South Korean trio Jambinai sound less like a band than a force of nature, fusing the full dramatic range of post-rock dynamics to Korean folk roots to create an exhilarating, vivid and unique fusion. A Hermitage is Jambinai's first album for Bella Union, recorded in M.O.L Studio in the South Korean capital Seoul, where the trio also made their 2010 EP Jambinai and 2012 album Différance. In Korean, Hermitage translates as ‘Eun-Seo': "it means person, or creature, who is hiding like a hermit, or undiscovered," explains Bomi Kim. "This connects to Jambinai because most people don't know us yet, or they cannot imagine how our type of music fits together."
Jambinai's instrumental music is colored by Kim's fiddle-like haegum, Ilwoo Lee's guitar and piri (a Korean flute made of bamboo) and Eun Youg Sim's geomungo, a Korean zither. A Hermitage starts as it means to continue with "Wardrobe"; at full force. "Many post-rock bands start albums by warming up," Lee ventures. "And mostly people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation. We want to break with all of that."
The inspiration for Jaminai's music follows suit, tapping the feelings of anger and isolation felt by a new generation suspicious of the conservative forces that seek to control them. "Deus Benedicat Tibi," for example, was inspired by the "Dae Chui Ta," a piece of Korean traditional martial music "written for the king when he marches down the street," Lee explains. "Nowadays, especially in Korea, many give up their dreams because life gets worse every day. We have the world's highest suicide rate. Our song expresses a person who overcomes all hardship and suffering. I dedicate this song to the people who live in pain, to say, ‘You are the king in your own life'."
"Abyss" is another high point, featuring Korean rapper Ignito in the album's only vocal. "I told Ignito to create some images when he listened to the music," says Lee. "He talks of the image of an abyss and his philosophy. Sometimes I don't understand what he says exactly but that allows me to create my own images."
Music this rousing and beautiful, rising and subsiding in epic fashion, will doubtless trigger a flood of intense or even apocalyptic images. Yet Jambinai also represent a positive force, resisting the old ways and reinventing the future. Come join their thrilling adventure.