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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bitch Magnet, 3rd Line Butterfly, Hellivisions, Angry Bear (11/05 at Club FF, Seoul)

Originally I was just going to write about this show right after it occurred but I got extremely lazy (depressed? lonely?  isolated?) and didn't get around to it until just now.  What inspired me to finally do it, was the depressingly average show that came this past Wednesday when Mogwai took the stage here in Seoul.  THAT review will be on the next post.

First, the Bitch Magnet show at the (pretty cool) Club FF.  I actually DID NOT have high expectations for this show because of the following reasons: 1) I was never a fan.  2) It was a reunion show.  So, maybe that was good because it turns out that they were fantastic live.  This was the first show of their reunion, and you might wonder why the fuck they picked Korea.  Well, the answer is that Korean-American Sooyoung Park is the "leader" of the group.  I said above that I was never a fan of Bitch Magnet, but I was a fan of Seam who also had Park in the band.  Back in my early twenties, "The Problem with Me" was one of my favorite records from that period, and I still listen to it.  So, why not?  Go to the show; see what happens.  

Before B.M. there were a couple of opening bands.  The first I saw was Hellivisions which was kind of an improvised power trio.  If I can use those words.  They were not bad.  Actually the drummer and guitarist were great, and really got into the playing.  The bass player (with dreads) didn't seem to know what he was doing.  His basslines just really fell flat.  I think he was trying to go for a dub/reggae approach but he wasn't skilled enough to pull it off.  The rest of the band was playing some kind of noisy, chaotic jazz...fuck, I don't know.  It wasn't bad, though.  When they finished, I went to meet up with a friend for a beer before (I thought) 3rd Line Butterfly came out.  Basically I was expecting this band called Angry Bear featuring a bunch of foreigners (as in, they live here, they're not touring or anything) to play next, and then I could get back in time for 3rd Line.  Turns out, this Angry Bear band HEADLINED THE DAMN SHOW!  What the fuck kind of booking arrangement was that?  I kinda like 3rd Line, and I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time, but instead, THEY played next, meaning I missed them.  And, of course, after B.M. people started clearing out, and who knows how many people were remaining to see Angry Bear, cuz I sure wasn't one of them to stick around.  

But, before that, there's B.M. and I could really hear the Big Black/Albini influence watching them live.  Their sound really came open to me.  There was tension, aggression, and they played hard like they were really enjoying themselves.  Those guys are in their early forties or so, but they played like they still had something to prove.  I'm not good about going track by track here, I'll just say that the first song they played is this one below, and it was a doozy.  Just tight as fuck, and it felt like it was going to explode in chaos at any minute, but never fully did.  They finished with a Dicks song (I think) sung by the guitarist, and the bass player from Hellivisions came on to play with them.  Well, I guess somebody liked his playing.  Anyway, that was quite fun.  Did I mention the drummer?  Because that dude is built like a tank and played like he was trying to destroy his kit.  Awesome show.  I need to pick up those reissues that just came out of their entire discography.

Afterwards, I saw Sooyoung outside and tried to talk to him for a minute but turned into a retarded fanboy and couldn't get my words to come out properly.  Damn it.  Next time.

Another thing, I forgot my camera (again) so I didn't get any pics, however I found a good pic from the Bitch Magnet Facebook page.  So here you go:

And the song I mentioned above:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Banran (반란) "Stop Kor" ep (2010)

STOP KOR!  I'm not exactly sure what Banran wants to stop.  Maybe it's Lee Myung Bak, Korea's president that seems to do whatever he feels like doing, and fuck everyone else (example: importing U.S. beef and the four rivers project, both of which were opposed by an overwhelming majority of Koreans, but President Lee did them - or is doing them - anyway).  Well, whatever their message is, I'm not entirely sure of.  I'm almost certain that they probably lean heavily on the left side of politics, though.

This ep (released as a split release 7" on Way Back When / Even Worse last year) is a short, but somewhat effective introduction to the band.  I witnessed the band live early last year (which I posted right here), but, unfortunately, this record doesn't quite live up to the visceral impact of their live set.  Their live show was fast, vicious, and heavy.  Dropdead seemed to be an obvious influence (the singer even sported that band's shirt).  On record, it feels more like a throwback to 80s hardcore, with a slightly less powerful Dropdead influence (meaning, they aren't heavy on record like Dropdead were).  The record is most definitely tight, but you really need to see them tear it up live.  Unfortunately, most folks won't witness one of their sets, but who knows.  I'd like to really see where they go next with this, but they seemed young, and maybe will enter the military soon (mandatory in Korea), which might not only end the band, but end anything interesting they might do in the future musically.  I hope not.

Here's a link to the ep: Stop Kor ep.  However, if you can get a hold of it still, I highly recommend you do that.  Also, I updated the link for the Bamseom Pirates record (which might be even harder to find for folks outside of Korea) which you can find here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shin Joong Hyun (신중현) "Beautiful Rivers & Mountains" & "From Where to Where"

South Korea's "godfather of rock" finally gets some reissue treatment love in the west.  These two compilations ("Beautiful Rivers..." gets the whole vinyl/cd treatment, while "From Where..." is a digital only 7 song release) were released in the U.S. by Light in the Attic, and are long overdue.  Shin Joong Hyun is pretty much THE dude for Korean guitar rock in the 60s and early 70s before his imprisonment by the Park Chung Hee administration/dictatorship (more info on that is on the interweb).  He was featured (along with his backing band) on a bunch of different singers albums.  Some of these singers are not even on these compilations (no Pearl Sisters, but I have one of their albums anyway), and it also doesn't feature any Add 4 which was Shin's first band from around '64.  I'm really curious about that band, and I hope Light in the Attic will reissue that stuff someday, as well.

The music is really quite great, although it sounds dated in comparison to what was going on during the time that most of this was released (1969-1974).  Don't let that stop you from hearing this stuff.  Shin's guitar playing is quite great and carries a kind of eastern melodic edge that maybe you won't hear on first listens.  He can also rip shit up, and fry your brain with acid drenched guitar solos.  For proof of that, listen to Kim Sun's "The Man Who Must Leave" which sounds like a cross between The Doors and Bauhaus (listen to the bass) with Shin ripping out some twisted acid guitar at the beginning and the end.  In between is some very heartfelt singing from Kim Sun, whom I've never heard of before.  A very passionate man, apparently.

Other highlights is, of course, the controversial title track which was the root cause of Shin's eventual imprisonment.  Apparently there's an 18 minute version of this song somewhere, but I've never heard it.  Also, my favorite Korean singer, Kim Jung Mi (김정미), from this era is featured here.  The fantastic "The Sun" (also on Kim Jung Mi's "Now", which is a great psych/folk record by any standards) on "Beautiful Rivers..." and the title track from the digital release are excellent songs that really showcase what a great singer Kim was.  Some really nice strings on "The Sun" as well.  Might bring a tear to your eye, so be careful.

There's also highlights that you're probably not going to find anywhere else even if you live in Korea.  For example, a very funky live cover of "Funky Broadway" which sounds like it features an American singer, but gives no credit to him in the liner notes.  And "I've got Nothing to Say" which is a too short live & raw recording for a movie called The Beauty (미인 - good luck finding that one).  Seriously, that song could've kept going for another 5 to 10 minutes and I wouldn't be complaining.  A studio version of it is featured on "From Where..." but it's not quite the same.

Seriously great stuff.  You can get this stuff from the Light in the Attic website, which I highly recommend cuz it'll be cheaper.  This includes digital downloads if, like myself, you would love to have the vinyl, but have a hard time justifying shipping it over to a country that you may not stay in for much longer.  Got to keep it sparse in the material possessions category.  Then again, it's probably at one of the record stores I go to from time to time in Seoul.  I'll write about those stores later.  Right now, enjoy this shit.

Here's the actual clip from the movie The Beauty that I wrote about above:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome to the "New Blog"

Alright, I decided to import all of my blogs related to Korea over on this one.  I guess the other one (at is pretty much dead, unfortunately.  C'est la vie, as the French, or something, would say.  Anyway, I will try to continue posting stuff about Korea and some of my travels for the one or two people that might actually read it on this new one.  And, of course, listen to Slough Feg.  The awesome metal band that coined the term Hardworlders in song.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sokcho (속초), Inje (인제), food, beach...

Here's a quick preface:  Most of this was written in late August, and I just now got around to finishing it.  Lazy.

I'm back in Korea after a month in the states.  Not really ready to teach students yet.  Not even ready to do a post right now, but I need to get one in for August.  I don't want this thing to be all passe cuz I missed a month.  Right?  Well, after a grueling 25 hour trip back to Korea with only 30 minutes of sleep before I had to wake up and board, I decided that I should probably take a trip out to the northeast coast of Korea to a coastal city called Seokcho.  The route went something like this:

Friday, directly after work, I had planned to take a 2 and 1/2 hour bus to Injae.  Injae is where my buddy Jason temporary lived until his flight back to the states.  Injae is in Gangwon-do, the most beautiful province in Korea.  Seriously!  Check the pics below.  Before I made it to the bus station to head out there, I decided it would be a grand idea to sit on my glasses.  Broken.  No...a run to the eyeglass store and they were good as...almost new.  So, I had to rush to the bus stop.  Made it!  Get on the bus.  Relax.  Tried to sleep, but couldn't.  Hopped off in Injae and I'm eating bbq with his boss and drinking soju.  Here's what we were eating below:

Here is some makchang (막창) which is the....large intestine I believe.  Of a pig....I believe.  Very good here.  This is the bbq place in the building of the bus station.

And here's the whole spread:

And below is pork meat with the bone cartilidge in it (find out the name later).  Quite crunchy and very good.  This is a pic of it before it was cooked:

Drinking and hell raising occurred on this night, and the next day Jason's girl came by and we headed out to Sokcho.  Before we got there I got a great picture of Seoraksan right here:

Beautiful, eh?  I've hiked that thing before.  Took me 12 hours, and I thought I was going to die but I did it.  And that's what's important...maybe.  Hard.  Very hard.

Not long after that shot, we ate what might have been the best meal I've ever had in my life.  Below are the pictures of what we ate and I will have to ask my friend what they were again because I've never had this meal before.

Here's the spread.  There's a type of jeon (전) in the middle next to the kimchi.  All of these side dishes were pretty great.

Below are some kind of tofu cakes.  They're in the above picture too.  Really great.

This was not featured in the above picture, but this was kind of the main course.  It's a tofu soup type of thing, and you could add some soy sauce to it if you liked.  Personally, I thought it was great without anything added to it.  Fantastic lunch.

Of course, you need some booze at the dinner table if you're gonna eat in this country, otherwise it's just not a fucking meal.  Welcome to makolli world.  Love this stuff.

After this, we headed to the beach, of which I don't have any pictures of, but that night we painted the town polka dots.  Here is some amazing amazing food we ate, and a pic of the Sokcho bridge which featured a swarm of seagulls flying above.  Really quite beautiful.  It must have been the lights that attracted them.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good picture of the seagulls, but I do have some video I posted at the bottom of the post.

Okay, here's a bottle of makolli, which I think was the Gangwon-do variety.  Each province of Korea has their own particular kinds of soju and makolli.  This was Inje makolli (인제 막걸리).

Ahh!!!!  Delicious.  What we have in the middle is squid soondae (오징어 순대) which is basically stuffed squid, and it is fucking awesome.  Above it is regular soondae which is basically a Korean sausage using pig intestines that they stuff.  Sometimes it's not that great at the street stands, but here it was great.  Below both is kimchi.  Where would a Korean meal be without it.

The main course?  Maybe, but it was some fantastic grilled fish.  A definite variety, and I don't know the names of all of 'em.  Maybe I can add that later.  Sokcho is awesome.  Everyone should go there RIGHT NOW!

And here's the finale.  A video of the seagulls flying overhead:

Friday, July 29, 2011

KBO: LG Twins vs. Doosan Bears 7/1/2011

Korean baseball.  Really, I should go to games more often.  It's an excellent excuse to get drunk and NOT drive home.  But, as is, this is only my second time to visit the ball park in Korea.  The first time was in 2007 at around the same time to see the Doosan Bears stomp the Hanhwa Eagles.  I was pulling for the Eagles, since I was living in Daejeon at the time (they name the teams after the corporations that sponsor them, so Hanhwa Eagles is the team for Daejeon).  I am still more of an Eagles fan even though they ain't good (and currently, second to last in the league), but on this night, I was a Bears fan.  Both of these teams are Seoul teams, but my understanding is that the Twins are like the equivalent of the Yankees.  So, of course I am not about to pull for them.  Hell, the Texas Rangers smashed 'em in the playoffs last year, so any team that is a dynasty like the Yankees does not get my love.  Only hate.  So, the Bears are more like the Mets, and I'm okay with that....until they play the Eagles again.

In case you haven't been keeping up with Korean weather, it's raining like a motherfucker over there.  Floods and all kinds of mayhem.  I, however, am not there.  I'm on vacation in Texas visiting folks and friends, and I guess I picked a good time to do so. is the exact opposite over here.  No rain anywhere.  At the time of this game, the weather took a break, and we could enjoy this ballgame, but seriously, it had been pouring down the previous week or so, and continued up until I left, and apparently just got completely over the top recently.  So, excellent weather for the game.  I went with some co-workers, which was a little annoying at times.  Mostly because I went with a dude that I kinda don't like at all.  But I'm not gonna get into that.  I just focused on the game.

A few things about baseball games here:  1) the stadium is separated by which team you are pulling for, so we were all Bears fans so we sat on the opposite side from the Twins fans.  2) each side has a male cheerleader, and occasionally four ready made ladies would hop on the stage and do a jig for the male crowd.  They usually dance to k-pop hitz.  3) when one team is pitching, the other team's fans can make an ass ton of noise, to encourage their team at the bat.  4) each team player has a chant.  I've heard these things are similar to Japanese baseball teams, too.  Anything else?  No?  Well, let's sum up the game:  Bears won 6-0.  The Bears winning pitcher (with a complete game) was a foreigner named Dustin Nippert.  Nice job, and fun times.  I didn't even have a drop of beer, and it was still about 10 times more fun than an American baseball game.  Who woulda thought?  Below are some photos of it, and some youtube clips that I took from the game.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Napalm Death & more at Asia Metal Festival, 2011

Maybe my second Asia Metal Fest? There's one about every month over here, and it always seems to be organized by the singer/leader dude from Oathean. Who are Oathean? Well, they are pretty much THE SHIT when it comes to the Korean metal scene. Now, they are not the best, or most original, but they are a pretty solid symphonic/black/death metal band. Especially live, when they are at their most black metal. Truth be told (instead of untruth), I don't listen to them, or really any Korean metal band (save Pyha) in my home, but that doesn't mean that the scene sucks here. It's just that most of the music doesn't really fascinate me. Two things that seem to define the scene is: symphonic metal, and metal core (does that term still exist?), and we get a little of the symphonic, and a lot of the metal core during the Asia Metal Fest that went down on a tropical rainy day, June 25, 2011. AND Napalm Death. The Fest headliners.

Napalm Death. An old high school favorite. One of the first bands that I ever listened to, and thought "what the fuck is happening." Back in '89/'90, right before "Harmony Corruption" was released (introducing Barney Greenway as singer), I picked up "From Enslavement to Obliteration" at a Dallas metal record store called Underground Records. At the time, I was aware of the hype surrounding Earache Records. The kind of hype that Southern Lord Records was getting this past decade. (I also want to add that Earache, like Southern Lord, was getting a lot of crossover fans from other genres.) So, one day, with my pennies rattling around in my pocket, I made it to the mysterious Underground Records over in, I think, Plano. I bought the Napalm Death lp, and I believe Bolt Thrower's second album (which I never understood until about 5 years ago when I started listening to them non-stop), and Death's third. Death was already a favorite, but Napalm Death was the band that I made tapes for for the 5 other kids in school that liked metal/hardcore/punk. Obviously, everyone was fascinated. Up to that point, we all thought D.R.I.'s first 2 albums were the fastest things going, only to be blown away by the hypnotic blur of Napalm Death. These days, I can hear more of their crust influences in the guitar riffs, and I think it's safe to say that I understand their influences more, and what it has influenced (a lot).

The poster above has the lineup (which has some mistakes), and I'll go through my thoughts about the various metals that happened. First of all, because of traffic, I got there late, so I missed TerrorMight. The second band was a band from Taiwan with a North American singer dude called Revilement. This band kinda defined what would mostly be heard during the whole fest: Metal Core. Bands that exclusively worship at the alter of Pantera, and Roots era Sepultura (and thrash). Revilement were the worst of the bunch. Generic to the core, the singer at one point said, "This next song is about our two favorite things: sex and VIOLENCE!" I'm not even kidding. This is the reason why people think metal heads are stupid. Terrible.

Next was a Korean band called Ishtar. Symphonic power metal, but with lots of old school metal riffs. I think they may have been the best band of the night (besides Napalm). The (hot) lady singer sang, very, "operatic." Maybe it'll be funny to a lot of folks, but it was fucking good, and the only real change of pace during the whole show. I really don't know much about the genre to really give much reference except Queensryche has to be a big influence on them. The video down below (there's a picture, too) just happened to be their best song. Really great old school metal riffs on that one.

Mahatma, also from Korea, was next. Old school thrash (or "metal core") is what they do best. Not particulary memorable, but powerful, and fun. Here's a video of 'em from that night:

The next two Korean metal bands, Sacrifice and Method, are definitely from that Pantera/mid-90s Sepultura category. I missed Sacrifice because I had seen them before, and I really didn't give a shit. Below is a shot of Method. Method had some ripping guitar solos...I think. Or maybe that was Mahatma. Okay, Asia Metal Fest. Gimme something different.

Oathean. I'm really starting to get the impression that they just go through the motions. However, they were still great because we had just experienced 3 almost identical bands in a row. Here's a shot of them below. I had been having problems with my camera until Napalm Death so that's why the pictures look shitty.

Next, was a super powerful, but another worshipper of that early to mid 90s form of metal called Survive from Japan. I think I got some pictures, but I'm not going to post them. You will never hear about that band again, and I've already forgotten about 'em. Am I being too harsh and cynical? Yes, and you would be too if you had heard 5 bands playing within the same sub-genre.

Last: Napalm Death. They're looking older, but they ran through their entire recording career. Below is some "From Enslavement..." favorites that I filmed, so I wouldn't have to describe much. Great stuff. I'm glad I finally got to see them. Here's also a picture from when I moved closer so I could feel the power better.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gwanggyosan (광교산) Adventures

Gwanggyosan is a small mountain located in the north of Suwon. I can see it from my school on a clear day. And by clear day, I mean no Yellow Dust. But that shit doesn't fly over usually except during the spring. If you don't know Yellow Dust (황사), it is the dirty old sand that comes from the Gobi Desert in China. Oh, it can be so fun. ANYWAY, Gwanggyosan is not a difficult mountain to hike, but it is long, and so you can get a decent workout from it (if that's what your looking for). There is also one set of extraodinairily high stairs for such a small mountain. Now, the mountains over here in merry ol' Korea are usually "custom made" for hikers, because there's not a mountain in existence over here that doesn't have things like ropes or stairs or something to help you on your hike. So, it's kinda great, but it's kinda bad if you like to do things solo cuz, man, mountains get FUCKING CROWDED sometimes. And if you're trying to get ahead of folks, there's a lot of "jamgganmanyo" (잠깐만요, meaning wait a minute, or in this case, excuse me). Anyhoo, here's some pics on this mountain, the first 3 dating from May 15, and the last 3 from June 11.

This is at the beginning of the hike. From this direction it's a lil' climbing at the beginning, and then it's just nice mostly flat ground until the huge ass stairs that go up half a kilometer. Very pretty, and a nice break from the congested cities here.

And below is my city. Wow, the dust was a bit "out" on that day. Or it could have been the pollen in the air. Anyway, you can make out some apartment blocs out of there, I think. Yeah, it's big.

Here we go. This is on one of the peaks (same as above). You can see what I mean about crowded conditions. This is the fact of life here in Asia. You just have to get used to the idea that there are way too many people in this part of the world.

This is one of the spring water wells (maybe the only one) on the mountain. Comes in handy in case you get lost and need a water refill (which I was about to do on this second hike). Water tastes especially refreshing at these wells. Here a lil child is getting a taste of the purities before she conquers the mountain and claims it for her spiritual ancestors.

And here's some stairs that helps on your hike, however these are not the super tall ones. You just get an idea by looking at these. On other mountains (including this one) you may get stone stairs or rock stairs that they just kinda build into the Earth.

Ahh!!! I told you I got lost, right? Well, this was on my lost trek, and lo and behold, a long lost Nazi Concentration Camp! I'M KIDDING! It's a good ol' Buddhist temple right there. Kinda hidden away, and I really couldn't figure out how to get to it, plus I never know what to do when I do get into those places since I'm not a Buddhist. So, I just take pictures, and feel unwanted, and then gradually make my exit.