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Jambinai builds postrock’s future with instruments from Korea’s past

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Last year Ilwoo Lee, guitarist and principal songwriter for Seoul postrock group Jambinai, told Noisey that “many Korean people don’t listen to traditional Korean music and they don’t respect Korean traditional culture.” Having studied music at the country’s National University of Arts, he’d been exposed to historically important forms in which few people his age had any interest. In 2009, Lee, who’s also a champion of the bamboo flute known as a piri, formed Jambinai with two like-minded students: Bomi Kim performs with a two-stringed fiddle-like instrument called a haegeum, while Eunyong Sim prefers the geomungo, which is part of the zither family and is typically played while it’s resting flat on the ground. The threesome’s intention has been to bring their cultural history to the present, and in doing so they’ve sketched out some potential new paths for postrock. On their debut full-length, Differance, now available on vinyl outside of South Korea thanks to Bella Union, Jambinai use Korean strings to instill both a sharp sense of dread and a majesty reminiscent of a new dawn—and with those folk instruments they’re able to keep their atmospheric songs grounded rather than watch them disintegrate at a moment’s notice. The powerful, sweeping “Connection” shows that Jambinai know how to wrestle beauty out of what many of their peers had written off as relics.   v

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