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Album Review

The Korean folk instrument known as the komungo has an extraordinary range, and Jin Hi Kim uses every bit of it on this CD. Not content with very high and low tones, on several tracks she bends the notes in a way that is slightly reminiscent of a pedal steel guitar player. Most of the tunes here are solo pieces which alternate fast rhythms with meditative, meandering excursions which may or may not have anything recognizable as a melody line to someone unfamiliar with Asian music. Nevertheless, most of these compositions are fascinating just because of the strange and wonderful quality of the sound. Rather than the formal and almost mathematical austerity is sometimes present in Asian music the mood here is improvisational and experimental. The standout track is "Jupiter's Moons," which has eerie, bluesy wordless singing by Kang Kwon Soon. While there may be aspects of this album that can only be truly appreciated by someone who is familiar with Korean culture and tradition, there is plenty to interest an adventurous listener who wants to enjoy a very different sonic landscape.


Born: 1957 in Inchon, Korea

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Studied komungo, a zither of six silk strings most often used for meditation of male Confucian scholars, at an early age, breaking tradition where most girls study kayagum, a brighter, more popular zither. Studied at Seoul National University, electronic music and composition at Mills College. Has worked with Derek Bailey, Bill Frisell, Oliver Lake, Elliott Sharp, Eugene Chadbourne. Co-founder No World Improvisations quartet. Designed electric version of komungo, and MIDI-version of changgo,...
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Komungo, Jin Hi Kim
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