpeter Nicolas Folmer. It’s a dissociative, nonlinear film noir for the ears. The layers grow more surreal and psychedelic as the album goes on, but the juicy hooks remain. .
The opening track, Whispers, sets the stage, a brooding sax riff kicking off a spare, broodingly syncopated minor-key piano theme peppered with the occasional smoky curlicue. In whatever place characters go after the movie’s over, the protagonist in David Lynch’s Lost Highway is giving this a trace of a smile.
How agonizing is the second track, Agony? Not at all. It’s a loopy swing tune, Kim reaching for what Little Jimmy Scott did with Angelo Badalamenti. Track three, simply titled Mambo, has smoky sax, slithery vibraphone and eerie synth oscillating in the background to enhance the menace.
With its slow sway and dubwise touches, the mood becomes more wryly carefree in Symphony for the Lost at Sea. Wong Kar Why is an improbable mashup of Orbisonesque noir Nashville pop and a spiraling sax-driven theme. Appropriately enough, the music in Fight Club veers in and out of focus, icy chorus-box guitar filtering through the layers of loops over a soca groove.
Likewise, dissociative layers shift through the frame in Fuzzy Landscape, coalescing into an unhurried sax solo. Kim’s sax flickers and flares over a distantly ominous, bolero-tinged guitar figure in the Interzone – an original, not a Joy Division cover. One of the album’s most disquietingly interesting tracks is The Judge. a no wave/surf rock mashup.
“As I fall down the stairs, people stare or hold my arms,” Kim relates in Smoking Gun, the loopiest and most hypnotic track. There’s even more sunny, circling calm in Thelonious, interrupted by a few jagged peaks: there doesn’t seem to be any Monk influence. Then Kim fleshes out the theme in the Quintet variation that follows. a long, steadily brightening sax solo at the center.
Funeral Waltz is closer to New Orleans soul than, say, a morose Belgian musette. There’s a lingering pall in The Lonesome Path. at least until Kim’s sax floats in and pushes the clouds away. He offers a final goodbye in a disjointed crooner tune that seems to offer a flicker of hope.