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3 stars It is said the second album is the most difficult to band specially if the first one has been promising. Maybe I am not the right person to make generalisations about this time music, but to me it seems itīs the third one today (I have also other examples of this). To me it seems, when band has found very personal style and started to get succeess, pressures to success increase from the outside (record company) or the inside (the band itself). When thinking this Jambinai new record, they may have been pressure to make decent Post-Rock record. I donīt believe the band leader Ilwoo Lee originally thought their music Post-Rock. Anyway they were put into that genre and to me the album sounds as Post-Rock record from the beginning instead just trying to make great music. On the other hand there are very typical Jambinai-elements and that new searching direction of the Hermitage hasnīt continued. Anyway after all this I have to say Jambinai has managed to make good record, although I was a little bit disappointed at first.

Album starts very great way and really acoustic in "Sawtooth". Ilwoo starts to play simple, beautiful melody with Piri, soon acoustic guitar and haegum join into it. Then other instruments join and song changes stronger, but the acoustic feeling stays almost the whole song, in the end there is electronic hard wall that is very typical to Jambinai. This song has grown a lot to me when I have listened it more. The next "Square Wave" is the hitsong of this album. The piece starts very rhythmic, both guitar and geomungo making saw- like chords into base of the drums. Soon starts beautiful female vocals, probably it is Bomi Kim who is singing. Song chorus is very beatiful in chamber echo production. Next "Event Horizon" is the least interesting instrumental piece. It includes Ministry-style uptempo noise and quiter pieces that reminds parts from the first album "Time Of Extinction" and second album "Echo Of Creation". Also "Sun. Tears. Red" is not my biggest favourites, but the rage of the song is really impressive, also I like the almost clean guitar parts in the end of it.

The second half of the album is much better than the first one. "In the Woods" is really sad masterpiece of this album. It starts with acoustic guitar and geomungo, but soon bells & electric guitar join. The song grows slowly, but stays acoustic. Guesting dramatic vocals of Bora Kim really fits this piece and the song carries all of itīs over13 minutes. "Small Consalation" starts very minimalistic with whispering vocals of Ilwoo Lee changing more typical, electronic Jambinai. Ending tittle song with itīs prelude is almost as great as "In the Woods". "Prelude" is totally acoustic, actual song starts very suprising after the calmness of prelude. Both Ilwoo & Bomi sign in this piece and in the end there are beautiful, chamber-echoed chorus.

I believe this album will be great introduction of Jambinai to all the Post-Rock -fans. After many listens it has also risen to the level of Differance to me. But I really miss the personality of Hermitage, also the lighter melodies in it. I really hope they will continue more the direction of "In the Woods" than "Sun. Tears. Red". To me this definitely is three stars album, although it may be four stars Post-rock -album. Afterall this really is one of the greatest albums of this year I have heard.

Report this review (#2231088)
Posted Sunday, June 16, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Jambinai is a Post Rock/Math Rock band from Seoul South Korea that mixes influences of post rock and traditional Korean music, using both rock instruments and traditional Korean instruments to create a unique sound. The band was founded in 2009 and has released one EP and 3 full length studio albums since 2010. They also played in the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremonies accompanied by a group of Korean zither players and made quite an impression. Koreans have had mixed feelings about this band because some are uncomfortable with the mixing of tradition and heavy rock, which only peaks my interest in the music even more. The fact that this band has broken the stale sound of the county's K-pop by producing this style of music shows their level of bravery in a culture that might shun them. But the music they make is intriguing, beautiful and sometimes quite harsh.

The band's 3rd album 'Onda' is Korean for 'come', or Spanish for 'wave'. This album, released in June of 2019, consists of 8 tracks and has a duration of over 50 minutes. The line up consists of Ilwoo Lee (guitars, piri, taepyeongao, saenghwang and vocals), Bomi Kim (yanggeum and vocals), Eunyong Sim (geomungo and vocals, Byenongkoo Yu (bass and chorus vocals) and Jaehyuk Choi (drums, chorus vocals). Other guest vocalists are also involved.

The album starts with 'Sawtooth'. This is an instrumental track that features the yanggeum, a type of hammered dulcimer. Atmospheric effects begin in an ambient style with some unique sounds of the Korean instruments. The bowed instrument increases it's sound and suddenly the drums, bass and guitar begin to accompany the featured instrument. The music has a definite lilting-folk flavor, but with the heavy attitude of post rock. Things calm down again before the 4 minute mark then more instruments bring in more atmospheric sounds before rapid percussive sounds drive things forward. The bass plays a throbbing bottom line when the dulcimer comes in, then a sudden outburst throws up a heavy wall of sound. This track has a lot of dynamic extremes.

Next is 'Square Wave' which starts as a dramatic riff generates tension and the lovely vocals begin and a bowed instrument plays a melody between 'verses'. Again, the folk vibe and the post rock sound mix together quite well as intensity is generated by a swirling instrumental break. Subdued vocals return against a heavy background that gives an almost orchestral effect. Later, full vocals come back in with crashing cymbals and a thick background. The next track is 'Event Horizon' in the English translation. This one begins heavy with layers of guitars and drums while on top of it, the bowed instrument swirls around. This suddenly becomes softer as several traditional instruments play together. These are interesting sounding string plucked instruments and it also sounds like a wind instrument is involved. Wordless vocals come in and the intensity builds up again until it reaches the full volume climax with the high pitched bowing making unsettling sounds on top of everything.

The next track (translated) is 'Sun. Tears. Red.' Harmoninzed processed vocals quietly sing while a thumping guitar plays. This gets interrupted by a sudden outburst that soon calms down and then introduces a complex rhythmic pattern as frantic sounding vocals sound out above it, building up anxiety until almost screaming before the instrumental wall takes over. The heavy rhythm continues as the music varies from extreme heaviness and screaming to softer sections. This track is supposed to reflect the fear of soldiers as they awaken to a new day and worry about whether the day will bring on their death. This music definitely portrays feelings of anxiety and anger. Very powerful.

The track that translates to 'In the Woods' is the longest track on the album at over 13 minutes. It starts off very much like a quiet post rock song with a lone soft guitar playing which later gets echoes by another guitar. This track features guest vocalist Bora Kim. The music remains soft and ambient, yet with the guitar melodies playing and atmospheric noises in the background. The music reflects the pain that the Earth is in because of the existence of environmental pollution. Before 4 minutes, a beautiful and lonely sounding horn-type instrument comes in and the bowed instrument comes in later. At five minutes, tortured vocals enhance the painful ambience that the music is portraying. Things intensify slowly as the instruments build their sounds. Layers of sound make quite a statement, then the drums start pounding signaling a climax, but instead the music calms again suddenly. After a minute, the bass starts to churn and the build begins again and grows quickly. The lovely, repetitive melody continues just barely over the top of this huge sound that has been generated as layers of music create another sound wall. At 10 minutes, things become extremely heavy and loud, sounding almost like being in a tornado. It levels out after 11 minutes, but the loudness continues as the wordless vocals sing the short riff. The background backs off and returns, then it all suddenly stops with just the basic instruments playing softly without drums finishes off the track.

'Samll Consolation' starts with a sparse guitar playing and subtle sounds in the background. Halfway through, there is a sudden explosion of sound as several layers of instruments play with a soft pounding slow rhythm. Then later, things suddenly become very intense as the music jumps to another extreme of heaviness. The mix of rock and tradition create quite a miasma of sound. 'ONDA Prelude' is a short track that brings in the title track. It is 2 minutes of distant, ambient musical sounds. 'ONDA' finishes off the album with the 7 minute title track. It begins with a sudden rattling percussion beat accented by the plucked instrument and beautiful and subdued vocals. A moderate driving rhythm pushes it all forward and sounds almost tribal. This track carries a more melodic feel as the vocal melody is a more traditional structure. After the vocals start, things get really interesting as the traditional instruments create unique textures and sound as the rhythm continues driving forward, pushing towards a climactic finish. A huge, dark wall springs up at 5 minutes while a choral vocal sings behind it all, creating one of the best climatic passages I have heard in post rock for quite some time. The track almost leaves you breathless as a drone brings it all back down to earth.

This album is quite amazing. This group takes the post rock formulas and practices and makes it all new. You get the extreme textures of post rock, with some track using the well-worn style of using crescendos to produce climatic passages, but Jambinai takes it all one step further by putting the unique Korean stamp on it by using a lot of traditional instruments that to people of Western cultures might find quite interesting and strangely beautiful. The addition of folk elements even make this more fascinating, creating sounds and music not heard in post rock before. Those of you who think you have heard everything in post rock music need to listen to this. In my mind, this is an essential album that I feel should influence post rock artists to explore and expand their boundaries. I love this sound and have no qualms giving this album 5 stars. Not once was I bored during this album as I was always anxious to hear what comes next. This is definitely one of the best of the year, especially for the post rock genre. Don't let the titles that are in Korean frighten you away. Everyone should give this one a listen.

Report this review (#2233565)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Empires have to fall for single stones to be piled up again.

While most Progressive music artists are turning dangerously close to white mainstream Pop-Rock music lyricism, this South Koreaīs band Jambinai: ONDA (2019), 8 track release, sets a distinctive tone and travels a road far less traveled, therefore for the listener it is full of unexpected surprises and this band sure makes these surprises exciting.

To set its geographic coordinates seems essential to understand why and how this albumīs sound stands outside the quiet cliched borderlines of modern Prog music and offers in retribution an unmistakable Asian flavor which seems to uncover a close but not unexpected kinship of unwritten musical agreements between Korean folk music canons and western Progressive musicīs Post Rock/Math Rockīs ones and even more the RiOīs ones.

As a matter of speaking but it would turn out inaccurate not to mention that its virtues go far way beyond this mixture of musical languages and instruments, or the Folk music turned into a Rock music exotic export product syndrome.

Ondaīs creative compositions are enticing by their own. The diversity of moods, musical ideas and craftmanship all add up for a thrilling 4 stars ride of an album, and yes people it rocks!

Report this review (#2237815)
Posted Friday, July 12, 2019 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Some of the most extraordinarily different prog rock that I've heard since I first heard Yoshimi P-W's OOIOO. This is Post Rock from Korea with its musicians proudly integrating the traditional instruments of their homeland with those of the rock'n'roll world.

1. "Sawtooth" (7:39) powerful Post Rock that opens with traditional Korean instruments, wind and stringed. These are joined, eventually, in the third minute, by drums and electric instruments from the more familiar realms of rock'n'roll, providing not one but two very impressive rise and falls over the course of the remaining five minutes. Despite this addition of full drum kit, electric bass, and aggressive electric guitar, it is the Korean instruments that remain the attention-grabbers, expressing very powerful emotions. Dynamic and refreshing Post Rock. A top three song. (14/15)

2. "Square Wave" (5:05) rock and traditional instruments are mixed from the start of this one as is the gorgeous, powerful DAM KAT-like voice of Bo-mi Kim. This is so good! Smooth chorus section at the end of the second minute and then a quiet, spacious, section, latent with potential energy, that is followed by an even more powerful instrumental section in the third and fourth minutes before the final crescendo of sound and ending verse in the final minute. The interplay of the electric rock instruments with the Korean acoustics is incredible! Awesome song! Definitely a top three for me. (9.5/10)

3. "사상의 지평선 (Event Horizon)" (3:55) opens in fifth gear with everybody strumming, beating, and screeching at their fastest and then, equally as suddenly, at the 1:00 mark, everything cuts out save for a bowed berimbau-like haegeum and hand drum/hand percussion. By the end of the second minute vocalist Eun-yong Sim (or Bo-mi Kim) is adding her voice to the weave until 2:41 when the electric contingent rejoins and it plays out like a Death Metal song. (8.75/10)

4. "검은 빛은 붉은 빛으로 (Sun. Tears. Red.)" (5:51) single note played syncopatedly from an electric guitar- or bass-like instrument opens this song before being joined by a choir of voices singing quietly in an almost prayer-like chant- kind of way. Amazing! At 1:35 all hell breaks loose as a heavy LEPROUS-like sound breaks out with vocal and Korean instrumental screeches over the top. Just before the two minute mark, this cuts out and a percussion-supported multi-voice, polylyric, polyrhythm section ensues. Wow! In the fourth minute the heavy walls of sound return for a bit but it is then broken up by alternating quick passages of multi-voice shouting and chanting (and intentionally not in unison). In the fifth minute the music steadies itself, not quite as heavy, as Korean violin solos, but then just before the 5:00 mark, the soundscape thickens and weighs down as a male voice screams his lyrics in two-syllable bursts to the end. Wow! I'm not sure how to judge this one! Unlike anything I've ever heard before! Amazing! Another top three song! (9.5/10)

5. "나무의 대화 (In the Woods)" (13:16) opens like a HYPNO5E song with delicate, spacious, almost folk instrumental inputs from all musicians. Even into the meat of the song, at the 3:30 mark, as Il-woo's saenghwang takes center stage and then gets replicated with several other tracks, the music still feels totally folk-traditional. Wild vocals enter in the sixth minute and then oboes. Drums and bass slowly climb in during the second half of the seventh minute, but then there is a calming break in which the saenghwang leads over haegeum, geomungo, and electric bass. Electric guitar joins in the eighth minute just before the pace and density ramps up. This is definitely Post Rock! At the ten minute mark heavily distorted electric guitars and bass begin providing typhoon-like wind noises as the drummer really starts to go crazy. "ooo" vocals repeat a melody from here to end. Nice song with a stunning beginning five minutes that becomes a little long and drawn out. (21.75/25)

6. "작은 위로가 있는 곳에 (Small Consolation)" (5:18) a single note from an oddly tuned electric guitar signals the start of Ilwoo Lee's almost-whispered voice. Over and over this occurs, like a Tibetan prayer cycle, until at 1:15 Bo-mi Kim's haegeum and Eun-yong Sim's geomungo begin to add their sounds behind and round the guitar and vocal/chanter. At 2:25 the full electric band comes crashing in with heavily strumming guitar, bass, and flailing cymbals and pulsing drums. The Korean strings continue their screechy soloing over and within until things go even fuller-dark at the end of the fourth minute. Then, suddenly, at 4:23, everything stops except for the original three plucked/bowed instruments, which then slowly fizzle and exit. (9/10)

7. "그대가 지내온 아픔들이 빛나는 축복의 별이 되어 (ONDA Prelude)" (2:18) drone of a single sustained electric bass note opens while traditional Korean mouth organ (saenghwang) plays a dirge-like tune over the top. Amazing instrument the way it can project two controlled notes at one time! (5/5)

8. 온다 (ONDA) (7:07) launches straight out of the "Prelude" with lots of hard-driving percussion and haegeum provide initial support for the slow, religious-sounding singing of Bomi Kim. Gorgeous! And powerful! Kim is then joined in chorus form by Ilwoo Lee. The music here reminds me of Middle Eastern prog like Ofra Haza. At 3:15, Bomi Kim switches to haegeum and Ilwoo to his bamboo oboe (pim) as the rhythm section continues to drive on at breakneck speed. The full metal impact of electric instruments reaches full strength at the five minute mark just as choral-singing of earlier slow religious lyric and melody ensue. This is, then, what plays out until cymbal crash at 6:35 and ensuing long decay of the feedback from the final strums of the electric guitar and bass. Amazing. I am numb and in humble shock with the power and beauty of this music. (15/15)

Total Time: 50:29

I feel so excited, so humbled and privileged, to have heard this music--to have continued access to it. Some of the instruments, sounds, stylings, and even melodies sound similar to Mongolian band ANDA UNION--though my untrained ear is most likely lumping all Sino-Korean sounds and melodies together.

A/five stars; a masterpiece of mind-blowing progressive rock music in which the band fuses the traditional instruments and melodies of its native cultural traditions with the best and most powerful of Post Rock techniques better that any other band that I've ever heard.

Report this review (#2302572)
Posted Monday, December 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The only thing I like better about "Onda" over their previous record "A Hermitage" is the cover art and pictures inside, in fact the whole package is so well done here. On 2016's "A Hermitage" they were a trio with a guest drummer and the guitarist played bass. On "Onda" they are now a five piece with them adding a full time bass player and drummer. Lots of ethnic instruments which certainly adds to the value here, just hearing sounds that are different and it's all in a Post-Rock style. I found "Onda" to be more experimental but not as heavy overall when compared to their previous album. I just connect to it better while this one has been a challenge. Some of these ethnic sounds are compared to a zither, a fiddle and one is a bamboo oboe. We still get lead guitar.

The one track that I did really like from the start was "Sun Tears Red" which could have been on "A Hermitage". That bass line as male vocals mumble away in Korean then a wall of sound from out of nowhere before 1 1/2 minutes as vocals step aside. It does settle back as vocals return but with more passion eventually. An all out assault before 3 minutes and I like when he screams over and over. Intense is the word. My favourite.

My second top three is the opener "Sawtooth" opening with that bamboo oboe as other sounds join in and cry out. A slow start but it's interesting. It kicks in with this heavy rhythm that sounds different with that ethnic instrument crying out. This sounds incredible. Post-Rock styled guitar at 3 1/2 minutes then a calm with those ethnic sounds. Some real heaviness and noise after 6 minutes then that heavy rhythm returns to end it. Nice.

Lastly the title track rounds out my top three. The 7 minute closer like the other two I like has some heaviness with ethnic sounds. I mean this sounds amazing early on as vocal melodies arrive. Heavier before 3 minutes then it settles back some. Strange sounds but I like it. We get crushed at 5 minutes with vocals over top but it settles some quickly.

This is a 4 star album but the longest track "In The Woods" at over 13 minutes is one I can't get into but most of this album works for my tastes. I'm glad to see this album here and on other sites is getting some attention as "A Hermitage" seemed to slip through the cracks which is a shame.

Report this review (#2872651)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2023 | Review Permalink

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