Monday, May 14, 2012

Shin Joong Hyun & Yup Juns (신중현과 엽전들) 1974-1975 Part 2

Ahh.  Very long time since part one in this, uh, two part series, which may turn into three parts if I can ever find those vinyl only releases that I mentioned before.  Anyway, a lot has happened to me, including moving back to Texas and possibly going to grad school this fall or next spring.  So, I may never return to Korea except for a visit.  I already miss it.  I will try to continue to contribute stuff to the blog because I still have a bunch of records that I want to post.

The focus on part two is mostly 1975 which is also the year Shin was arrested, and his career pretty much tailed off for the rest of the 70s (there are some records from the 80s that are supposed to be good, but I think his creative tendencies may have been curtailed because of all the problems he had with "the man" in the 70s).

First is 연주곡 베스트 (literally "Instrumental Best" which is what's printed on the sleeve) which is instrumental versions of many of Shin's songs from previous albums, but newly recorded.  The record is very... languid to say the least.  There's not much fire thrown into these updates, and it can get a little boring because of that.  However, the casualness works in it's favor sometimes, and sometimes I kinda like listening to this record over the other three.  I especially like the flute that takes the place of the vocals on many of the songs.  To be honest, I don't know half these songs.  Shin has a tendency to rework old songs a lot, and get different singers to sing on the new versions, but he was still a prolific songwriter.  Anyway, despite its casual air, it's still good.  님은 먼 곳에 ("You Are in a Faraway Place"...maybe?  Did I succeed in translating that?), and 마른 잎 ("Dry Leaf") are definite highlights and also best represent the overall tempo of the album.

Last for '75 is 제 2집 (Volume 2) which was recorded after "Instrumental Best", but was considered the proper second album.  Anyway, it's almost as good as their first album together, and has a similar vibe.  There are several great songs on here, and yet another version of one of his most popular songs 아름다운 강산 ("Beautiful Rivers and Mountains").  It's too bad that this was the last hurrah for this lineup.  Anyway, great songs, and most seem to have a strong triumphant, borderline patriotic tone to them.  뭉치자 ("Let's Unite) is one of my favorites by them featuring a heavy funk beat that is reminiscent of Can's drummer Jaki Liebezeit.  In fact, the atmosphere of the song is very Can-esque.  Highly Recommended.

I mentioned earlier that there were two others.  One is titled 엽전들의 경음악2집 (which I guess literally means "Yup Juns' Light Music Second Album", but, fuck, I don't know) and features several songs that are on "Instrumental Best" but hopefully is not the same versions (the flute player is on the cover, so it's probably more instrumental madness).  No idea how to get that one, and I certainly don't own a copy (mp3 or otherwise).  Here's the cover to the left of my wordz.

The other one was in the liner notes to a cd that I had, but hell if I can find that cd right now, and I can't even remember which one it is.  I'm suspicious that it might be on the Kim Jung Mi record from the last post which might be in Japan for all I know (Literally. I was supposed to move there and sent a couple of boxes, but that all fell through).  So, if I find that cd, then I can erase this whole paragraph.

*Next day update* Okay that record that I had read about in the liner notes, I still don't know, but it could have been this one called 아이러브 마마 (I Love Mama), a soundtrack album featuring mostly singers I've never heard of.  It is credited to Shin Joong Hyun and Yup Juns, though, and probably impossible to find.  So, there could be one more album of Yup Juns material....maybe.  Anyway, there's the album cover.

Here's some youtube videos of tracks listed above (all uploaded by me except the first one):

"Beautiful Rivers and Mountains"

"You are in a Faraway Place"

"Dry Leaf"

"Let's Unite"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shin Joong Hyun & Yup Juns (신중현과 엽전들) 1974-1975 Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted.  The reasons are as follows: laziness, trip to Malaysia/Singapore for 2 weeks, and sickness plus food poisoning yet again which for some reason is difficult as hell for me to get rid of in the winter time.  Also, I was trying to find proper information about Shin Joong Hyun's backing band - the Yup Juns, which is the name of the old Korean coins with the holes in the middle - during the '74 and '75 period of his career.  This has not been easy because I can't read Korean very well, but I've found some decent sites to find things, one is (in Korean) and a Korean Psych/Folk music site.  The former is basically a huge discography website, kind of like Discogs but specifically for Korean artists (though I do see other non-Korean albums pop up, so it's more like Discogs for Koreans); and the latter is an English language site (though a bit broken) dedicated to Korean psychedelic/folk music of the 60s/70s/80s.  Both have been helpful to me to put together some kind of discography for this short period of time.  However, I really can only find 4 albums from this period over here in Korea, but lucky for you, all four are also available on iTunes.

Lately, I've been more obsessed with this period in guitarist Shin Joong Hyun's (sometimes spelled Shin Jung Hyun, and even Shin Junhyun on iTunes) career than his earlier (and some might say better) material with The Men, The Sound, and others.  But I personally think the Yup Juns are his best band.  They are tight, and they have a relaxed, but funky sound that reminds me of not just American funk like The Meters, but also German bands from that era like Can or Neu.  The only thing that holds them back on these four albums is the production which tends to make it sound lightweight.  Especially with the guitars which sound very tinny, and are missing a bit of that fuzz that Shin likes to use.  I've heard they were also trying to commercialize their sound because of government pressure.  In 1975, there was a crackdown on artists in Korea, and many were arrested including Shin.  In that year, the president, Park Chung Hee, enacted stricter laws on artists and much more censorship.  This caused a dip in creativity over here, but it didn't necessarily keep good music from being released.  It just wasn't as experimental as the late 60s and early 70s were. 

First I will focus on the year 1974.  The Yup Juns had just been formed the previous year, and then appeared on Kim Jung Mi's (sometimes spelled Kim Jeong Mi) 이건 너무 하잖아요 ("It's Too Unfair" is I think the English title).  Not quite the classic as Now (possibly my all time favorite Korean album) but still quite good.  Of course, Kim's voice is fantastic throughout.  It's too bad that she just did two more albums after this (in 1977 and 1978).  I'm not entirely sure why that is, but I heard that she was arrested during the government crackdown in '75, and I'm sure that affected her album sales.  Great voice.  The Yup Juns provide a pretty solid and mildly psychedelic funk backdrop on most songs.  The second half of the record features more strings in the background, and more ballads.  Not in any way bad, especially on 갈대 ("Reed") which features more flute than strings, but is an excellent slow burning ballad.  Earlier in the record, you have a couple of songs that would show up later on a proper Shin Joong Hyun record.  Most notably 생각해 ("Think"), which is one of my favorite songs by Shin.

Later in 1974 (or early '75) the Yup Juns released their debut album.  Titled simply 1집 (or First Album), this is probably my favorite record of the four available from this period.  Again, the Yup Juns supply a strong, sturdy funk backdrop, but again, production is a little lightweight.  This is especially obvious on album opener 미인 ("Beautiful") which sounds like it's about to fall apart, it sounds so thin.  However, on the following track - a second version of 생각해 or "Think" - the sound is a little tougher, and it continues with that toughness on the rest of the album.  The theme is constant with only slight reprieves during the Buddhist-esque chant on 나는 너를 사랑해 ("I Love You"), and guest vocalist on 설레임 ("Throb") though, I'm not sure who it is.  The song also features some excellent slide guitar that reminds me of Opal or Mazzy Star's more psych/folk moments.  One more thing about this record:  There is another version of this album with the exact same songs (different order) and recorded in a different session featuring a different drummer (Kim Ho-sik [김호식] who was replaced by Kwan Yong-nam [관용남]).  Eventually I will find that version.

My next post will be the second part focusing on the year 1975.  If I'm able to track down some of the other albums released during this era, then I will do a part 3.  As I mentioned above, these two albums above are available from iTunes, so I won't bother giving you a link for a free download from this site.  Anything unreleased or out of print or hard to find anywhere outside of Korea that I find I will gladly post, though.

A friend thought it would be a good idea to post some of the songs I mentioned, and I agreed.  Unfortunately, most of these were not available on youtube so I had to upload them myself.  You're welcome.  Here they are:

Kim Jung Mi's "Reed":

And her version of "Think":

Shin Joong Hyun & Yupjun's version of "Think":

And here they are with "Throb":

Next is "I Love You":

And finally, a song that was already on youtube, "Beautiful":

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Albums of 2011 (Korean and Otherwise)

Korean Music:

Unfortunately, there were only a couple of albums that came out this year from bands that I know about.  Of course, there could have been some awesome ones, and I just didn't know about it cuz I live in Suwon, and I usually don't like riding on a bus for an hour and a subway for another 20 minutes very often.  Okay....I'm lazy.  I should make the effort to find out about more bands, I just don't cuz I'd rather sit in my room drinking Hite Dry Finish and updating a blog that never gets read.  Okay, well, if you know of some other albums that I missed, please let me know.  Here's the two I like.

Itta - "Discover" & 10 - "Natureplex" - If I had to pick one over the other, it would be the Itta record.  It came out late, but it's pretty great.  All covers, and mostly just her on keys and organ and whatnot.  I have to admit, I never noticed the Nico influence in anything by 10 (10 - or (((10))) now - is her other band with her Japanese husband) but that influence really stands out on her solo record.  She even does a cover of Nico's version of The Doors "The End".  Other covers: Portishead, Blonde Redhead, Yoko Ono, and Lee Sang Eun, the latter of which is a recent, er, discovery for me.  I looked her up, listened to a couple of songs, and ordered her record which I need to pick up.  The 10 record is more psychedelic, and freaked out.  Maybe Hawkwind or Acid Mothers Temple comes to mind, but it's not really.  Early Animal Collective might be better suited, but, this is better.  Animal Collective is overrated, and their early stuff was hit or miss as well.  You can get the Itta record by just asking her:  There will be a paypal link she will send you to donate for it.  I highly recommend doing that....even though I haven't done it myself.  Shame on me.

Korean reissues & compilations:

1) various "Beautiful Rivers & Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea's Shin Joong Hyun 1958-1974" & "Where to Where" digital download - I've already written about this guy in another post.  It rules, and you should get it if you are at all interested in the history of early Asian rock music.  Tons of good shit.

2) Add4 "The Add4 First Album" - Shin Joong Hyun started his own record label this year, and is reissuing a bunch of out of print oldies that he was responsible for.  They're all housed the same way: a jewel case cd glued inside of a hardcover book with the album cover and stuff on it.  It's all very shoddy looking in a cool, low budget sort of way.  I mean, the book part is cool, but the design cool.  This is his first album with the first Korean rock band, and it rules.  It feels like the first time I discovered the Skatalites, and just thinking about how soulful, beautiful, and unique they sounded.  Well, the Add4 gives me the same feeling.  The Pearl Sisters, Kim Jung Mi, and many others were also reissued.  If you live in Korea, you can get them at Kyobo Books.  Kyobo is a chain, though, but you might be able to find them at other record stores in Hongdae like Purple or Metavox.

3) The Hee Sisters (희자매) "DisKo Girls: The Anta Records Years Anthology 1978-1980" - Disco/Trot.  Some of this stuff is actually straight up trot, but the disco influence definitely comes out in other tracks.  This is great stuff, even if you don't like trot music, but, really, you probably should.  Especially if you live in Korea, asshole.  Dig into it.  It's like a Korean version of tejano/conjunto music. And conjunto music absorbed disco music just like trot did.  This is a 3cd compilation housed in a really fantastic package.  It's a book (like the Shin Joong Hyun comps) but the layout is amazing.  The hardcover is bigger.  The pages are rich with period era photos and liner notes (mostly in Korean, but there are a few pages of English liner notes), and, best of all, facsimiles of the original album covers.  PLUS DATES!  Yes, the tracks are dated, or if you can read Korean, you can figure out the dates.  I need dates, and I obsess over when music was released.  Overall, excellent package, and you can get it at Dusty Grooves in the states.  Includes the only song that goes slow enough that I can sing it at the Noraebangs (karaoke) rooms in Korea: "실버들".  The only thing that brings this package down is the third disc of "remixes" which does feature DJ Soulscape, who does excellent mixes of classic Korean music.  However, most of this is all hip hop style, and I barely listened to it.  It woulda been cool if they did some edits of some of this stuff and let the riddim flow for a while.  Me thinking out loud.

4) Kim Jung Mi (김정미) "Now" - Did this get reissued stateside?  I think it did, and if that's the case, please buy this.  This is such a great record.  Maybe my favorite featuring Shin Joong Hyun on guitar, and Kim is an amazing singer.  Beautiful psych/folk record from 1973.

5) April & May (4월과5월) "40th Anniversary" - Double disc of material from 1973-1979 of this male folk duo.  Recently another compilation called "Best of" has started making the rounds in the states, and even got a write up in Aquarius Records.  That album cover has the duo running through the grass hand in hand.  Awesome cover, as Aquarius also mentioned.  This one here is a whole double disc covering a much greater range of their material.  I've only given it a once through, but it's quite good, but that other compilation is probably more readily available if you're living stateside.  Plus the album cover is cooler.

Other Music:

1. John Maus "We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves" - I listened to this record a crap load of times.  I liked his stuff before, but I really love this record.  Psychedelic, weird, 80s influenced synth pop/synth wave type stuff.  Amazing songs.

2.  Prurient "Bermuda Drain" - Another amazing record that wears its 80s influences on its sleeve.  This time, the industrial/noise/EBM elements.  If you don't know Prurient, then this is maybe the best place to start.  However, I can't heartily recommend his other material.  Some of which I like (the droney, weirdo stuff), but the screechy, feedbacky noise stuff is too much to handle.  He did a few other things this year as well that might be more under the 'experimental' tag: "Annihilationist" and "Despiritualized."  All of these represent his most 'accessible' side.  But all awesome.  "Bermuda Drain" is disturbing and amazing. (see also Vatican Shadow)

3.  The Psychic Paramount "II" - Power trio of instrumental rock.  Psychedelic, repetitive, noisy.  All the things I love.  Great record.  Maybe should be number 1.

4.  Cold Cave "Cherish the Light Years" - Another 80s referencing record.  I never cared for their stuff before, but I love this record.  Also featuring Dominick Fernow of Prurient, but with less of the noise, and more of the pop.  Super stadium sized pop.  Like New Order and the Jesus & Mary Chain and U2 all rolled up.  Damn good.

5.  Bill Callahan "Apocalypse" - I love Smog and I love his stuff under his own name.  His lyrics are awesome, and he rules.  I saw him when I was back in Texas last summer, and it was great.  One of the best songwriters of all time.  Believe it!

6.  High Spirits "Another Night" - NWOBHM worshipping project from Chris "Professor" Black who also destroys under Dawnbringer.  If you like classic metal with tons of hooks, then this is it.

7.  Andy Stott "Passed Me By" - More like an ep, but it's a supplement to his other ep this year, "We Stay Together" which I haven't heard yet.  This is dark, dirty, sludgy techno in the best possible ways.

8.  Leyland Kirby "Eager to Tear Apart" & The Caretaker "An Empty Bliss Beyond This World" - I hear the word "hauntology" applied to Kirby's Caretaker project quite a bit.  And if you're wondering what that means, think about The Shining's haunted ballroom music.  That's pretty much it.  Looped, vinyl pops, sounds like a haunted house.  Great stuff.  His "Eager to Tear Apart" stuff is different.  Previously it was along the lines of Harold Budd or Erik Satie, but this newer stuff is busier with more electronics added.  All good.

9.  James Blake "James Blake" - I like it.  I think it's damn good.  He's gonna be getting more and more hate as he keeps doing the singer songwriter thing, but the combination of bass pressure and pretty melodies is hard to beat in my opinion.

10. All Pigs Must Die "God is War" & Trap Them "Darker Handcraft" - Decided to put these two hardcore records together because they seem to traffic in the same influences: Neurosis, His Hero is Gone, Converge, From Ashes Rise.  Great stuff, but I think I pick the Trap Them record slightly above All Pigs Must Die.  Both are better than the overrated Tombs album.

Texas records:

1.  Absu "Abzu" - Absu is awesome prog/black metal.  This record isn't quite as great as their previous, but still good.

2.  Josh T. Pearson "Last of the Country Gentlemen" - Pearson used to be in Lift to Experience, and creates expansive folk depression like no other.  He's a good guy.  Eat  a salad with him.

3.  True Widow "As High as the Highest Heavens..." - True Widow creates heavy rock n roll.  Like Codeine but with a stronger metal fixation.

4.  Old Snack  "Everything is Happening So Fast" -  Old Snack is like classic power pop.  Think about the Raspberries, Badfinger, and Big Star at their most rock n roll, as well as the Flaming Groovies and current rockers like Jaill.  You know you want to hear it.  Get it here.

Reissues & compilations:

1. various "The Hidden Tapes" - Another excellent compilation from the Minimal Wave label.  More obscure synth pop/synthwave/coldwave from the early to mid 80s.

2. various "Tempo Explosion" - One riddim album put together by Dug Out; the label run by Mark Ernestus formerly of Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound and Honest Jon's.  All based on the Tempo riddim that came out of King Tubby's in '86 and made famous by Anthony Redrose.  I still say his version is the best, but anything with that rhythm is okay by me.  Features legends Sugar Minott and Willie Williams.  All tracks date from '86, but I believe come from Sugar Minott's label, and not Tubby's.

3. Bunny Lee & the Agrovators "Dub Will Change Your Mind" - Obscure Bunny Lee productions compiled by ex-Blood & Fire employees for their new label King Spinna.  Pretty sure King Tubby does all the dubs on here, but I don't have the liner notes.  Nice to see there's still excellent stuff ready to be dug up from the 1970s reggae vaults.

4. Demdike Stare "Tryptych" - A compilation of three vinyl only lp's from 2010 as a 3 cd set.  Demdike Stare is....hard to describe.  Ambient, soundtracks, techno, even a bit of afro-beat gets mixed in there.  I frequently take naps at work with this thing playing.

Is that it?  No.  Here's some stuff that didn't make the lists, but that had varying degrees of goodness: Mark Ernestus "Meets BBC" (actually a single); Moritz von Oswald Trio "Horizontal Structure"; Vladislav Delay Quartet "s/t"; Wolves in the Throne Room "Celestial Lineage"*; Deepchord "Hash Bar Loops"; Jesu "Ascension"; Tim Hecker "Ravedeath, 1972"; Toxic Holocaust "Conjure and Command"*; Hype Williams "One Nation"; Book of Black Earth "The Cold Testament"; Moon Duo "Mazes"; Mutilation Rites "s/t"; Chris Watson "El Tren Fantasma"*; Blut Aus Nord "777 - Sect(s)"*; Vatican Shadow "Kneel Before Religious Icons"*.

* means that it probably could have made a top 15.

Best Films of 2011 (Korean and Otherwise)


This year was not a good year for watching new films because I just didn't watch many.  And most of what I saw were blockbusters.  So, I decided to just list all the 2011 movies that I watched using a 1 to 5 rating scale with 1 being crap, and 5 being super awesome, and with some notes here and there for each movie.

First, I will list the Korean movies that I saw this year, which was only 2!  I'm usually late on watching Korean movies but this year I was even worse than usual about it.  Honestly, there wasn't many that caught my attention.  However, on the list to watch are: ...Children, Detective K, My Way, The Front Line, The Day He Arrives, The Cat, Sunny, End of Animal, and The Crucible.

1. War of the Arrows () (4/5) - Lots of arrow shooting in this one.  Takes place in 1636 when the Manchus invaded Korea for the second time during the Joseon era.  There's more anti-Japanese sentiment over here, than Chinese, but make no mistake, the Chinese (in particular, the Manchus, who later became known as the Manchurians) did some horrible things to the Koreans.  Displacing folks, murder, and rape.  All of this is shown in the movie (more or less).  A bit of a wake up call on just how brutal foreign intruders can be.  However, the focus is more on family here, and how this guy who is a master at archery, is able to defeat foreign intruders to get his family back.  There's a chase scene here that reminds me of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, but the Apocalypto version is better....but maybe only just slightly.  Pretty cool movie that has some interesting historical background to it.  It was the biggest box office hit in Korea this year.  

2. White: Melody of the Curse (화이트: 저주의 멜로디) (3/5) - K-Pop horror film.  There are some really chilly scenes in this one.  Like, real hair-raising ones.  It's like a black metal horror film about the competitive world of the K-Pop music industry.  It just really seemed nihilistic, with all the manipulations and mind games that the ghost was doing to the girls.  That combined with all the competition happening in the girl group (girl groups name: Pink Dolls.  You know some producer is kicking himself for not coming up with that name first).  I'm gonna do a proper review of this one soon, but, man, there's some freaky stuff in it, even if it is derivative with the Asian ghost thing.  It's also extremely confusing (like most K-Horror), which is why it got dropped down to a 3 instead of a 5.  Kinda stupid too.  Man, there's some freaky stuff in it, though.  Features Ham Eun-jeong of T-ara!

And here's the rest:

1. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (5/5) -  Love Harry Potter.
2. Rango (3/5) - Kinda boring, but pretty good.
3. The Hangover 2 (3/5) - Better than what the "critics" said, but still not as good as the first.
4. Insidious (5/5) - Great horror film with very little blood.  I like horror.  This is worth your time.
5. Real Steal (4/5) - Way better than I expected.  Reminds me of Rocky, but with robots.
6. Captain America (3/5) - Watched it in 3D, and that was a waste of money.  Decent super hero movie, though.
7. Limitless (3/5) - Also better than I expected.  The ending wasn't good, though.
8. Kung Fu Panda 2 (3/5) - I loved the first one, so there was no way that this was going to be better.  Pretty good, though.
9. Source Code (3/5) - Good thriller.
10. Horrible Bosses (3/5) - Funny, even though it had that dude from It's Only Sunny in Philadelphia.
11. Cowboys & Aliens (2/5) - The alien angle ruined the movie.  This is a movie that I thought should never have existed.
12. Forks Over Knives (3/5) - Documentary/propaganda about becoming a vegan because eating meat isn't very good for you.  I agree with most of it, and I like it that they actually don't call themselves vegan.  They just don't eat meat.  It is convincing, but it's more convincing in a way that says 'just stop eating so much damn meat.'
13. Attack the Block (5/5) - Maybe my favorite film of the year.  Aliens come to Earth, and teen gangstas in London battle with them.  Maybe you could say the same thing against this one as I did against Cowboys & Aliens.  The difference is that this one is fun, on a low budget.  And Cowboys & Aliens is just stupid, and a waste of time, and Jon Favareau lost all my respect.  Not that he cares.  I wouldn't.

Next is the best music of 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kang Tae Hwan (강태환) download on WFMU & Kim Seok Chul (김석출) documentary

I found about both of these on the same day.  One is an out of print album by Korean jazz saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan and the other is a documentary on Korean traditional musician Kim Seok Chul.

The Kang Tae Hwan album is an occasionally hair-raising affair.  It's a collaboration with Tuva vocalist Sainkho Namtchylak.  Tuva?  Yeah, I didn't know either, so I had to look it up.  It's a "federal subject" of Russia, which just means that it's a part of Russia, but has autonomy as well.  Similar to Puerto Rico perhaps?  I don't know.  Learn something everyday.  Anyway, you can download the album from WFMU here.  I'm listening to it now.  As I said, it has some hair-raising moments, and it builds tension quite nicely.  Namtchylak is quite the vocalist, and may be strong factor on how someone might feel about the music.  Yoko Ono and Diamanda Galas come to my mind, but perhaps Galas is a better example.  It's been a while since I've listened to Galas, but she's got more range than Ono and would be the best comparison here.  Which means she can sound like she's singing to her lover one moment, and then brutally axe murdering him the next.  She also uses her voice as percussion as well.  Cathartic might be the best word for it.

Sainkho Namtchylak
There are also some melodic undertones, but the album has a good droney, atonality to it, and it never goes off into any free jazz cacophony as well.  I think that's a good thing.  I prefer the drone and the meditational aspect of this music, and that seems to be Kang's style judging from his excellent album on VHF in 2004 called Love Time and some of his other recordings.  Cacophony is great at times, but I don't listen to those kinds of free jazz records as often.  It's one of the more unusual Korean jazz records I've heard.  Definitely check it out.

Kim Seok Chul is a new name for me.  I was introduced to him a couple of months ago at After Hours, a jazz record store in Seoul, when the owner convinced me to buy one of his records.  Kim was considered a Shaman, and he played a hojeok (호적, similar to an oboe).  He died about 6 years ago but before he died Austrailian jazz drummer Simon Barker went to Korea to learn more about traditional Korean music and Kim which became this documentary.  I have not seen the documentary, but it's called Intangible Asset Number 82, and it was released in 2008.  If you're interested in Korean traditional music and jazz, this sounds like one to watch.  I'll probably write more about this dude later when I get some more of his stuff.  Here's the trailer:

Intangible Asset Number 82 from Daniel Kerr on Vimeo.

Kang Tae Hwan

Kim Seok Chul

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mogwai & Vidulgi Ooyoo (비둘기 우유) at AX-Korea, Seoul, November 30

Ahh.  Very hungover today, which definitely wasn't the case the next day after seeing Mogwai.  No booze at the show.  I've been meaning to write this since the show, but it seems convalescing after a night of drinking is an excellent time to write.  This Mogwai show was a bit more than I wanted to spend for a show (about $60 U.S.) but it is Korea, and it's pretty damn hard to get halfway decent bands here unless you shell out for them.  Unfortunately, I had forgetten that I am actually NOT a Mogwai fan.  That was a very expensive "mistake".  If you can call it that.  I really don't feel bad about giving the SuperColorSuper folks money to get bands here, and having a band like Mogwai play here is an excellent next step for more bands to want to come here.  That said, Mogwai are boring.

The show was on a work night (Wednesday), and then there was the ticket price, but it did start early enough (at 7) and there was a decent Korean band opening, so at the last minute, I bought the ticket, and took the bus out of Suwon and into SeoulAX-Korea is a fairly big hall (maybe it holds 500?  maybe more), and the place was pretty damn full.  I had to wait in line to get my tickets, so I actually missed most of Vidulgi Ooyoo's set except for the last song.  The last song was pretty good, and I wish I could have seen more.  Very noisy, and more than a bit shoegazey, and a good opening band for Mogwai.

As I mentioned above, there was no booze sold at the show, and you could not bring any in, so perhaps that affected my enjoyment of the show.  Or maybe it was the earplugs I decided to wear, which can take away from the visceral impact of a show.  Perhaps I was too tired because I had only got 5 hours of sleep the previous night.  I went through all of these things in my mind while they were playing, but frankly, that band is ALL volume, and very little substance.  This band has made a career out of being a notoriously loud band, and for being influential to indie and metal bands.  However, they just can't write melodies that stick to me, and they never have.  Even back in the day when "Young Team" came out.  It's a decent record, but I never had any of those songs melodies come into my mind while doing stuff.  In some ways, I like "Come on Die Young" a little better, which could be blasphemy in some quarters.  I definitely remember listening to it more, but can't remember a song.  I stood there watching them for nearly an hour before I left, and the only dude on the stage that looked as if he might be enjoying himself is the short guitar player dude.  Everyone else looked bored to tears.  And who could blame 'em.  I WAS BORED TO TEARS MYSELF! 

Vidulgi Ooyoo
Their set started off exciting enough with the opening song to their latest record "Hardcore will Never Die, but You Will." Which isn't a bad song, but after that, it fell into monotony, and if they played any songs from their first 2 records, I sure didn't recognize them.  Song after song started gently and came to a crashing roar.  Which sounds bad ass.  I mean, it should've ruled, but the tedious melodies (or lack thereof), and the lack of any visibile enthusiasm (sometimes that can work, but not in this case) just did not equal a good time.  If anything, it just looked like they were going through the motions.  To sum up, if you're suffering from insomnia, do yourself a favor and go see Mogwai.

Geez, I sound like a bitter old man.  Yikes.  I will try to be more poitive the next time I see an "influential" band come through.  Judas Priest in February!  I am definitely a fan of those guys.

The above and below photos are my own from the actual show.  Not the best, but it was very crowded at the front.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Partner (워낭 소리) - 2008

The first Korean documentary I've ever seen, and a pretty good one.  Nearly even dragged a couple of tears out of me at the end.  Old Partner is about an old man (Choe Won-gun 최원균), his wife (Lee Sam-sun 이삼순), and one very old cow.  I think the cow is like 40 years old, and near its death, but the cow and the old man still go out into the field to work and farm.  All the while the wife is bitching at him for working too much, and working the cow too much.

There's some charming moments in the film, like when he goes out into the city of Bonghwa (봉화) in North Gyeongsang Province (경상북도) to visit a doctor, while being pulled by the old cow in a rickety old wagon.  During the clip, they pass by some folks protesting in front of the Bonghwa market about the FTA agreement to allow imported American beef to come to Korea.  Interesting.  There were times like that when I wondered if the film makers staged it.  There is one scene when the old man is trying to sell the cow off and no one wants the old thing.  At that moment they start in with the dramatic piano music and the slowed down film and A GODDAMN TEAR IS COMING OUT OF THE COW'S EYE!  Now, I'm sure that was happening for a variety of reasons, but not that the cow was sad because no one would buy him.  A little manipulation there on the filmmakers part.  Thankfully, most of the film isn't like that, and tells a pretty straight story.  Even the soundtrack is pretty minimal and most of it is supplied by environmental sounds and the persistent, but comforting, sound of the cow bell (the Korean title is actually The Sound of the Cow Bell). 

It's a good film and it won awards and was the highest grossing independent film in Korean film history.  A good start for first time director Lee Chung-ryoul (이충렬).  Check it out.