Devastation & Beauty | Lee Yi’s An Instant for a Momentary Desolation

Ah, how poignant in this day and age is a music that expresses the duality of nature. That is not to say that Lee Yi’s An Instant for a Momentary Desolation is necessarily about the topical issue of climate change, but that it is absolutely thematically tied to nature as both a wonder and a devastating force. As powerless as ambiguity can be, conscious or otherwise, it plays a vital roll on these four pieces, with each one seeking the sonic sweet spot that evokes the human race’s humble place in this natural world. Up front, this music blankets the listener in lukewarm comfort, but there is hardly a moment where something more sinister isn’t lurking around the corner. It’s not a new formula by any means—one needn’t look further than Alio Die—but it is nevertheless handled beautifully here by Yi.


Yi’s modus operandi is the subtle blending of sub-base timbres with a range of obfuscated instrumentation and synthesis. If that second part sound suspiciously generic it’s only because picking out the source of these sounds is a difficult task. However, the listener is sometimes graced with the pang and feel of amplified instruments being played in real time, like “Incertae,” the album’s most teeth-gritting offering that would have fit perfectly on PAN’s Mono No Aware comp from earlier this year. The rest of the record is far more elusive, painting a mystifying portrait of nature by way of wordless vocals and strings that are stretched out into cosmic melodies. Sometimes we even hear a track backed by a simple beat, plodding along like a pulse that feeds this music with life.

An Instant for a Momentary Desolation has soundtracked my last 48 hours, and I have had little desire to put anything else through the speakers. The more I’ve played this, the more I feel it has become a part of me, like it’s synching with my neural chemistry—granting me the same mental clarity as Max Richter’s SLEEP, or the work of Asher Thal-Nir. Lee Yi is not well known, and his works have thus far all been released in micro editions on cassette or CD with gorgeous lithographic prints. As a result, I doubt many people will actually end up hearing this album, which is a shame. Nevertheless, if you are reading this and are a fan of the type of music that we endorse here, then do yourself the favour of listening to this album. Highly recommended, and up there amongst the best work these ears have heard all year.

Visit Lee Yi’s Bandcamp.

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