support theshipwhosang
author LF date 02/06/15 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

When the Korean post-rock/noise band Jambinai played at Roskilde Festival last year, I wasn't quick enough to get in for their show as the stage was packed pretty much from the beginning. Therefore, I welcome the chance to see them this evening at Loppen and I make my way there in high spirits despite the rainy weather. Because of the weather and the amount of people gathered in the warm room, the air is damp and hot inside all evening, and this somehow works very well with the meditative music we are about to experience tonight, being just another element to an atmospheric evening that speaks to the senses both through music and visuals.

No photographer was available for the show


The support band tonight is a fairly new post-rock endeavor with this show being only their second live show as a band. However, as they are all members from another more known act called The Shaking Sensations, my expectations for their music are high. Their drummer, we are told, had a traffic accident on his way to the venue today and hurt his wrist, but he plays through the set like a trooper anyway with no flaws. After about ten minutes where projected black/white visuals start shimmering over the stage and a series of mood-setting music starts playing, the band enters the stage, and they don't disappoint. Their music is long-winded and looping in way that allows the listeners to lose themselves in it as it slowly shifts between big, majestic movements and calmer, more fragile ones, and as such they are good at providing contrast in their music. It does however get a bit too floaty for my taste at times, lacking elements to make the compositions really stand apart for a first time listener, even though the ebb and flow of the set overall works well.


Jambinai with the crowd after the show, taken from the band's Facebook page


While the five live members of Jambinai are quick to get on stage following theshipwhosang, it takes a while before they're ready to play as they first have to set up all of their instruments. In addition to microphones and modern instruments like guitar, bass and drum kit, they also make use of glockenspiel, a small keyboard and a number of traditional Korean instruments in their music. These most notably include: a string instrument called a geomungo, which is played seated on the floor and with a small stick to pluck the strings, and which helps lay the rhythmic foundation in the music; a haegeum, which is also a string instrument but more akin to a violin, played with a bow, which makes a very wailing sound that also provides the music with some eerie dissonance; and two variants of the flute-like piri which more than anything resembles an oboe to me sound-wise. Because they had problems with their ride from Germany today, they tell us later, they didn't arrive in time for their sound check and thus they not only have to set up these instruments but also have the sound check to get through as well before they can play. This is however not an uninteresting thing to watch and listen in on, as it provides us with a chance to listen to each of these unfamiliar, Korean instruments on their own before they all play together in orchestrated sonic chaos later. Most of the crowd is gathered up front for the duration of this, and when they finally play, the sound mix is absolutely on point.

Their music is very dark and loud, blending post-rock and noise-jazz elements with this traditional Asian sound and the result is very powerful. They all play sitting down on chairs except for the geomungo-player who is seated on the floor with her instrument in front of her, but this doesn't rob their live performance of passion or wildness at all. They still bang their heads for the really heavy, percussive parts of the music, and especially the geomungo-player is interesting to watch as she bends over her instrument, because the playing of it is a very physical thing, and often she is almost acting out the music with her body, rocking in time with the rhythms she's playing or using big, decisive arm movements while slamming the instrument. As evident from the number of instruments mentioned earlier, there are many different sounds to follow in Jambinai's music, and during the most frantic parts of their music where every instrument is played at once, they blend together into an immense wall of sound, a sonic wave that almost washes the listener away. This immensity is contrasted with much calmer movements where the instruments at times sound fragile and thin, and it is one of the most amazing things to experience how a tiny instrument like the piri or the haegeum with its just two strings can channel moods and feelings so very different, either sounding dark, disturbing and threatening or fragile, innocent, melancholic.

They end as they begin without their drummer and bass player with a very beautiful, optimistic piece that rises and rises through its duration, but this last song features both these instruments anyway, albeit with different effects added on to make the drums sound very distant for instance. During the set there are also songs where the guitar or the keys are played through the laptop computer they have with them in the middle of the stage but this seems to be simply because they cannot play all the instruments at the same time. The guitar-player is also the piri-player, just as the haegeum-player is in charge of the keyboard and the glockenspiel and three of them provide vocals on top as well. It makes for a curious but also very refreshing experience to see all these elements working together with the very traditional instruments in junction not just with more modern, electric instruments but with sounds provided electronically through a computer. As such, Jambinai delivers a varied and good-sounding set that sweeps us up and carries us through an evening of music with big feelings and of great artistic skill, and I will definitely see them again the next time I get the chance.

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