Compact Disc (CD), 2 x Vinyl LP
In the press materials for Jambinai’s new album ONDA, Lee Ill-woo groused that “most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation,” suggesting that he sees his band within that lineage, and that others might not. By using archaic folk instruments to make post-rock and black metal—genres that have, coincidentally, also been used for yoga lately—Jambinai have created one of the more unique alchemies in heavy music. What’s more, they’ve acted as South Korea’s national ambassadors at both Coachella and the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter closing ceremony, the latter of which makes them the gnarliest and least expected Olympic musical performers since Fuck Buttons. There aren’t too many bigger stages for Jambinai to occupy, but in case there is, their third and best LP, ONDA, can fill it.
ONDA takes cues from the Olympian ideal of “higher, faster, stronger,” doing everything that Jambinai do, only more so—the towering peaks of “Event Horizon” replicate the sense of overwhelming awe of peering out on some wide-reaching expanse, while the lengthy stretches of near-silence during 13-minute “In the Woods” sound like they’re being transmitted from the earth’s core. On the brutal war cry of “Sawtooth,” Jambinai evoke memories of Sepultura’s Roots: another groundbreaking, controversial co-mingling of progressive metal and folk traditions. To that end, ONDA is roots music, committed to including an array of voices—like the traditional wailing that graced their earlier work, and the ones that appear on “Square Wave” and the title track (“At the end of your darkness, pain will turn into the shining stars and it’s going to come to you”). All of this suggests that Ill-woo’s issue isn’t with meditation per se, but rather a false equivalency between transcendence and calm: like the most extreme forms of spirituality, ONDA seeks to sublimate catharsis from suffering.