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Post Rock/Math rock • Korea

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Jambinai biography
Founded in Seoul, South Korea in 2009

JAMBINAI (잠비나이) are an experimental South Korean post rock band that mix Korean traditional and folk music (gugak) with post/avant rock/metal, using both traditional rock instruments (drums, bass guitar, electric guitar) and traditional Korean instruments (haegeum, piri, geomungo). Their blending of genres have garnered almost as much resentment from Korean traditional musicians as their music has received praise from critics and fans.

The band was founded after the three core members - Ilwoo LEE (guitar and piri (bamboo oboe)), Eunyoung SIM (geomungo (zither)) and Bomi KIM (haegum (fiddle-like instrument)) - met in 2009 at Korea's National University of Arts while studying traditional Korean music, and again, after graduation, after attending a mutual friend's concert. They started talking about Korean traditional music, and soon after they founded JAMBINAI, with the aim of presenting gugak in the contemporary music scene, and in part as a reaction to the growing popularity of generic K-Pop.

In 2011, they released a three song self-titled EP through GMC Records. During the summer of 2011, the band performed at the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival. Then, in November, they came in second place, and won the "Jury Prize", at the EBS Hello Rookie Final. The following year they released their full length album debut, "Différance", which led them to win "Best Crossover Album" and nomination for "Best Jazz & Crossover Performance" at the 2013 Korean Music Awards.

The next three years the band, as a quintet with touring members DOKYO 13 (bass) and Mounghoon RYU (drums), toured South Korea, Europe, Brazil and the US, including performances at major international festivals such as the World Village Festival in Finland, Cena Contemporanea in Brazil, WOMEX in Wales, and the Oslo World Music Festival in Norway.

In 2016 they released their sophomore album, "A Hermitage (隱棲은서)".

Highly recommended to fans of NINE INCH NAILS, SWANS and GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, and to those in search of truly original and innovative post rock.

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Bella Union 2019
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A HermitageA Hermitage
Bella Union 2016
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$27.67 (used)
Imports 2012
$68.17 (used)
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JAMBINAI discography

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JAMBINAI top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 4 ratings
4.00 | 8 ratings
A Hermitage (隱棲은서)
4.20 | 4 ratings

JAMBINAI Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

JAMBINAI Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

JAMBINAI Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

JAMBINAI Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.09 | 2 ratings
잠비나이 (Jambinai)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 잠비나이 (Jambinai) by JAMBINAI album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
4.09 | 2 ratings

잠비나이 (Jambinai)
Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mortte

4 stars This self-titled e.p. was the first release of Jambinai. It lasts over 35 minutes, so it could have been also an album. I think it was really great thing that in this very 'we put music in boxes and all the music outside our box is nothing' -times hard-core punk label GMC-records released this great piece. It's really hard to find anywhere these days, but have to say to all Jambinai-fans it has only one piece that's not into any other Jambinai release in any form. These times Jambinai had only it's three core members and they played everything in this release. Only Bora Kim was doing some quest vocals in one piece.

The first piece, that is translated into 'From Fingertips To Fingertips' is the only piece in Jambinai's discography, that's only in this release. It starts with the synth playing one chord that last the whole piece. Soon all the players start quietly improvise great melodies with piri, xylophone, haegum, geomungo & acoustic guitar. Piece is very calm & beautiful, but playing intensity rises towards the end. The next 'Iban' is re-recorded and re- named into 'A Hermitage' as 'Naburak'. The arrangement is almost the same, there are only some different guitar parts. Anyway I really enjoy also this version. The last piece is same as 'In the Woods' in 'ONDA', but also different recording. In progarchives sites this has translated different, but to me Korean alphabets seem to same. Also in this the arrangement is almost the same, Bora Kim's vocals are as dramatic, but has put lot more back. Anyway with the haunting echo it makes really great effect into this great piece. Also there are different electro noise in the end, some spoken words that are not into album version. Hard to say also about this which I love more.

This release is not really essential to others than Jambinai fans. Anyway I will give it four stars, because it already showed how great band Jambinai was from the beginning. I really hope there will come a vinyl version some day.

 ONDA by JAMBINAI album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.20 | 4 ratings

Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

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 Korea´s 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 album´s 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 music´s Post Rock/Math Rock´s ones and even more the RiO´s 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.

Onda´s 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!

 ONDA by JAMBINAI album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.20 | 4 ratings

Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

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.

 ONDA by JAMBINAI album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.20 | 4 ratings

Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mortte

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 it´s 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 don´t 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 hasn´t 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 it´s over13 minutes. "Small Consalation" starts very minimalistic with whispering vocals of Ilwoo Lee changing more typical, electronic Jambinai. Ending tittle song with it´s 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.

 Différance by JAMBINAI album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.46 | 4 ratings

Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mortte

3 stars Jambinai was a really promising band, when I got this their first album after their concert in Finland. And the promises fullfilled in their next "a Hermitage"! I am not an expert of postrock, but I believe this first is more the style of that genre than the second one. Of course here are too those Korean instruments to make this more interesting. This album also includes one of their greatest songs "Connection". Ilwoo had told in Finland´s first gig, that there were many years, when North and South Korean relatives couldn´t meet each other. Some years ago this was again possible and then Jambinai decided to compose this instrumental song about that.

"Time Of Extinction" starts with Eynyong playing a riff in Geomungo. Soon there comes really heavy beat back of it, but also soon the song changes acoustic but keeps its` very depressive feeling in the end of it. Next "Grace Kelly" starts with acoustic guitar and then comes really Ministry-like uptempo electric musicwall. Soon there´s just mystical guitar and ladies of the band singing something very dark. Song ends into same uptempo part. The next "Glow Upon Closed Eyes" is opposite of previous song, it´s mostly acoustic and reminds the ambient songs of Pink Floyd. Both Paramita´s have same structure: quiet acoustic background growing tension that outbursts into end of piece. "Hand Of Redemption" is again uptempo Ministry-like piece that slows into end of it, but stays very depressive. Empty Pupil pt.1 starts with electric noise, but slowly changes acoustic towards it´s part 2. When Geomungo starts it´s riffs, there come also hard beats and songs intensity grows again. The Last "Connection" is the crown of this album: it starts really serene, then comes short electronic sound and after that Bomi starts to play a beautiful melody with her Haegum. Ilwoo joins her with the Piri, also guitar starts to play really beautiful chords into back of the main melody. The song grows really great way. This song moves me always when I hear it!

This first album was really hard to find anywhere soon after it´s release, but gladly there has been made re-releases with different cover that seem to be available at least in Discogs. In my first Jambinai review I forgot to mention that I believe many King Crimson fans will like Jambinai, specially the ones who like KC after seventies material. Both bands have same kind of dynamic changes, from very heavy to really sensitive. This album sounds still so great that I really would wanted to give it also four stars, but because a Hermitage is so much better, I give it only three.

 A Hermitage (隱棲은서) by JAMBINAI album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 8 ratings

A Hermitage (隱棲은서)
Jambinai Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mortte

4 stars This album was one of my highlights in 2016! I am not a postrock fan at all, but Jambinai is a great exception. I think the reason is, that I believe the bands leader Ilwoo Lee is not trying to do postrock, I think he just wants to do great music. Also of course the traditional Korean instruments make their sound very personal. To me Piri is not sounding oboe at all, it has much more higher sound. Also Haegum is more like rebab, geomungo looks like some bass kantele, but has really own sound. Also I believe the warm production is one reason, why I like this album so much, in "They Keep Silence"-video it looks, they´ve used analog equipments in recording. Jambinai`s music is mostly instrumental, but there are also few sung and spoken songs.

Jambinai played their first outside Korean gig in Finland, World Village-festival 2013. To my shame I wasn´t there, but I was really glad my friend brought me their first album there. In 2016 I noticed they´ve released this album. Then another friend told me, they were performing Modern Sky-festival in Finland. Then I didn´t miss that memorable gig.

Starting piece "Wardrope" in Hermitage really hits listeners face. It hammers 7/8 rhythm straight to the head and Ilwoo screams the vocals. "Echo Of Creation" starts also with very hard beats, but soon there are only two guitar notes repeating and Ilwoo and Eynyoug start to hymn very sad melody. The song grows into end. The next "the Everything that you lost" starts again with four repeating guitar notes, then Ilwoo starts to play piri and piano also joins. This song also grows in a very great way and stays very beautiful. "Abyss" is again very cruel piece, there non-band member Ignito saying spoken words. It´s shame lyrics are not translated into English, but it´s not hard to me imagine Ignitos is telling death sentence to me or someone else.

The very harsh feeling continues into next "Deus Benedicat Tibi", but just when you are thinking the end chaos is too much for you, you hear great, sad melody played by acoustic guitar, when "The Mountain" starts. It´s really a masterpiece of this album, Haegum starts soon repeat same sad melody when guitars and geomungo develop the melody same time. "Naburak" returns to the cruel side of the album, but it´s more acoustic than other heavy pieces. In the end of it there is silent part, where Haegum sounds like Rick Wright ´s organ in Pink Floyd silent psychedelic parts. In this song it was really great to see how Eunyoug gives geomungo a ride making also interesting sounds, just like guitar heroes have done to guitars. Don´t have no idea, how this instrument is played in Korean traditional music. Album ends really great way in "They Keep Silence" which has the most hitpotential in this album, although it´s just too dark to the world´s hitlists. In this song Ilwoo sings very chill way.

Really recommend Jambinai to the people who likes Pink Floyd and Ministry. I can´t listen whole Ministry album through, but in this Jambinai album those really heavy and really sensitive parts are in a very great balance. I think this great, original band really deserves much more attention in this today´s world, where too many musicmakers haven´t got courage to take risks to go outside their music genre. Last year I could have given this five stars, but because I wait this band to make their masterpiece in next album, I give now four.

Thanks to The Bearded Bard for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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