LCNL 041: Kwaidan Mix

house(1)LCNL 041: Kwaidan Mix (mixcloud)

Our latest mix is an interesting tour through Blues, drone, avant-garde, and Korean music, representing the influences of the Chicago trio Kwaidan.  The band is comprised of Neil Jendon on synths, Mike Weis (of Zelionople), and André Foisy (of Locrian) on guitar.   They’ve been playing together for a while, and 2013 saw the release of Make All The Hell Of Dark Metal Bright  on Bathetic Records.

The group sent me the files individually, so I put it together live myself, using DJ software, a mixer, and some effects.  As usual, it’s heavy handed, but I hope you enjoy discovering some radical new artists from Korea alongside weirdo post-punk like Scritti Politti and the strangest dark ambient tune to come out of Led Zeppelin.


Tell us about the who you are.

André Foisy: We’re from Chicago and Kwaidan is Neil Jendon, Mike Weis, and me.

I play guitar. Neil plays synths and Mike plays percussion.

I got into this kind of music when I moved to Chicago from New York State. I was really inspired by the drone music happening around Chicago at the time. I suppose that interest drew me to playing with Mike and Neil.

I also play in Locrian and Mike in Zelienople. Neil used to play in an alt-rock band in the early 90s called Catherine. They used to play with the Smashing Pumpkins a lot. Here’s a video of their recent reunion playing w/ Billy Corgan (ha!):

Bathetic released our LP and they have been very supportive of us. We’re big fans of the stuff that they release: Padang Food Tigers, High aura’d, etc.

This is a pretty diverse mix, you each chose tracks that gesture towards pretty different places aesthetically.   Tell us a bit about your choices.

Neil Jendon: I was thinking about a few things when I picked these songs. One was a recent interview with Bill Orcutt in which he said that the blues had become this restrictive, hyper-stylized and narrow genre that prewar blues musicians wouldn’t recognize. The other was the last time I was in Milwaukee I went record shopping with Junzo Suzuki, which was a total blast. The third thing is Grafton, Wisconsin, where Skip James recorded the best, most haunting records ever.

1 and 17. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”: It’s such a great recording; it really feels like a moment. It doesn’t start or end; it keeps going, shifting and regenerating. It’s brief two-part outburst echoes in everything I love in music.

3. “Mass Hysterism 3”: The first thing I heard by Masayuki Takayanagi was his solo rendition of Ornette Coleman‘s “Lonely Woman”. I was floored by the tension, elegance and subtlety of his playing.  Just on that recording alone, he’d be my absolute #1 hero of the guitar of all time, but no one that good could possibly stand still. Every record of his is a surprise. His playing is deep and thoughtful, and he’s always accompanied by massive talent like Koru Abe.

Mass Hysterism is killer. Straight up. It belongs in the same league as Brotzman’s Machine Gun.

4. “Fluid Outlets”: Mark Solotroff & Sshe Retina Stimulants, just doing what they do best. The churning grime becomes a hypnotic thing of beauty over the course of this CD.

5. “Iron Glove”: I can’t not include something tangential to Throbbing Gristle; I mean, let’s face facts. I really admire all post-TG work, and this Psychic TV track zeroes in on how brain-clobbberingly weird these records were to me as a dim suburban teen.

6. “For Franz Kline”: There’s nothing I could say about Morton Feldman that hasn’t been said better by someone smarter than me. The scope and scale of his compositions is stunning. Mad props to the musicians who take on this work.

7. “Three Fifths”: Charlemagne Palestine stretching out like “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” forced to stand still. A moment magnified.

8. “Für Die Katz”: Cluster, Kluster, and anything even closely related have been an obsession of mine lately. Synthesizers, you know?

14. “Stranger Blue”s: This is a pretty straight-up stomper from Elmore James, but what’s up with that fucked up echo? I love it; it adds a layer of menace to an already great jukebox record.

15. “The Humours of the Spitalfields”: Listen and try to remember that this is Scritti Politti. I love the guitar on this; it’s such a mess. (Full confession: I think Cupid & Psyche and Provision are masterpieces, and Green Garthside is a genius.)

Mike Weis: [I’m from] Chicago, by way of northwest Indiana.

Korean music? Well, it began about four years ago when I was in Seoul. I took a brief workshop on Changgo (the traditional hour-glass shaped drum). That’s when I first began to scratch the surface into the rich traditions of Korean folk music. Since then I’ve had a (un)healthy obsession with anything I could dig up about this kind of music. Surprisingly, in an age when it seems every corner of this planet is available at the click of a mouse-button, it just isn’t so with Korean folk or even Korean avant-garde music. It’s really hard to track down recordings and research on this topic. A lot of this stuff is grossly  under-documented and even when it is most of it is either out-of-print or either too expensive to import. The death of Mediafire doesn’t help either. So I decided to go straight to the source to learn more about this music. I’ve been studying Korean Pungmul/Samulnori drumming with a Korean-American group here in Chicago, called Ilkwanori. The rhythms are fascinating and not just in the intellectualized reading of time-signatures but in the mysterious way the rhythms are pushed and pulled according to breath and movement. It’s kind of difficult to explain but they kind of fall behind the beat but then rapidly snap in front of the beat, giving the music a wave-like motion. It’s very difficult for a Westerner to lock into it as we are so conditioned to playing “in time” to the metronome.

My selections are all from Korea (with the exception of the collaboration between Korean’s, Park Je Chun and Mi Yeon with the Japanese artist, Otomo Yoshihide). Two of the tracks are traditional and four are contemporary.

2. – Jambinai – I don’t know much about this new group except that they are young and trained in traditional Korean folk and court music but are very influenced by western Metal, Punk and Post-Rock. Aside from the typical rock line-up of electric guitars and drum set they are also using traditional Korean instruments like the Geomungo (plucked stringed instrument that’s playing the bass riff), Haegeum (bowed fiddle-like instrument that is creating that eerie, high-pitched sound) and Piri (double-reed horn that comes in late in the song like Coltrane’s Soprano at his most free!)

9. – Otomo Yoshihide, Park Je Chun, Mi Yeon – Otomo has been collaborating with Korean musicians ever since he sampled Kim Suk Chul’s (the elusive grandmaster musician and shaman who was the subject of a recent documentary called Intangible Asset No. 82) Taepyeongso on his infamous Ground Zero album, “Consume Red.” Park Je Chun’s drumming is very inventive, using a mixture of Eastern and Western percussion for his drum set and playing in a seated position on the floor. 

10. – Kim Dae Hwan – This dude was nuts! He started out as a Rock drummer but gave that up to study calligraphy. He wrote on everything: paper, drums, motorcycles, sticks and was even added to the Guinness Book Of World Records for writing 267 letters on a single grain of rice. Following his career as a calligrapher he went back to the drums but this time he was more interested in Free Jazz. His set was usually limited to one or two Buk’s (traditional Korea drum) with cymbals and sometimes his set was a motorcycle! His playing was very influenced by Zen Buddhism and he became fairly popular in Japan. This track is an improvisation with a Haegeum player.

11. – SamulNori – This group is credited for bringing the centuries-old traditional Pungmul drumming from the fields and the rituals to the stage in 1978. They downsized the traditional line-up of a large ensemble down to four (Samul means “four objects” and Nori means “to play”). They reinvented Pungmul, adapting traditional rhythms for their own compositions, thus creating a 20th Century tradition which is now studied in Korean music conservatories. This track is a good example of the unique feel of Korean rhythm that I talked about earlier. Pusal is a composition that attempts to express the emotion of “Han”, which loosely translates to feelings of sorrow, anger, frustration but supposedly these words don’t quite fit as Koreans will say that Han is an emotion specific to Korea’s collective historical consciousness. Supposedly, the only relief from Han is through music, song and dance.

12. – Korean Folk Music Ensemble – Shinawi is a type of traditional ensemble music that has its roots in Shaman ritual. The music has a loose structure but soon after this framework is established,  the musicians are free to improvise.

13. – Kang Tae Hwan – this musician is one of the grandfather’s of Korean Free music and the avant-garde. His saxophone style is rooted in Korean shaman music – he sits cross-legged on the floor and utilizes the circular breathing technique to sustain long notes. He collaborated frequently with Kim Dae Hwan, Kim Suk Chul and Westerners like Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg. Clearness is a double CD-R which is nearly impossible to find, as is the amazing album of duos simply titled, “Korean Free Music.”

 André Foisy: I’m keeping my selections show since Mike and Neil picked a lot of great stuff already. I chose a few tracks that have influenced how I play in this group. So, I think the theme of the mix is a good indication of what our influences in this group are: blues, drone, experimental with a Korean influence on the percussion.

18. Brian Eno – I picked this track because it just sort of unfolds. I try to approach writing music in a different way in Kwaidan and Eno’s approaches are always inspiring me to work differently.

19. Ramses III – The Ramses III stuff is so simple and beautiful. I can listen to this on repeat forever. This album “Honey Rose” inspired me to start playing with Neil and Mike. Although that was my (probably unspoken) intention with starting this group, our music has not turned out anything like this.

20. Jimmy Page – This Lucifer Rising track might be my favorite thing that Jimmy Page has played on. It’s just mysterious, creepy, and awesome.

Thanks for much for speaking with us!

Thanks for the music!


Kwaidan Mix
Track number Track Name Artist Album Label Time
1 Rollin’ and Tumblin (Part 1) Little Walter & Baby Face Leroy The Blues World of Little Walter Delmark Records 2:52
2 소멸의 시간 Jambinai Diffrance GMC Records 2:57
3 Mass Hysterism 3 Masayuki Takayanagi Mass Hysterism In Another Situation Jinya Disc 9:57
4 Fluid Outlets Mark Solotroff & Sshe Sshe Retina Stimulants Excellent Manipulation of Distorted Tape Death BloodLust! 7:01
5 Iron Glove Psychic TV Dreams Less Sweet CBS 1:57
6 For Franz Kline Morton Feldman For Franz Kline Wego 5:13
7 Three Fifths Charlemagne Palestine Four Manifestations on Six Elements Barooni 14:30
8 Für Die Katz’ Cluster Cluster II Brain 3:09
9 Untitled Otomo Yoshihide, Park Je Chun, Mi Yeon Loose Community Improvised Music from Japan 6:28
10 Kim Dae Hwan Huk Woo (Black Rain) n/a 2:40
11 P u Sal Samulnori Record Of Changes CMP Records 8:12
12 Shinawi Korean Folk Music Ensemble Four Thousand Years of Korean Folk Music n/a 5:12
13 Untitled Kang Tae Hwan Clearness n/a 3:38
14 Stranger Blues Elmore James The Immortal Elmore James Music Club 2:56
15 The Humours of Spitalfields Scritti Politti n/a n/a 2:30
16 Illinois Blues Skip James Skip James (1964-1967) Private Record 3:05
17 Rollin’ and Tumblin (Part 2) Little Walter & Baby Face Leroy The Blues World of Little Walter Delmark Records 3:16
18 Zawinul/Lava Brian Eno Another Green World Island 3:00
19 Theme III Ramses III Honey Rose Important Records 10:19
20  Side A Jimmy Page Lucifer’s Rising Soundtrack Bootleg Copy 11:07

About Joseph Sannicandro

writer | traveler | sound organizer | contrarian | concerned citizen

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