New Audio: Introducing the Heavy, Prog Rock-Leaning Sounds of South Korea’s Jambinai

With the release of their 2010 self-titled EP and their 2012 full-length debut Differance, South Korean trio Jambinai, comprised of   Bongi Kim (haegum — a Korean fiddle-like instrument), Ilwoo Lee (guitar and piri — a Korean flute, made of bamboo) and Eun Young Sim (geomungo, a Korean zither), the trio have developed a rapidly growing national and international reputation for an intense, adventurous, headbanging worthy take on traditional Korean instrumental music. As the story goes, the trio met while studying traditional music at Korea National University of Arts, and they quickly bonded over a desire to present traditional music in a new way, “to communicate with the ordinary person, who doesn’t listen to Korean traditional music,” as the band’s principle composer and writer Ilwoo explains in press notes. Interestingly, Jambinai’s approach eschews several generations of Korean modernists and post-modernists, who Lee notes have based their sound and approach around Western classical music, jazz, jazz fusion to create a prog rock/experimental rock sound.

And while shocking Korean audiences, the trio have also been critically and commercially successful as their full-length Differance was nominated for Best Crossover Album and Best Jazz and Crossover Performance at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, and won Best Crossover Album — and as a result, the band used the album’s success as a springboard for several international tours as a quintet featuring  Jihoon Ok (bass) and Jae Hyuk Choi (drums) that have seen praise from a number of major Western outlets including The Guardian and others.

A Hermitage, the trio’s forthcoming sophomore effort and Bella Union Records debut is slated for a June 17 release, and the album’s latest single “They Keep Silence” is a tense, throbbing and furious song full of angular and stabbing chords paired layers upon layers of feedback and distortion in a composition that consists of downtuned and punishing power chord-heavy sections and brief and quite sections of respite and introspection. Sonically, the song sounds as though it draws from Tool and Ministry  — or simply put it kicks ass, takes names and kicks more ass just to ensure that you got the point. In fact, the song seems to tape into a universal feeling of anger and isolation of people, who are growing both impatient and suspicious of the forces that are controlling and influencing their daily lives.