Words by Keith Howard
As those who have seen the group live know, Dulsori mix old and new, but they do so with authority, insisting that each performer is professionally trained within Korean traditional music. They started out back in the 1980s playing mainly samul nori, a quartet of drums and gongs, but their take on Korean percussion has been to expand the instruments until drums cover their stage. While Japanese taiko drumming tends to be about physicality in a way that doesn’t always translate into great audio recordings, Dulsori retain a musical integrity and complexity that never bores. Here, they spice up the percussion with melodic instruments, from Korean zithers, flutes, oboes and shawms to the curious chords of the saenghwang (mouth organ).
The first track kicks off with a solo zither and builds to a chanted Buddhist sutra. The drums then come into their own and rural shamanic rituals arrive on track four, with deep vocals matching the thick textures of the geomungo (zither). We have to wait until late in the album for the title-track, ‘Binari’, a song of blessing once given by itinerant troupes. The first eight tracks are studio performances, crisp and clear, moving from one side of the room to the other. Three live recordings complete the album.
Listen to a choice track from Binari: Well Wishing Music on the Top of the World CD included with the current issue (#84 June 2012).