Review Summary: A big wave
When I first put ONDA
on, I had no idea what to expect. What I did find was quite the surprise, but more on that in a moment. What I really want to touch on is the concept of foreignness; it can be both alienating and intoxicating, foreboding and alluring all the same. Jambinai are very interested in this sensation, this layer of feelings, and harness a unique spin on world music and post-rock to instill a feeling of elation and displacement in the listener. By employing the traditional Korean folk instruments haegeum (lets save some time and call it a fiddle), piri (a kind of bamboo oboe), and geomungo (a 64 inch stringed instrument) with the more standard setup of guitar and drums, the band is able to put a very peculiar stamp on their brand of ominous post-rock. Shrill, wayward strings clash with stormy guitar, insistently weeping woodwinds hang in the air until rumbling drums thunder in. The title ONDA
was even chosen for it’s dual meaning, translating to ‘come’ in Korean and ‘wave’ in Spanish. It’s more than apparent that Jambinai had a clear goal in mind when creating the album, and the results really are something to behold, both for the impressive execution and the genuinely strange take on such an established genre of music.
It becomes even more admirable that the band were wily enough to do this with a style of music that already relies so much on the notion of surprise. Beyond simply housing exotic musical thrills, ONDA
is able to achieve an emotional reaction that is both sophisticated and primal. There are a handful of instances where Korean vocals are used, and these operate much in the same way that Sigur Ros use alien voices: as texture, as raw unknowable emotion. The centerpiece of the album, ‘Sun. Tears. Red.’, illustrates this best, starting with a deep intonation of Korean lyrics laid atop clipped, portentous guitar strums and building to include cowbell, swoops of shrieking fiddle, and explosions of coarse screams. This balancing act of unfamiliar elements with raw power and feeling reaches some stunning heights, and is never less than engaging. The closing title track utilizes thick geomungo plucks, fluttering drums and mournful Korean singing until buzzsaw strings launch the song into a pseudo breakdown of muscular riffing and ghostly wails. As with almost all post-rock, there are times where repetition can begin to grow static, mostly with a slight over reliance on piercing woodwinds here. In moments such as these, I can’t help but hear a band that is ever so slightly tentative to fully immerse themselves and the listener in the singular sound they’ve created. Still, ONDA
is overall an intense and enchanting journey. True to its conception, it is both a longing greeting and a headlong farewell to stranger lands.