We’re living in a world where K-pop gets daytime airplay on BBC Radio 1. Think about that for a second, a Korean pop song getting played by a national UK radio station where usually the English-language norm is only broken by the occasional Spanish lyric. That’s just mind-blowing.
I’m referring to DNA, a single by boy band sensation BTS that hit the playlist this October. It signalled a good month for Korean music, what with the K-Music Festival hitting London, along with a recent musical performance in the city by esteemed Korean film composer Bang Jun-Seok.
Aux sound like none of the above; they don’t even sound like much else on the K-Music Festival roster. Before going into the concert, I knew they mixed guitars with pansori-style vocals, so I imagined something austere or a little introspective. That’s what pansori usually is, an epic kind of Korean folk song that falls somewhere between opera and storytelling. I’ve experienced it live in Korea, and it’s a unique experience. Aux were very much the same.
From the get-go, I was hit by freewheeling psych-rock that cleverly matched the wayward wail of pansori song. It was also unusual to see a nabal trumpet used to add brass to a heavy rock background, an instrument I knew before from Korean folk songs of the instrumental, non-pansori sort. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, as such folk sounds come with a brash and percussive force, not a million miles away from Aux’s obvious metal inspirations.
Rich Mix managed to contain this magnitude of clashing sounds at work, although the sound mix was a little muddy at times. Eun Kyung Min‘s vocals always came through thick and strong, piercing the general mayhem as much as the trumpet did. The crowd was transfixed, and, like me, no doubt wishing they could understand just what stories were being told by those lilting wails. That would remain a secret into the night, unlike the very open majesty of Aux’s metal miasma. Those sounds would reverberate with us long after, much like the pansori of Korea’s ancient past.
Photo ©: Kii Studios