Track by Track: Oan Kim – Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz

Every once in a while a track comes along that rips us from the security of our comfy little indie/post-punk/garage-rock bubble and drags us into that part of the musical map marked Here Be Dragons. Oan Kim’s ‘Mambo’ (which we premiered at the end of last year) was one such song – the French saxophonist twisting jazz and Latin forms around a shadowy frame reminiscent of Tom Waits. With the release of his new album Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz this week, we caught up with Oan for a track by track guide to the record.

1 Whispers
This is the first song I wrote specifically for this album, after hearing an Aldous Harding song I liked. The first thing I wrote was the piano, then the drums, and then the melody. I wrote the lyrics when I was having crippling insomnia during the first lockdown, it’s already the third song I’ve written about insomnia. We all like to find drama in our lives, however insignificant, to give it the aura of a hero’s journey.

2 Agony
This is the oldest song on the album. We used to play it with my former band Film Noir, it was a pumped up rock song that I sang with a torn voice, but then later I made this jazzy version with a falsetto voice that I liked even better. It was originally called ‘Death of an Eighties Man’, as an homage to Leonard Cohen but I decided against the silly pun and went for something short and punchy: ‘Agony’. Good name for a perfume.

3 Symphony for the Lost at Sea
I started the song by ripping off the beginning of the symphony for wind instruments by Stravinsky. The song evolved into something else but I kept the word symphony in the title as a souvenir. I imagined the Miles Davis quintet accompanied by Deerhunter or Animal CollecIve. It probably has the longest saxophone solo of the album. That’s what jazz has that other musics don’t. A good solo is like listening to a good friend ramble about his life, about that last movie he saw, and the upcoming elections, and the weather, and how crappy the coffee is in this place.

4 Wong Kar Why
In the David Lynch film Wild at Heart, Nicholas Cage sings the Elvis song ‘Love Me’ to his girlfriend in the middle of a night club right after beating up some guy. There’s also a metal band singing backing vocals and screaming fans. The scene is grotesque and completely honest at the same time. That’s the best way to do satire. Anyways that’s what this song is based on.

5 Fight Club
It’s about a man fighting himself, split personality style. I’m actually not the biggest fan of the film so I had no problem appropriating its title.

6 Fuzzy Landscape
It’s another one of those ‘what if Miles Davis made a song with {this guy}’. I was listening to James Holden a lot when I wrote this song hence the thick layers of organ sounds. Trumpet player Nicolas Folmer recorded a tribute to Miles Davis where he has the lushest of sounds, just pure honey. I had to have him on my album. The titles of my songs usually describe what the music evokes in me. I write the lyrics and the title last, after all else is in place and I have nothing else left to do.

7 The Interzone
The tiltle refers to Naked Lunch, the book and the film, but also the score by Ornette Coleman and Howard Shore, one of the most original film scores in movie history. Also this track has a post-punk vibe that reminded me of Interpol.

8 The Judge
Originally I had written this track on a looped sample of Art Blakey but I wanted the drums part to be dynamic and melodic so I asked my friend Edward Perraud to play on this track. He’s a very imaginaIve drummer, with a messy chaotic side that really adds to the energy of this track. The saxophone solos were hard but fun to record. Like driving a Ferrari through the tiny streets of an Italian village.

9 Smoking Gun
These past few years I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient music when I’m doing chores, when I’m struggling with insomnia or if I’m around nature. The organ sounds you hear throughout the track come from that. There’s something about low organ chords that create a vibration in your body unlike any other
instrument. It could probably be used medically. I’m pretty happy with the saxophone part, I can’t place what it sounds like. I love when that happens, when you don’t know where what comes out of you came from.

10 Thelonious
Originally I wanted to channel the raw psychedelic energy of Bitches Brew, but it ended up as a dream pop lullaby. That’s the problem with creation, you never really know what you’re really in for. Thelonious is my son’s middle name. Someday he’ll listen to this song and realize I wrote it for him. He better be grateful.

11 Quintet
This is as close as I’ll ever get to sounding like good old fashioned 60s jazz quintet. And yet if you listen closely through that lens, you’ll start to notice that all the elements are a little bit off, it’s produced more like an electro track with samples, loops and synth sounds.

12 Funeral Waltz
I wanted to do a song like Otis Redding. That’s what I was talking about earlier, you think you want to bake a cake and you end up making a quiche. But hopefully that soulful convicIon is still there. I was trying a harder reed than usual on the saxophone it made me sound more like Paul Desmond, it gave me different ideas. Sometimes all you need to have new ideas is to tie your hand behind your back.

13 The Lonesome Path
When I was a teenager some of my favourite moments were the rare times when I was home alone and I could listen to music in the living room as loud as I wanted. I have a vivid memory of listening to a Chet Baker album like that. On this song I tried really hard to sing as smoothly and steadily as he did, but it’s not as effortless as as he makes it sounds. But when a pure and simple sound cuts through the air, you don’t need much else, it fills an entire room with a sense of stillness and calm.

14 Goodbye
This is a song about my father’s passing. I have nothing interesting or funny to say about it.

Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz is out on 25th February

Follow Oan Kim on Instagram

Introduction by Paul Maps

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