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Archive for the ‘Min Jin Lee’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMBINAI-Différance (2012).

I am fairly stunned that I never posted about Jambinai at the Olympics in Korea in 2018.  Their performance of “Time of Extinction” blew me away and before the song was even over I was looking them up to find out more about them.

Jambinai blend traditional Korean instruments with rock instruments.  But not in a “we rock and want to bring in a flute” way.   The three main members met at Korea’s National University of Arts while studying traditioanl Korean music.  They wanted to play traditional music in an innovative way but in a way  that was very different from K-pop.  So their band consists of
Kim Bo-mi– haegeum;
Lee Il-woo – electric guitar, piri, taepyeongso, vocals
Sim Eun-yong – geomungo.

I had to look up what some of these instruments were, and here’s what I’ve got:

Geomungo (also spelled komungo or kŏmun’go) or hyeongeum (literally “black zither”) is a traditional Korean stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments with both bridges and frets.   It is generally played while seated on the floor. The strings are plucked with a short bamboo stick called suldae, which is held between the index and middle fingers of the right hand, while the left-hand presses on the strings. The most typical tuning of the open strings for the traditional Korean music is D#/Eb, G#/Ab, C, A#/Bb, A#/Bb, and A#/Bb an octave lower than the central tone.

In the video from the Olympics, the band is surrounded by dozens of geomungo players.

Haegeum (Hangul: 해금) is a traditional Korean string instrument, resembling a fiddle. It has a rodlike neck, a hollow wooden soundbox, and two silk strings, and is held vertically on the knee of the performer and played with a bow. It is one of the most widely used instruments in Korean music. Its range of expression is various despite having only two strings, with sounds ranging from sorrowful and sad to humorous.

Taepyeongso (lit. “big peace wind instrument”; also called hojokhojeok 호적 號笛/胡笛, nallari, or saenap, 嗩吶) is a Korean double reed wind instrument in the shawm or oboe family, probably descended from the Persian zurna and closely related to the Chinese suona. It has a conical wooden body with a metal mouthpiece and cup-shaped metal bell. It originated during the Goryeo period (918 – 1392).   The loud and piercing sound it produces has kept it confined mostly to Korean folk music (especially “farmer’s band music”) and to marching bands, the latter performed for royalty in the genre known as daechwita. It is, however, also used sparingly in other genres, including Confucian, Buddhist and Shamanist ritual musics and neo-traditional/fusion music.

Piri is a Korean double reed instrument, used in both the folk and classical (court) music of Korea. It is made of bamboo. Its large reed and cylindrical bore gives it a sound mellower than that of many other types of oboe.

Jambinai released this album in 2012 but reissued it in 2016 when they released their second album a Hermitage.

This nine-song (mostly) instrumental post-rock album is just astounding with the sounds they produce.

1. Time Of Extinction (2:56) opens with some quick riffage on the Geomungo.  After 20 second the roaring guitars and drums crash in.  Before a minute is up, the guitar falls back and a wondrous haegeum solo takes over amid the background rumbling.  It’s followed by some staccato thumps and full-on blasts of noise.  The taepyeongso mixes with feedback to create a wall of discord before it all crashes to a close.

2. Grace Kelly (3:20) opens with some fast acoustic sounding guitars before the whole song barrels forth with crashing noises and a taepyeongso solo.  That’s all in the first minute.  After which a quiet guitar and a vocal melody takes over.  I love that the vocal is buried under some effects so you can’t even really tell what language she’s singing in.  After a minute or so of this “rest,” the song just takes off again–forcing its way to the end with vocals moans that sound a bit like Robert Plant.  The ending crashing chords are pretty spectacular.
3. Glow Upon Closed Eyes (6:26) A quieter song, it starts with fading in and out noises and what may be reversed guitar sounds.  After a minute or so the geomungo comes in with some big notes that give the noises some context.  It stays relatively quiet for 5 minutes and then the end of the song bursts firth with martial drums and big guitars.
4. Paramita Pt. 1 (4:15)  The first part opens with rumbling noises and a slow riff on the geomungo.  Nearly the whole song works at this sort of tension building exercise with a brief moment of splashing cymbals and faster notes that slow once again.
5. Paramita Pt. 2 (4:21)  Part 2 slows things down a lot–just a geomungo thump and some sporadic notes on the haegeum.  It feels menacing and suspenseful–punctuated by deep bass notes that resound and linger.   The song unexpectedly explodes about two minutes in with a wall of noise punctuated by cymbals.
6. Hand Of Redemption (4:34) is a sonic blast of hardcore.  Screamed vocals are buried amid a wall of fast thumping drums and guitars.  After two minutes the taepyeongso and piri start adding noise and the thumping grows more mechanical.  The final minute takes away the industriaial sound but leaves all the high squealing notes punctuated by walls of bass and drums.   The end of the song thumps and feedback in to the next track.
7. Empty Pupil Pt. 1 (5:10) Continues with that feedback.  The feedback goes through several iterations as quiet chords are played and then allowed to feedback some more.  The rest of the song is full of other mechanical sounds–who even knows what–that fill in to a kind of noise drone.  The song ends with quiet guitar lines (I wonder if the song endings deliberate segue or if they were just stopped at the wrong time)
8. Empty Pupil Pt. 2 (4:39)  Part 2 further explores the quiet guitar with some cool creaking sounds from the geomungo before it starts playing a riff that ends with a big crash each time.   It picks up the tempo as the haegeum is introduced along with some acoustic guitar strumming but there is no climax to this song it just ends and fades.
9. Connection (9:37)  The final song is the one epic track on the disc.  It opens with a haegeum playing a quiet two note melody before some deep slow bass notes accompany it.  There’s also I think a vocal line (it’s hard to tell).  About four minutes in the haegeum starts playing a riff that is reminiscent of Sigur Rós.  It builds in beauty an intensity until the final notes fade out.
It’s a great way to end a great album.

Stream it on their bandcamp site.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Stonehenge”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

I enjoyed Min jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires quite a lot.  I had no idea that she was not born in America.  She came to New York from Seoul when she was seven, and her essay is fascinating for a couple of reasons.

First, she says that every day in the 1970s and 1980s it took her two hours to get from her home in Queens to the Bronx High School of Science.  She spent most of that commuter time reading Sinclair Lewis novels about America: Main Street, Babbitt, Dodsworth, Arrowsmith.

On weekends she worked with her family in their father’s store in Manhattan’ Koreatown.  The store was burgled several times and everyone in their family had been mugged at some point.

She notes that Sinclair Lewis wrote about white Midwesterners who struggled against materialism, corporate greed, fascism and narrow thinking.  She found it calming to read about these big ideas since her family life was so hectic.   The books also made her feel like she’d traveled even though she never did. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-Snakes and Arrows Live (2008).

Rush puts out a lot of live CDs. They started out back in the 70s by doing a live record after every four studio records. Then at some point they broke the pattern and just went nuts with the releases. The pro and con of a Rush live CD is that it sounds pretty much exactly the way the studio record does (because they are perfectionists, they duplicate the studio solos exactly). So, why get a live record? because it’s fun to hear them duplicate these sounds live! If that means nothing to you, then you’re probably not a musician. Anyway, their recent live shows have been a lot of fun because they have been really experimenting with their set list, playing some of their more obscure tracks that they haven’t played live in years.

This CD is no exception, and in fact, it may be my favorite live Rush release for three reasons: 1) They play “Entre Nous,” a wonderful song that I’ve never heard live. 2) They play “Natural Science” and “Witch Hunt” back to back…two of my favorite Rush songs ever. 3) They do NOT play “Working Man” or the first album medley that they have been playing for far too long to end their sets. Some other highlights: Neil changed his drum solo! I always thought that the whole point of the “solo,” aside from showing off how much you kick ass at your instrument, was to improvise something fun. Well, Neil Peart has been doing the same drum solo for something like five years. It was a song unto itself at this point. It was the only place I could think of where you’d see people air drumming to a solo, and actually doing it right. So, thankfully, that piece of percussive mayhem has been updated.

Two observations thought: 1) I feel that the sound of the album isn’t very good. It seems rather muddy to me. I’m not sure why exactly, but I expect better production from them. 2) And this is the most shocking observation: the songs are SLOWER than on the record, or on any other live instance. Some songs aren’t that noticeable, but there are several where the tempo is clearly not as speedy. I suppose this makes sense since the fellows aren’t young any more, and I suppose it also allows Geddy to keep his voice from having to reach the super high notes of years ago (his voice sounds great by the way), but for a band that never changes anything, it’s quite a shock!

Incidentally, I also just listened to the Pearl Jam Live at the Gorge CD right after the Rush one and it is amazing how different two bands could be live. There’s not a missed note or a flub or, really, anything unscripted on the Rush set. I don’t think there are any overdubs, but it’s pretty much perfect. Whereas on the Pearl Jam set, they are so casual, so mellow, and clearly having so much fun (not that Rush isn’t having fun, it’s just a different kind of fun). And, of course, there are major screw ups on the Pearl Jam set. The third song is completely flubbed. On “Betterman,” a song they must have played hundreds if not thousands of times, someone, I assume Eddie Vedder hits a terribly wrong note at the end of the soft introduction. And then he mocks himself for not practicing. Very funny, very good natured.

Of the two, I don’t really have a preference, but it’s nice to have the two styles to choose from.

[READ: May 22, 2008] Free Food for Millionaires.

I found out about this book when a patron asked me to put it on hold. It was totally a case of judging a book by its title. And I didn’t know if it was fiction or non-fiction, but I wanted to see what it was about. So, I read the blurb, and it is a novel which follows the life of a young Korean woman as she struggles to make her way in New York City. (more…)

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