Track By Track Guide: Ki Oni – A Leisurely Swim To Everlasting Life

Photo by Andrew Lowell

 Our ‘Track By Track’ guide sheds light on the stories behind some of our favourite artists’ music.

With the release of his new album under the name Ki Oni, ambient artist Chuck Soo-Hoo lifts the lid on the songs that make up this project.

The concept of a spirit floating into the afterlife, coupled with childhood memories of Soo-Hoo’s late grandmother, inspired A Leisurely Swim To Everlasting Life. The album beautifully captures the essence of the journey, while its subtle undertones of nostalgia and longing reflect the bittersweetness of the story. The album’s ambient, dreamy soundscape provides the optimal backdrop for this exploration of life and death.

Of the album’s creation, Soo-Hoo says, “This was the first time I used field recordings as a base for each composition. I wanted to capture the outside sounds as when the spirit would float all over the earth visiting their loved ones. I would record on my iPhone while I was walking around my neighborhood, riding my bike, on the metro, at dublab, or the rare LA rain from my window.” From there, the architecture for this release was built through long-form improvisational sessions. Listening while creating, immersed in the flow state.

Immerse yourself in Ki Oni’s captivating new album with his insightful track-by-track guide. Gain a deeper understanding of the musical journey as he shares his artistic vision and intricate details behind each song.

An Infinite Dive
All the track titles on this album were based on memories of my grandmother. During the summers, my grandmother would take my sisters and I to the local pool. As we were swimming, she would be smiling and waving at us from the tanning bed. I remember times when I would jump off the diving board, trying to touch the bottom of the pool. While I’m submerged underwater, the sounds become muffled as you’re getting closer to the concrete floor. There were countless of times where I would be underneath the water and I see my grandmother above the surface waving for me to go home. There’s just something about the muffled underwater sounds that became an influence and still resonates with me today. I feel that influence channels through when I’m making music.

Floating In A Stream Of Consciousness
My mom would tell me when a loved one passes away, you should leave the light on to guide their spirit to say their last goodbyes before floating on to the afterlife. That story jumped off the initial idea for the album. If you were a spirit, what would it sound like floating around the earth before moving on to afterlife. The idea reminded me of the film “Enter the Void” by Gasper Noé, where the main character dies within the first twenty-five minutes (spoiler alert, sorry!). For the rest of the film, you’re watching from the main character’s point of view as a spirit floating around Tokyo visiting his friends and sister, flashing back to his childhood memories. I also thought it was cool the film mentions reincarnation, and that’s what I imagine the album would be like but more of a lighthearted ghost story.

“Reincarnation At The End Of The World”
The inspiration behind this track came from a conversation with my family after picking up my grandmother’s ashes from the crematorium. In Buddhist beliefs, if a person’s ashes contain jewels, their spirit goes to “Pure Land”. If the ashes don’t contain jewels, their spirit is reincarnated back on earth. I thought if the world ended suddenly and if reincarnation was real, where would a spirit go, and what would that sound like? Would the spirit continue to float on this deteriorated earth, or would it float forever into the abyss?

My Grandmother’s Garden
One fond memory about my grandmother I’ll always remember is how incredible her garden was. She would grow bitter melon, Asian pears, squash, clementine, and various plants in her garden. Every time I visited, she would make us soup with the vegetables from her garden, and we had to drink it because it was good for you. I made this track on a rare rainy day in Los Angeles. I remember hearing the rain in the morning as I was drinking coffee watching basketball highlights on ESPN. I wanted to capture the rain and decided to open my window, placed my phone on the windowsill and press record. If you listen very carefully, deep within the field recording, you can faintly hear Stephen A. Smith yelling from a distance.

To Wander Beyond The Aquatic Center” (Bonus Track)
The community pool my grandmother would take us was in a park. There would be a playground, a basketball court, a tennis court, a Seven-Eleven on the same block, and a Blockbuster across the street. Nearby, is a bridge that takes you onto a trail with a creek. My sister and I would never dare to go into the creek ourselves. But when my cousins came to visit, we all got the courage to explore it. It was fascinating. You would hear all sorts of wildlife, the water flowing down the stream, pedestrians jogging or biking, and the wind flowing through the tunnels. We kept exploring the trail as far as we could until it was dinner time.


CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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