AMN Reviews: Jambinai – A Hermitage (2016; Bella Union)

unspecified1-1024x569Jambinai is a three-piece South Korean group that applies a western filter to the traditional music of that country. Bomi Kim plays fiddle-like haegum, Ilwoo Lee is on guitar and piri (a bamboo flute), and Eun Youg Sim’s instrument is a Korean zither. It appears that they are joined on most tracks by an electric bassist and drummer.

This eight-track sophomore album is an unexpected pleasure, as the group shifts between folk, post-rock, metal, and jam styles. Some passages are tightly composed, while others stretch to free improv freak-outs. Vocals are sparse until the final track, which is their “single” (a video is below). The remaining seven pieces are more experimental, as the album features what appears to be extended techniques being extracted from the traditional instruments, as well as textures and atmospherics. Some of the best moments are when these instruments are rapidly picked or bowed, building tension and then releasing it.

In a sense, A Hermitage is a coming of age album, reflecting the darker side of a country that is known for its technology and rags-to-riches story. This manifestation of anger and frustration spills over into the aggressive riffing and drumming. The album as a whole is a wild ride, with three young people combining the old and the new to forge their own musical path.

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