A Hermitage

(Bella Union)


To most Westerners, South Korean music exists in pretty one-dimensional terms; diabetes-inducing sugary dance tunes accompanied by bizarre videos of doe-eyed, surgically enhanced teen idols and/or certifiable nutcases. The lunacy of Psy’s 2014 hyper-mega-smash ‘Gangnam Style’ might have pushed the boundaries of K-pop, but Seoul-based trio Jambinai already exist well beyond them, operating at a weird intersection between traditional Korean folk, drone music and balls-to-the-wall metal; Lightning Bolt with bamboo flutes and zithers.

Few if any of Jambinai’s compatriots have mined this sort of territory before and this third LP is initially a bracing experience. Opener ‘Wardrobe’ wastes no time in stomping all over the listener with a phalanx of guitars, punishing drums and guttural wails before morphing into what sounds like a horror film climax at a graveyard. There are tranquil moments on the record too, though: ‘The Mountain’ and ‘For Everything That You Lost’ see guitar theatrics largely take a back seat to meditative keys and delicate Korean instrumentation. K-pop this most certainly is not.