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K-Pop Throwback: Sanulrim's 'Laying Silks and Satins On My Heart' Forges a New Sound [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | March 05, 2014 03:41 PM EST

You'd be hard-pressed to think of a band that combined the nihilistic repetition of Public Image Limited and the singsong psychedelia of the Soft Machine.

But, by digging through the archives of Korean rock, that particular brand of gold can be struck.

The band responsible for this unlikely fusion is named Sanulrim, and it must be said, their music is deeply strange.

The band's name translates to a combination of the words "mountain" and "echo," and upon reflection, this juxtaposition makes plain sense. More on that in a moment, but first, some perfunctory biography info is in order.

Sanulrim was a power trio comprised of three brothers, Kim Chang Wan (the eldest, singing and playing guitar), Kim Chang Ik (the drummer and youngest sibling), and middle child Kim Chang Hun on bass guitar.

The group formed in the late 1970s and released a steady output of material right up until Kim Chang Ik's death in 2008.

As one oneline band history reads, "they wanted heavy guitar sounds like AC/DC but it was impossible to make a sound like them without sufficient technological know-how."

Take for example track one, side one of Sanulrim's second LP, 1978's "As Laying Carpet on My Mind."

The first element apparent in this jam, the very tactile "Laying Silks and Satins On My Heart," is a rocksteady, deadly-simple rhythm.

By virtue of the dub-like bass, one can't help but wonder if Sanulrim were privy to the holy works of Jah Wobble.

And by the 30-second mark, Kim Chang Wan introduces some truly clanging guitarwork. AC/DC it ain't.

But forget technological know-how. This is some pre-industrial music noise that makes for a satisfyingly jarring introduction to the group's autodidactic approach to proto-punk.

What immediately follows, is the kind of meandering electric gnar that splits the difference between no wave aggression and Neil Young-style spaciousness.

The minor-key spiraling speaks of a supreme indifference; think Miles Davis, back turned to the audience. A far cry from Korean rock's attempts at crowd-pleasing radio-aping up until that point in history, for certain.

Without warning, halfway through the piece, Sanulrim pivot. Some politely flange-drenched guitar and a charming around-the-world drum fill shifts the group into a mode much more indebted to the godfather of Korean rock, Shin Joong-Hyun.

As the group arrive at what we'll call a chorus, bassist Kim Chang Hun breaks free from his stoic ostinato to bring in some wild runs.

Saving the flash for the second half of the song, the players illustrate that the first three minutes weren't simple for lack of skill, but rather, due to the possession of patience and some good taste.

A melody worthy of any Dungen album closes out the chorus, returning the listener to the diffident cool of the verse.

And so we have the mountain, exemplified by an unmoving rhythm, and the echo, represented by the reverbed-out vocal melody. Sanulrim represented a solid step towards art-rock in the Korean peninsula, down to the striking abstract paintings that adorn their first few records. Their particular idiosyncrasies are worth investigation.

Check out Sanulrim's "Laying Silks and Satins on My Heart."

 

Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer, currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, he has been researching the history of tuning systems and working on his jump shot. 

Tagged :  sanulrim, laying silks and satins on my heart, psychedelic, punk

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