Album Review

Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo From 78rpm Records [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

surferrosa   2/20/2013   12-inch, International

Sanjo translates to Scattered Melodies. It is a stylized form of improvisation developed in Korea during the 1890s. These recordings range from 1925 to the 1950s. The stringed instrument here is the Kayagum, a smaller cousin of the Japanese Koto.. the Kayagum’s tone is not quite as bright as the Koto’s and it sounds like it could have one or two strings, though the instrument certainly holds over a dozen. Accompanying the Kayagum is an hour glass shaped hand drum called Changgo, and the occasional sound of a human voice barely coming in from a distance. The music here is improvised and quite arrhythmic, that is almost wholly melodic, with an ever present wavering vibrato. Notes slide and bend into half tones, quarter tones and everything in between on the far eastern scale. The music breathes, expressive in its building tempo changes and fleeting moments when the beat sets in… all of this dipped in the pops and scratches of the old, original vinyl. Sublime Frequencies.. always delivers. -Surfer Rosa

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