Salamanda: “Cute and silly memes take up most of our communications. Same goes for music”

Korea’s most whimsical ambient duo are shouting out to all their fellow NFPs

Uman Therma (aka Sala) and Yetsuby (aka Manda) have a clear connection. You can hear that in the fresh and whimsical ambient music they make together. Meeting around five years ago in Seoul, they’ve now made four albums, countless mixes, and have toured internationally while expanding the scope of their sound. Each new project is brighter and more inventive. So what is it that makes their partnership so strong?

“We don’t know if this has been a thing in other countries as well, but people here in Korea are obsessed over the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [a questionnaire-based ‘personality test’], including ourselves,” they say, in joint messages sent to me via email due to the language barrier. “We learned that we share the same type: INFP (or ENFP at times for Manda), indicating that we share curious, caring, imaginative and open-minded traits. Don’t tell others but seriously NFPs are the best.”

The bottom of their message reads ‘NFPs are the Best!’ written in rainbow bubble writing. It’s in keeping with the playful approach they take musically. I’m curious whether that feeling is something they have to search for, or if it comes easy.

“We guess it’s natural for both of us. We never really ‘try’ to be playful, but we just love having fun! In fact, cute and silly memes take up most of our communications. Same goes for music. We do partially make music for work, but producing music itself has always been about having fun.”

Salamanda make music built on small moments: making homemade jam; the sun on your skin; the knock of a piano mallet on wood. Sweet melodic phrases play off a dreamy and melancholic backdrop as thoughts drift in and out. Their new record, In Parallel, released on K-Lone and Facta’s Wisdom Teeth, opens with the sound of children playing, on a track called ‘Nostalgia’.

 “It was more about us feeling a bit nostalgic from the sounds that we used – the playground noise and children laughing sound samples and the antique melodies that we played unintentionally – than us being inspired by old memories.

“We approach sound samples simply as audio with certain sounds and later think about their origin. It’s quite fascinating to think about how these noises or sounds that you can easily hear in your daily life can become perfect materials for music that sometimes stirs something in your heart.”

There’s a cliche that’s thankfully fading about ambient music being sonic wallpaper; yet we’re in a golden age for acts bucking that trend by incorporating weird or jarring elements into their tracks. Salamanda do exactly that.

“We love weird and strange sounds even if they aren’t musical, as they can be fresh and intriguing,” they say. “At the same time, we like using the mallet instruments and the sounds of percussive instruments. Because we enjoy and are used to listening to and searching for those sounds a lot, they naturally seep into the tracks we create.”

Detached from their original context, Salamanda’s found sounds can become surreal dreamscapes. On ‘Mysterious Wedding’, Manda happened to witness and record the sounds of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.


“The ceremony itself was also very unique, with a married couple and their families following behind the instrumentalists and monks as they walked around the temple courtyard as the music played, then entering the temple.” they say. “Because the musical scale used in the ceremony music was different from the traditional ones in Korea, it felt mysterious and exotic.”

I’ve caught Salamanda while they’re back in Seoul after a touring stint. “It feels nice to be back with our friends, family and cats,” they say. Now, they prepare more live shows, armed with a more spritely and near-danceable collection of songs. Salamanda has thus far left their dance excursions for their excellent mixes for NTS or HÖR, but In Parallel sees this side of them mingling with softer, more expansive moments.

I ask what they’ve enjoyed about touring most, expecting to hear about the Berlin club scene or a particularly fun set. Instead, it’s a long wait at Minneapolis Airport.

“We were on our way to Montréal to perform at MUTEK, and because we missed our connecting flight due to the long queue at the immigration we had to stay at the airport for 24 hours to take the same flight the next day. We were basically Tom Hanks from the film The Terminal. It was an unusual experience but we somehow managed to make it enjoyable, and this will definitely stay in our memory for a long time.”