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Jambinai - ONDA CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.96 | 49 ratings

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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.

TCat | 5/5 |


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