machìna: The New Sound of Korea
“I decided I was going to be a musician when I was seven years old, and it was so natural. I never had to think about [going] a different way.”
machìna’s story is one of coming of age. Traversing territories and intertwining paths, her story began with voice. “I started out as a jazz singer,” machìna tells us. She learned the standards, the harmonies, the scales, but most importantly, the improvisation. “I don’t write down each note or analyze the harmonies I’m creating,” machìna says when I ask her about how her complex vocal harmonies came to be. “I write what I’m feeling...I learn about myself through the music I create.”
After explorations into a cappella and solo jazz through high school, machìna moved to Japan in pursuit of a lifetime in music.
“I came to Japan with a pop song, actually.” Upon arrival, machìna was quickly scooped up by the bubbling pop scene. A former K-Pop star, a current model (Shiseido), and most certainly, an insatiable creative, machìna recounts her own self-discovery in creating a sound and style that was squarely her own despite the absence of a charted path by which she could find it.
Through her upbringing in Korea and early pop days in Japan, machìna was in battle, her independent creativity at odds with concern about how others viewed her. She subscribed to the image of the idolized K-Pop star in an effort to externally legitimize her own commitment to music. Likewise pursuing Japan for its lucrative music scene, machìna was happily surprised to find a spark in Tokyo’s underground scene. “There wasn't really an underground in Korea,” machìna says. “The pop scene really runs it all.” Reconciling her own artistic intuition with the forces of the pop industry was a constant battle. It was an external battle: in “having other people tell you how to play and what to change when you know how it should sound,” but it was also an internal battle. “I always thought about what people thought about me,” machìna confesses. “I had to find this thing that I could not give up, I had to find the thing that I had to do before I could start saying ‘no.’”
“You can do anything with a laptop nowadays. But for a lot of electronic musicians, laptop production means preparing everything. I don’t want to just press a button and go.”
Starting off with drum machines and Ableton triggers, machìna went off to explore the history behind it… the roots of analog synthesis. “Moogs, buchlas… before there were keyboards, there were modular patches. I thought this work was incredibly interesting, it was definitely the spark.” Modular synthesis provided a way to “create, capture, and share the feeling of the moment.” It tied in improvisation through a completely different stream of work. Scatting over gestural crunches and undulating polyrhythms, machìna created a patchwork of vocal brushstrokes amidst an atmosphere of rich electronic soundscapes.
Machìna's work helps bring her closer to her own self-understanding: through each work, she further discovers her own voice & the stories she wants to tell, the ones that excite her. Incorporating traditional Pansori vocal techniques with noise-rooted analog articulations, machìna weaves her own distinct palette of creation from vestigal voices—tracing back to past, present, and future times, yet in introspective pursuit very much like that of her own.
Today, machìna has fully committed to her own artistry—not only to being a musician, but to being herself and pursuing the expansion of her own creativity. Thoroughly excited by the fruitful landscape of modular synthesis, machìna seeks out further treks into her own improvisational lexicon through personal exploration and further collaboration. We’re so grateful that machìna found her own voice—blips and streams of tickling articulations, dancing in the centre of the heart. Purveying independence in art and in self-freedom, machìna heralds the sounds of Korea’s future in a unrestrained passion of experimental revolution.
Thank you to machìna, Masa, and Ryo for helping this interview come together! Catch machìna's whopping live set at the following SXSW shows:
Thursday 3.15.18.......... 4:00pm-4:30pm @Valhalla
Thursday 3.15.18......... 11:00pm-11:40pm @Maggie Mae's
Saturday 3.17.18.......... 3:30-4:10pm @Flatstock Stage Austin Convention Center
Lana Harris and Luke Martinez DJ/write/beyond for The Darker Side. The Darker Side has air every Saturday night 10pm-6am and Sunday night 10pm-5am.