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Review: 숨[suːm] Bring Traditional Korean Instruments To The Dance Floor In Darius Darek's 'New Krautrock Refix' Remix Of 'Rendezvous' [AUDIO]

By Jim Thomson | February 25, 2014 02:54 PM EST


As the pace of modern life accelerates, one can often take refuge in putting on a pair of headphones and letting the music return us to a more introspective inner space.

Listening to a remix of "Rendezvous," a minimalist track by the traditional Korean music ensemble 숨[suːm], is like having your own personal soundtrack; giving your next commute to work a meaningful quality where an ordinary journey is transformed into a cinematic narrative evoking a range of emotions.

숨[suːm], who favor mostly acoustic stringed instruments, might seem like odd bedfellows with an electronic music producer like the German based Darius Darek. But then again, this is exactly the kind of collaboration that can cut across a spectrum of differences and affirm the universal language of music, especially to wider demographic younger listeners weaned on a precise grid of bleeps and bloops.

The Seoul-based group employs a variety of traditional Korean instruments in their arsenal, like the piri and the saenghwang. But for this track it's all yanggeum, a Korean version of the hammered dulcimer, and the gayageum, in this case, a 25-stringed instrument much like a zither.

Both instruments  are used to great effect.

Darius Darek's remix of "Rendezvous" builds tension throughout its six-minute duration with the incessant rhythmic hammering of the yanggeum, which acts like the song’s motor. Once it’s switched on, the listener is along for the ride but beneath the surface, a mysterious conversation begins, suggesting a menacing tension.

Clear, deliberate melancholic notes plucked on the strings of the gayageum are placed in regular recurring patterns are like lights coming on in a dark train tunnel as you’re propelled towards something you’re not quite sure of.

A bassline pattern is introduced and buttresses the momentum towards a climax to a clearing where the tension is resolved, or at least, paused for a breath.

But the motor is still running and the swirls of overtones and rhythm finally are accompanied by the familiar machinations of drum-and-bass rhythm which is inserted into the grid almost as an afterthought towards the final quarter of the piece.

Since the remix has "New Krautrock Refix" in its title, it’s safe to assume that Darius Darek either hears something in the music of 숨[suːm] that contains characteristics of krautrock groups like Can and NEU! or that he felt compelled to apply the aesthetic of krautrock to the remix itself.

Krautrock, a term used by the British music press to describe the experimental German rock movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, is known for combining rock instrumentation with ambient and synthetic sounds against a relentless 4/4 rhythm.

What makes the 숨[suːm] remix most compelling however, is actually the restraint of the remixer; the traditional instruments and the artistry of the musicians are always at center stage here.

A heavy-handed sonic tool in the hands of many producers, the kick drum keeps a steady pulse in the "New Krautrock Refix" of "Rendezvous," but remains respectfully unobtrusive.

Electronic keyboards occupy the sonic spectrum like the low hum of a muted power generator and the ambience of the acoustic instruments sounds only slightly processed, vital to conveying the original musical message of the song.

According to artist statements issued by Ji Ha Park and Jungmin Seo, the musicians who make up 숨[suːm] , music is “a way to express the essence of living.” And they have been expressing themselves since forming the group in 2007.

Last year 숨[suːm] performed at WOMEX (short for WOrld Music EXpo) in Cardiff, Wales and the remix of Rendezvous appears on Global Club Music Network’s first remix EP of last year's WOMEXimizer-a compilation of world music groups who performed at WOMEX in 2013.

Remixes can be a great way of sneaking in roots and traditional music past the sentinels of trends and styles. 숨[suːm] certainly don’t need to validate their music, as it stands firmly on its own two feet, but if this version of "Rendezvous" connects them to a larger scene of urban global dance music, everybody wins.

Listen to Rendezvous (Darius Darek New Krautrock Refix) from the new remix EP of last year's WOMEXimizer RIGHT HERE Jim Thomson owns and operates the Brooklyn/Washington, DC-based boutique record label-Electric Cowbell Records. He currently runs Multiflora Productions, a music agency that produces multicultural global music events. He played was the founding drummer of GWAR, Alter-Natives, Bio Ritmo, and CSC Funk Band and remains a fearless bongo player. He is also editor-at-large for The Vinyl District, an indie record store blog that focuses on the vinyl record medium.

Tagged :  숨[suːm], Darius Darek, James Thomson


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