mon 18/11/2019

Jambinai, Purcell Room - launching K-Music Festival with a wall of sound | reviews, news & interviews

Jambinai, Purcell Room - launching K-Music Festival with a wall of sound

Jambinai, Purcell Room - launching K-Music Festival with a wall of sound

This year's opening offers a powerful melding of Korean folk and post-rock

Jambinai live on stage at the Purcell RoomKii Studios

K-Music has become one of the highlights of the autumn cultural calender since it launched in 2014, bringing an eclectic range of Korean artists and bands, from pop and rock to jazz and folk, and all the gradations between. Next Sunday Korean Pansori opera comes to Kings Place, while Park Jiha’s beguiling looped soundscapes come to Rich Mix on 17th October, and Kyungso Park returns to the Southbank with her zither-like gayageum and new band, SB Circle on 29 October.

Launching this year’s edition at the Purcell Room was the penetrating wall of sound that is Jambinai, more sheet metal than heavy metal, formed in Seoul in 2009 by guitarist and piri (oboe) player Ilwoo Lee, haegeum fiddle player Bomi Kim, and Eunyong Sim, player of the huge, trunk-like geomungo zither. They already have a following here: at 2014’s Glastonbury, a sparse crowd at the start of the set swelled into hundreds as their blend of post-rock noise and traditional Korean music turned passers-by into converts; and they were guests at Robert Smith’s Meltdown last year, by which time drummer Jaehyuk Choi and bassist B.K Yu have become members, recording with the original trio on this year’s Bella Union release, Onda. And here they were joined by yanggeum dulcimer player Hwiseon Choe.

The haegum and piri may have a look like exotic traditional instruments, fragile and sensitive, but their overpowering presence in terms of drone dynamics and bracing tonics is not to be underestimated; on entrance, audience members were offered earplugs, and the crescendos of sound worked up between the sawing of the haegum, Ilwoo Lee’s guitar, the peeling, keening piri and the bass and drums proves to be completely enveloping, an overpowering sonic experience that shuts out all else – even thoughts of Brexit – and has drawn a full house of strikingly disparate devotees of Jambinai’s elevating mix of white noise and quiet, lyrical acoustic beauty.

The opening "Sawtooth" – also the opener of their latest album, began with an exquisite duet between haegum and piri, before building angular, architectural structures with the geomungo zither and yanggeum dulcimer that abruptly explode into the kind of punishing post-rock time signatures and penetrating, all-consuming sheets of sound that strip the surface off everything and rattle the foundations as if it was jewellery.

The album’s title track, meaning "come" or "coming", began on gentle slopes but soon plunged off in what felt like a vast drop to the heart some thrillingly illuminated sonic cosmos, jets of white noise blasting off on a fuel of traditional and contemporary Korean rhythms that create their own gridlike architecture amid the seeming chaos. At the set’s end, a standing ovation. They’re touring through to 8 October, and if you’re in Canterbury, Manchester or Leeds, this unique and powerful Korean band is not to be missed.


The crescendos of sound worked up between them proves to be completely enveloping, an overpowering sonic experience that shuts out all else


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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