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Archive for the ‘Korea’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Vein (2006/2013).

Boris continues to reissue their back catalog in streaming format.  Which is pretty amazing since so much of their work is so hard to find.  Possibly not great for collectors, but great for those of us who actually want to hear the music.

Vein is Boris’ thirteenth album.  Because they are Boris, the released two different albums under the same title in 2006.  The packaging was identical on both records and the only way to tell them apart was to check out the surface of the vinyl itself.

The “Hardcore version” had punk, hardcore, and drone.with vocals that are screamed rather than sung.  The  “Noise version” had drone and noise music as well as punk. This version of the album does not include any vocals.

In 2013, the band announced that the album would be released as a 2-CD set not as a reissue, but rather a re-arrangement of both albums combined.

Given all of this, it’s not even entirely clear to me what has been released her on bandcamp.  But it seems like the first two tracks (here labeled “v” and “e” are the hardcore version.  The third and fourth tracks “i” and “n” are a little harder to place.

“v” is 14 minutes long, broken up into several small pieces:

It starts with a wall of noise–static and low feedback swirling and manipulated until 4.01 when it segues into segues into ringing bells and effects that sound like a jet taking off and broken glass swirling and zipping around.   Then some drums and chords are introduced.   At 6:15, there’s a samples from the 1979 film Stalker, by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. A man says “И пусть посмеются над своими страстями” (Russian for “Let them laugh at their own passions”) followed by a blistering hardcore song  until 7:52.  After an abrupt halt comes the next screaming hardcore song which is more fuzz than chords with screams and feedback which at 9:06 segues into another super fast song which is distinguished from the others because of a riff where the chords go up and up higher and higher and faster as if they are going to explode, although it rumbles unto feedback at around 10:24 when a new tone of fuzzy nose feedback and a much slower introductory opens before before the pummeling hardcore resumes until 12:03.  This first song ends with a moment of silence and then a woman saying “unpleasant dreams” before a Wata fast high note solo is balanced by slow pummeling chords and drums and cymbals. After a minute or so, the hardcore returns this time with a solo all over the top of the song.  The song ends with a humming and what sounds like car keys jingling

“e” is over 15 minutes long and is one third hardcore punk and two thirds slow lengthy drone.  It starts with an Atsuo scream and hardcore drums. There’s a blistering hardcore song–fast riffage and screamed lyrics (which I assume are in Japanese).  Although the hardcore songs sound similar (and are unnamed) the riffs are distinctive enough to tell them apart.  Some backwards masked sounds come in at 1:05 and a similar riff at 1:15.  I have never seen them play this kind of set–it must be exhausting.  At 2.01 a loud bass comes in with a lot of cymbals and the song is buried under a blanket of distortion.  two minute song starts with.  At 3:04 a buzzsaw sound and a cool riff is coupled with some intense screaming.  At 4:45 it morphs into feedback that contains another sample from an Andrei Tarkovsky film, this time the 1986 film, The Sacrifice.  A man say “I hela mitt liv har jag väntat på det här. Hela mitt liv har varit en enda väntan på det här.” (Swedish for “All my life I’ve been waiting for this. My whole life has been a long wait for this.”)  The rest of the song feels like it might stay a lengthy drone, but at 5:46 after some cracks of the snare, a slow powerful Boris riff emerges.  But the riff dies away for some slow Wata soloing over droning chords.

Track 3 is probably the “noise version” (which is 17 minutes long) or the 2013 re-release (which is 17:25) but this track is 18:04.  Of course, if the “noise” version has no vocals, it can’t be this because it does have vocals.

It opens with a similar kind of noise that opens “v” but more staticky and with distant riffing going on.  At 1:58 a riff comes in.  The songs are like “v.”  A shorter version of the jet sounds are followed by some slow heavy chords.   At 3.22 there’s some chirping feedback that introduces the first hardcore song in “v.”  At 5.22 [#4 above] segues into a scream-filled hardcore song followed at 6:14 by the riff that goes higher and higher.  At 7:36, there’s slow thumping with noise and feedback (this might be new and not on “v”) then a sudden drop off of sound and near silence before the screeching feedback that starts at 8:39 with a blistering hardcore song that sounds unlike anything before. There’s heavy fast riffing with a pause and a big scream before resuming.  At 11:50, warping sounds and a thundering drum compete with a really fast riff which sounds like the first part of “e.”  At 13:05 song 2 from “e” begins–short, fast and loud.  Then at 13:51 comes track 4 from “e” (there’s no track 3) with the buzzsaw opening. At 15.21 there’s some backwards recording which eventually becomes the guitar solo that ended “v,” although this time it’s just under 3 minutes long.

Track 4 is “n.”  Perhaps it’s the “noise version” as there are no words.    It’s 17:59 and is a noisy composition of drone and feedback.  There’s some heavy chords and some quieter moments.  The high soaring notes seem to fit in very nicely with the sludgy bottom parts.  About half way through it turns into a fast, heavy hardcoreish track with a lot of drums, but buried under a wall of feedback and distortion.

[READ: November 12, 2020] The Little Buddhist Monk

The Little Buddhist Monk (written 2005) has been bundled with The Proof (written 1989) into one book.  Both stories were translated by Nick Caistor.

The Little Buddhist Monk is an absolutely bizarre, borderline stream of consciousness story.  It jumps from topic to topic like a fever dream and resolves itself in an even more unexpected way.

The story opens with us meeting the little monk who would very much like to leave Korea (where he was born and where he studied). But he has no money and no reasonable expectation for ever emigrating.  

Then one day a French photographer, Napoleon Chirac, and his wife Jacqueline Bloodymary (!) happened in his path.  They were on vacation and spoke French to each other.  The monk knew French and joined in the conversation.  They were delighted to meet a fellow French speaker in such a foreign land.  He imagined that they could be his ticket out of Korea.  So he decided to help them throughout the day.

They talk a lot about art.  Napoleon photographs empty rooms with a 360 degree camera and then splices it together as one image.  He has traveled the world filming places and he is looking to do a Korean monastery.  What luck, the monk can take them to a good one. (more…)

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50093048._SX318_SY475_SOUNDTRACK: COREYAH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #41 (June 30, 2020).

Watching Korean bands mix traditional and modern instruments is really cool.  Korean traditional instruments (like the geomungo) are really quite unlike anything the West has produced so I love seeing them in action.  But merging them with electric guitar (and plastic hand clappers) makes for such an interesting juxtaposition.

This week we’ll publish four Tiny Desk (home) concerts from around the world. We begin in South Korea.  Today [is] the music of Coreyah. According to the band, the name represents “inheritance,” and that’s evident in the way this six-piece presents old or traditional Korean music with a modern twist.

If you’re going to mix up such disparate elements you can pretty much do anything.

It’s an uninhibited vision of Korean traditional music with some psychedelic rock, Balkan gypsy, even sounds from South America and Africa. You’ll see and hear instruments including the daegeum, a large bamboo flute and geomungo, a large Korean zither that lays on the floor.

When translated into Hangul, the Korean alphabet, Coreyah means “whale,” which is the group’s good luck charm. The music was recorded in the band’s music studio in Seoul, with COVID-19 shutting down most of the country. Strict social distancing is still ongoing in South Korea, though they are streaming their concerts to fans.

And just a note from the band: The geomungo player in this video is Park Dawool, as Coreyah member Na Sunjin was forced to miss this recording due to a personal emergency.

“Till the Dawn” features some great flute playing from Kim Dong Kun on the tungso.  There’s a heavy riff on the geomungo from Park Dawool while Kim Cho Rong plays the double headed drums.   Kyungyi  play a more stanadrd-looking drumkitm but it is hardly typical.  I really like the instrumental break that is just flute and geomungo.

For “Yellow Flower” Ko Jaehyeon plays jagged guitar chords accented with flute.  This song is quieter and singer Ham Boyoung has some kind of device that she is holding, but I can’t tell its purpose.

For the final song, “Good Dreams” percussionist Kim Cho Rong moves to the front to play the chulhyungeum which turns out to be like a slide guitar geomungo.

I could watch them play all day.

[READ: July 2, 2020] Weird Al: Seriously

I had been seeing ads for this book in my Instagram feed for months.  So I decided to finally check it out.

Back in the day, I used to really enjoy reading academic books about non-academic subjects.  There was a whole series of “The Philosophy of” various pop culture things that was fun.  It often seems like these books overthink their subjects. Not that the subjects aren’t doing the things that the authors suggest, but I do have to wonder if the authors see a lot more than the subjects do.

That certainly feels true here.  I’m not saying that Al doesn’t think about race or gender when he writes songs, just that he probably thinks “this will be funny” a lot more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TXT (투모로우바이투게더) ‘Cat & Dog’ (2019).

Because this book is about cats and dogs, I was going to put “Cats & Dogs” from The Head and The Heart as this song.  Bit when I searched for “Cats & Dogs” the first video was for this song.  And any band whose name is in a language I can’t read will certainly get posted here.

In fact, I didn’t even realize they were called “TXT” I thought it was something to do with text messaging.

Turns out TXT stands for Tomorrow X Together.  Of course.

The video starts with five cute boys running to the a window and looking out on a cartoon world.  It seemed like The Monkees.

So I was quite surprised when the song started with heavy bass and auto-tuned and I realized that duh, this must be a K-pop band.

I assumed I’d heard of all of the popular K-Pop bands by now (how many could there be?), but here’s one I’d not heard of.  Nevertheless. this song has over 47 million views.

I really don’t know how to talk about K-Pop.

The five of them are adorable and pretty much identical (hair color being the distinguishing factor).  They all seem to dance well (in the heavily edited sequences).  All of their voices are auto-tuned so who knows if they can sing.  They are also singing in at least two languages, so who knows what they are singing.

I assume the language I can’t understand is Korean, although it sounded to me like Spanish at one point (which seems very unlikely).

There’s a repeated refrain of someone gong “brrrp brrrp brrrp” which is a weird but catchy hook for all languages.  I assume that none of the boys’ voices can possibly go deep enough t make that sound.

Apparently, this song has something to do with cats and dogs because there are meows and barks in the song (and in the video they do lots of synchronized cat and dog ear movements).

I’m kind of curious what the chorus actually says–are they saying the word “Pet” or is a Korean word?

At the end he sings I just wanna be your dog, but not in any way like Iggy Pop.

Sometimes it’s fun to dive into music you don’t ever experience.

[READ: February 6, 2020] Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur

I really enjoyed the first Kitten Construction Company book.  I loved the premise–not that the kittens were good at building things–but that no one took them seriously because they were so cute.  It allowed for a lot of funny frustrations from our feline friends.

Well, now the city of Mewberg has fully accepted the Kitten Construction Company. They have built a new stadium with updated energy efficiencies and plumbing.

There’s a nice joke that while accepting the adulation for this stadium, architect Marmalade can’t help but knock the microphone stand off the podium.  I only wish that Green had drawn it to look more deliberate–that would have been a lot funnier.  Instead it almost seems like an accident. (more…)

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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: ANGEL OLSEN-“Give It Up” (Field Recordings, January 6, 2017).

Angel Olsen has a rough, gritty un-angelic voice.  But it’s a powerful voice  And the church [Watch Angel Olsen Perform In A Bronx Church] makes it sound even bigger and more powerful than it normally does.

It was raining in New York on Nov. 9, 2016, and New Yorkers, tired as the rest of the country from a late night after a long election season, walked about in a fog of their own. The sky was still overcast when we met Angel Olsen at the Fordham University Church, an 1845 New York City landmark whose carillon is said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” There, wearing a green raincoat and accompanying herself on electric guitar, she sang “Give It Up,” from her excellent 2016 release My Woman.

Even though she sounds in great voice (and guitar) the naked setting really highlight the ache in her voice (which seems to break at certain point).  I’m sure she felt as shitty as the rest of did on that day, and it really comes across.  God, I have to stop watching things from November 2016,

[READ: January 25, 2018] “The American Boyfriend”

This story came out in 2001 and was written by a North Korean writer and was translated by Yu Young-nan.

It is set in Moscow in the early 1990s.

McCunly was a young American living Moscow.  He got to know a pretty young woman named Katya.

He flirted with her and told her thing like the checkers of my coat symbolize our straightforward lives being intertwined.  He also told her that he was unmarried.

She was thrilled at his declaration of love and told her brother all about the American. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 27, 2018).

Darlingside never disappoints and this stream from Newport Folk Festival is an excellent opportunity to hear them live.

The sound quality is excellent and their voices are more clear than on the record!

I had no idea this was only their first time at Newport Folk est and Harris is suitably excited (even though it’s only 11AM).

It’s also an opportunity to hear their one of a kind banter.

The harmonies on “Go Back” are just heavenly.  And they are positively angelic on “Singularity.”

The introductory cello solo at the beginning of “Harrison Ford” was a delightful change.  And the guitar really rocks loud on “Eschaton” (almost like a real rock band!)

There’s also the hilarious band member introduction (different at every show).

Auyon says that they were able to play for a boys and girls camp, Camp Grovernor.  But something was lost in communication and the camp director thought the band name was “Don Mitchell,” (their banjo player).  And the director was asking, “Is it Don Mitchell and the…”  Auyon explained that the Don Mitchell is silent and it’s just Darlingide.  This got him to wonder what the band would be if each member was the main character.

Dave Senft plays kick drum, bass and guitar.  Dave had a child recently so it would be Dave Senft and The Weird Uncles.
Harris Paseltiner plays cello and guitar. Harris lights his beer light in body and light in color and as far as I can tell utterly devoid of flavor…  so Harris Paseltiner and The Lightest Beers.
Don Mitchell plays banjo and guitar.  Don is from CT and is steeped in New England traditions, like nativism and xenophobia which he demonstrates every time he uses Midwestern as an insult…. which is particularly irksome to those of us in the band who are from the Midwest.  In the spirit of brotherhood, Don Mitchell and The Midwesterners.
Auyon Mukharji plays mandolin and violin and with me we would be Auyon Mukharji and the Best of Friends.

Harris: it’s the first time he’s ever been earnest.  It must be something in the water.
Don: that was the height of Midwesternness.
Auyon: and it felt really good.

This the first time I’ve heard them play the Neil Young song “Red Sun” which sounds great of course.  It’s done a capella, too.

  • “The God of Loss”
  • “Go Back”
  • “White Horses”
  • “Extralife”
  • “Harrison Ford”
  • “Singularity”
  • “Eschaton”
  • “Red Sun (Neil Young)”
  • “Blow The House Down”

[READ: February 4, 2016] “Five Arrows”

This is strange little story about a man who moves to an island because his gangrenous foot smells so bad that he has ejected himself from polite society.

But it is told from the point of view of a young boy, Insu.  Insu is from the village of Bupyeong in Korea.  But he has lived in The United States and Germany for the last two years.

Insu is shocked at what has happened to their village–the river which five years ago was so clear you could see the bottom was now dammed up and cloudy.  The locals were trying to grow carp.

It turns out that Insu and his friend are rowing across the river to find Big Uncle and Little Uncle.  They are skipping school and know that the uncles can keep a secret. (more…)

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