[Recall 2008] A Meeting with The Invisible Fish

This article written after an interview with The Invisible Fish was edited by Philip Gowman and first published on London Korean Links.

When only a few days remained of 2006, Korea’s most distinguished indie folk duo said “goodbye” with the release of their second full album. We were many that didn’t quite want to believe it – of course there were other prominent folk acts, but nothing quite like Bluedawn. The two members still make music on their own, however, and last month the male half, slowzz, released an EP that should make all former Bluedawn fans still restless feel more at ease. With much assistance from mrkwang I managed to perform an email interview with him to learn more on his solo project, The Invisible Fish.

slowzz, real name Jung Sang Hoon, has always enjoyed listening to music. He didn’t have any special training, but eventually just found himself doing music of his own. Making what his friends describe as “postnoisefolk”, the music of The Invisible Fish is influenced by post-rock flavoured American music, such as that of Low, Gregor Samsa and The Burning Paris, and experimenting Korean indie acts such as byul, Amature Amplifier and Underwear Band. While there are obvious traces of Bluedawn to be found in this solo project of his, as a listener I’ve found that his music has taken new and exciting directions: some sprawling folktronica here, some eerie drone pop there – all while keeping the beauty and mellowness intact. Though slowzz says he just changed the kinds of sounds and put them in other locations than usual, so it was just a natural progression that didn’t really seem all that different to him.

The debut release from The Invisible Fish, entitled Through The Glass Wall, is the first in a series of three. As he wanted to do everything by himself, he didn’t bother to go looking for a label but released the CD himself. It was a “fun & good experience”. The EP has a life and death theme, which is noticeable already with the first track as the title, 문턱, not only translates to “threshold” but also holds the meaning of a boundary between life and death. “Sometimes we give too much meaning for life”, he states mysteriously. While making the EP, slowzz wanted to add more songs as he went along, but out of fear of straying too far from the theme only nine tracks were pressed on CD. But Through The Glass Wall is more than just a CD: as a token of respect to those that purchase it, with inspiration from the additional online features often offered with computer software, a downloadable 4 track EP going by “20-C Stereo Radio” and some other goodies are included in the price.

While there are plenty of really good songs among those released by The Invisible Fish so far, there was one in particular that I just had to know the story behind. The track in question was 금 남로 – a fairly melancholic composition with news clips in English, German and Korean related to the Kwangju uprising – 18 May 1980. slowzz said he had done the basics for this song already back in 2006, but it was too personal to be a Bluedawn song. He was born in Kwangju – where 금남로 is the best known street – and while still very young he moved to Seoul with his parents in 1981. But as a child he never told anyone about his birth town as its citizens had been bestowed a communist stigma by Korean media. The intent behind the song was not political, instead it portrays what he “lived / experienced / felt” from that time.

The next EP will revolve around the love between man and woman – love, mind, time – and the title will be “Loss”. No sudden changes in sound or song structure are planned. After all three EPs have been released, slowzz would like to continue with an album. There have been no plans for The Invisible Fish performances yet, but hopefully there’ll be some later on. Beyond The Invisible Fish there isn’t much planned for slowzz right now – perhaps some freelance design jobs, or just helping some friend out. Most of his friends are movie makers of some sort so he’s done some film music even if it wasn’t as a “professional”. As for Bluedawn, the time had come for the two to go separate ways but there were no hard feelings. Perhaps one day we can hear Dawny (Han Hee Jeong) sing his songs again, but not now.

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