Personnel: Lee Il-Woo (vocals, guitar); Eunyoug Sim (vocals); Hyeseok Oh (drums).
Audio Mixer: Sanghyun Cho.
Recording information: MOL Studio.
Illustrator: Yeji Im.
Jambinai are a South Korean group who incorporate traditional instruments such as the geomungo (a long zither plucked with a short bamboo stick while seated) and the haegeum (a small, thin fiddle-like string instrument) into their thundering, angular rock music. Their songs can be intense and overwhelming, often reaching furious, ecstatic peaks, but there are also many calmer, more graceful moments, and the musicians are fantastic at controlling their energy and switching between dynamics. Their compositions are primarily instrumental, and it's inevitable that the group will get tagged as "post-rock," but their huge, crushing guitars seem far more geared toward metal and post-hardcore than the pastoral prettiness often implied by the genre (which, to be fair, has its loud side). These songs are defiant, occasionally claustrophobic, and dead serious. When vocals do surface, they take several different forms. Opener "Wardrobe" features screaming and wailing over its furious rhythm and forceful guitar crunch. Closer "They Keep Silence" is much more restrained, with soft, shaky vocals leading into another crashing whirl of sound. However, the song that stands out the most is easily "Abyss," which incorporates tough, austere Korean rapping by MC Ignito into the group's swirling, swarming rhythm. His rhymes get progressively trickier as the music gets sadder and slower, shifting to martial snare drumming before drowning the vocals with guitar distortion as the song ends. In comparison to Jambinai's debut full-length, 2012's Différance, A Hermitage is more aggressive and immediate, even with the presence of several lengthy compositions and moments of delicate beauty. Without question, Jambinai are strikingly original, combining disparate elements into a unique, bewildering sound that resembles no one else. ~ Paul Simpson