The state of post-rock in Korea
Post-rock in Korea has undergone quite a transformation in the last year or so. After the success of local acts Apollo 18 and Frenzy in circles outside the Korean underground, eyes are set on Hongdae and beyond to see what other gems lurk in the shadows. For someone who doesn’t speak Korean, discovering and unearthing these bearers of new music is hard work.
So we’ve done the work for you. This month, Groove Korea reveals some of the most relevant and recent developments in Korea’s post-rock scene.
No Respect for Beauty
Taking cues from the band Frenzy and Glittering Darkness, Fall comes No Respect for Beauty. Easily the most traditional act of the three, this Seoul-based outfit, which opened for Pg.lost on their nationwide tour back in April, has a knack for creating full-bodied melodies and long, reflective passages of melancholy allure.
It is easy to get frustrated and bored with this particular strain of post-rock, having seen so many bands fall into the same clichéd refrains and patterns laid down years before them by bands like Mono and Explosions in the Sky, the template having since become stale. Luckily, No Respect for Beauty avoids the copy-paste mechanism with an empowering take on this style.
There are plenty of layers and loops on guitar as one lead wrestles its way to the climax, cymbals splash for the duration and the bass is given a weighty production that allows it to reach new depths.
No Respect for Beauty’s recently released debut album, “Why Perish,” is available through Bandcamp and Facebook. Go to www.facebook.com/NoRespectforBeauty.
Ninaian eschews the driving, climactic post-rock that Apollo 18 and No Respect for Beauty are forging here in Korea in favor of a path less traveled. On “For a Little Cruise,” Ninaian delivers a blissed-out, serene journey replete with haunting melodies and an abundance of melancholy.
Borrowing from Boards of Canada and The Album Leaf alike, the electronic atmosphere is quick to reveal hidden pianos or unending guitar loops. Occasionally a shoegaze or ambient sound reveals an appreciation for My Bloody Valentine or Mogwai.
You’d be hard pressed to find another project on this peninsula that refines their craft quite like Ninaian. With a second album in the works with a hopeful early 2013 release date set, now is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on “For a Little Cruise,” Ninaian’s 2010 debut. Go to http://ninaian.com.
Those looking for something dirtier would do well to try Dogstar.
My first introduction to Dogstar involved a threadbare basement bar somewhere in Daejeon. It was at the peak of monsoon season. Spilled liquor, stale smoke and sweat mixed with the tremolo riffing of guitars and the clatter of drums.
This Daegu-based act is more basic and DIY than any other band on this list, sounding like a noise-rock band playing Spiderland covers. The riffs are minimal, repetitive and recurring. The occasional vocal lullaby by Sunmi floats above the din of feedback and the drums reel off on rhythm-seeking tangents. A heavy math/noise-rock influence lingers over the band’s sound and marries an appreciation for the music of Slint. It is hard not to fall under their spell.
“Hello, Cranky Dear” can be streamed on Bandcamp and Facebook. Go to http://dogstar21219.bandcamp.com.
The more experimental oeuvre of post-rock is championed by Jambinai. Merging traditional Korean instrumentation with a penchant for the avant, experimental side of music has paid off to no end for Jambinai, who released their album “Différance” to underground critical acclaim back in February.
Characterized by lengthy refrains and explosive crescendos, Jambinai have as much in common with fellow countrymen Frenzy as they do with the post-metal euphoria of Neurosis. The sound drifts from delicate melodies of traditional folk into jarring, obtuse beats and reverb-soaked walls of feedback.
The band caters towards a more aggressive niche of music than we have come to expect, but don’t let this sway you from hunting out their material. The finesse with which they incorporate the piri, haegeum and geomungo into a very Western framework of sound is captivating. “Différance” is available from GMC records. Go to http://cafe.daum.net/jambinai.