Jambinai, Park Jiha and SB Circle – a roundup of reviews of three K-music performers

The line-up of K-music 2019 has been announced, and it’s nice to see some familiar faces returning to London so that we can get to know their music better.

Songlines review of Jambinai Onda

July 2019 SonglinesJambinai, who open the festival, have become fairly regular visitors to the UK. They had the UK launch of their new album, Onda, at the Garage, Highbury Corner, in a gig held in early June gig. The album gets a warm welcome in the July edition of Songlines, getting a 5-star review and appearing on the cover “Top of the World” CD with Sawtooth, the first track on the album.

The Songlines reviewer will have had the opportunity to listen to the album in the comfort of his living room. For those of us at the Garage, the performance was ear-splittingly, chest-throbbingly loud. It was one of the few Korean concerts I have walked out of: it was simply too painful on the ears. Listening to the album at home as I write this I’m enjoying much of it – particularly the vocals on a couple of the tracks, which I think are an innovation in this collection – but still wincing slightly at the explosive metal sounds that periodically punctuate the music. Possibly the best track is the longest one (In the Woods, clocking in at 13’17”) where the crescendo grows organically out of the initial peaceful and evocative musical explorations.

Jambinai at the Garage on 6 June
A distant shot of Jambinai at the Garage on 6 June – taken from the back of the venue in the vain hope that the volume might be more bearable there. It wasn’t.

The other musician to have been in the music press recently is Park Jiha, whose latest album Philos, released on iTunes and elsewhere in late 2018, has just been re-released on vinyl. Second time round, it caught the attention of the Guardian, who in their June review made it Global album of the month.

Park Jiha; photo credit Kim Jaewoo
Park Jiha; photo credit Kim Jaewoo

Folk Radio are similarly enthusiastic in their review. For me, Philos is one of those lovely, haunting albums that need to be listened to in perfect stillness.

It’ll be interesting to see how they stage her concert at the Rich Mix. Somehow this is music you have to be sitting down (or even lying down) to listen to, and King’s Place was the perfect venue for Park’s concert in 2017. Sometimes Rich Mix is set up club-style, with little tables, which might work. But if it’s the usual configuration of standing space only, the musicians will have to work hard to create the right atmosphere, particularly if the air conditioning or refrigeration units are as loud as they were for Park Woojae in K-Music 2017: the musicians didn’t stand a chance against that noise. Here’s hoping the Rich Mix have had a refit since then.

You can, of course, obtain Jambinai’s Onda and Park Jiha’s Philos from iTunes and the normal stores.

SB Circle: Topology

Also well worth searching out (and available on iTunes) is Topology, the debut CD from SB Circle, the new collaboration between gayageum player Park Kyungso and saxophonist Shin Hyunpill, who will be playing at the Purcell Room in late October. That venue should work well for the music, though equally good would be the Albert Hall’s Elgar Room, where Park had the superb collaboration with Andy Sheppard in 2016. Topology has yet to get a review from any of the mainstream outlets, but it gets a thumbs up from me. Judging by the style of music on the album, in Shin Hyunpill Park has found a saxophonist with whom she can bond as well as she did with Sheppard, and so their gig on 29 October is one I’m really looking forward to.

The full line-up for K-music 2019 can be found here, where you can also find a link to buy tickets.

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