Genre-defying is a term thrown around a lot these days, but South Korean post-rock trio Jambinai aren’t far off. Signed to Bella Union, the band sit amongst a wealth of future-proof artists and still manage to stand alone in their sonic explorations. They make music that challenges and astounds in equal measure – a bubbling fusion of tradition and modernity rooted in Korean folk music and aggressive, brooding rock. Originally released back in February 2012, Jambinai’s apocalyptic debut album Differance is now getting its first airing outside of South Korea with a worldwide reissue.
Although they rely on usual fixtures like guitars, drums and laptops – Jambinai like to utilise more obscure Eastern instruments to forge their complex sound. Eun Youg Sim plays the Geomungo (like a zither) which provides a harsh pronged shudder and is used as the starting point for most tracks. As well as his fender telecaster, band leader Ilwoo Lee plays a kind of bamboo flute called the Piri, which he uses in synergy with Kim’s Haugum (a big violin thing) and produces the most eerie wailing sound.
Apart from a track titled ‘Grace Kelly’, Differance has absolutely nothing to do with MIKA . It’s the antithesis of bubblegum pop, more like a particularly frantic Hitchcockian scene where violins are sacrificed and guitars are maimed. ‘Hand Of Redemption’ is probably as hardcore as it gets, a high-octane pummelling, with the albums only real vocal inclusion. As Lee screams and splutters, Youg Sim’s Geomungo chugs a repetitive metal riff, jarring with the other instruments like bagpipes being sucked into black hole. Jambinai’s use of odd instrumentation is most enjoyable in the track ‘Glow Uppon/Closed Eyes’, a ghostly slow-builder which builds toward an epic Mogwai-like climax.
Much like Deafheaven’s seminal 2013 album Sunbather, Differance plays out with varying degrees of intensity and beauty, juxtaposed in a jarring, cusp-of-death type atmosphere. The album’s landscapes are industrial and cold, but never set in stone, constantly shaped into something free of predictability. Two-parters ‘Paramita’ and ‘Empty Pupil’ allow for some form and structure to the wild splays of noise. But they are still haunting experimental soundscapes that conjure feelings of dread and anticipation.
‘Connect’ ends the album with a noirish, spacious vision. It begins with placid experimentalism, twanging and prodding its way around the ambience, before sweeping into a grand goodbye of Sigur Ros proportions. Differance is an eclectic crossover album that plays on its distant folk roots with a keen eye for experimentation. It’s post-rock, but not as we know it.
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