Track By Track: Salamanda – ashbalkum
‘Good storytellers are what we want to be with our music.’
Seoul duo Salamanda tell us. ‘We love delivering stories not just through tracks that we make but through live/DJ sets as well. For this reason, it’s always important for us to find or build a story that triggers our imagination to the fullest’. This desire is palpable in their productions, illuminated by tangible sound design that immerses its listener in unreal worlds.
First joining forces in 2019, Sala (AKA Uman Therma) and Manda (AKA Yetsuby) share an affinity towards the metaphysical. Having just released their fourth full-length LP, they’ve not since looked back, honing a mesmerising, deeply enchanting style as if it were a second language that only the two of them can speak, yet every listener is able to understand.
Polyrhythms, earworm melodies and dynamic percussion lure listeners into a lullaby state, allowing them to revisit fantasies untouched since childhood.
‘Most of our inspirations come from old myths and legends, stories from others, animals and nature or even our interpretations of art pieces’, they affirm. Their newest album, released today on New York label Human Pitch, was inspired by Sala’s old illustration of a bathtub – Manda’s favourite among all of the nostalgic pixel graphics that Sala creates for each release. As is the image, ashbalkum is at once intricate, playful and calming.
‘From the artwork, we imagined a person having a nap inside the water, which is the realm of wild and enchanting dreams. The concept of “dream” really clicked with us, so we decided to name this album ashbalkum – a symbolic & phonetic reinterpretation of a Korean phrase for the realization that what you’ve been experiencing as “reality” is actually a dream – and plunge ourselves into our own dreamland’, they elaborate.
The human voice abstracted, indiscernible amongst a sea of serpentine drumwork that switches rapidly from dembow to dub and back again, contributing to the thematic exploration of how we interact with the world around us – one where one’s own being, language, & nature itself are all rendered infinitely mutable.
Here, the collaborators take us track by track through the album and in doing so lead us through a surrealist desert to a cat-led tea party. See you on the other side!
Splash! You’ve dived into the deep water inside the bathtub. This world underwater is as colorful and fragrant as LUSH bath bombs! In the lukewarm sparkling water, you hear the hypnotic callings of the Sirens and unknown voices that seemed to have come alive from the old Greek mythology.
You’re now in the middle of a desert of which landscape reminds you of one of those static surrealist paintings. There’s an ice cream cone dripping under the blazing sun that eventually melts into a sweet but dreadful milky ocean.
In line with the story, you can hear each musical element including marimba, vocals, bass and synth coming in one by one and creating a rich harmony together as the music progresses.
Jumping on bongos in the land of bongo! Main focuses are on light, minimal rhythms and somehow catchy voice samples. This is a very light-hearted track that we had fun working on with no pressure.
Mad Cat Party (feat. Ringo The Cat)
This song is about a tea party held by Manda’s cat Ringo. As you may have assumed through Ringo’s vocals featured in the track, she’s actually a very loud and talkative cat plus a very good singer! She often makes Manda so proud by singing in the right pitch. You can also listen to her amazing drum session using a kettle and all kinds of kitchenware.
Feel the harmonies flowing around the variations on the vocals of Overdose and Melting Hazard!
Coconut Warrior is a ritual song of coastal warriors whose bodies are made of coconut shells and skins and various kinds of berries. Pay attention to the rhythmic bass and funky wooden percussions.
Hard Luck Story
We love creating fun and witty percussion sounds using multiple instruments and samples of different textures. This track is one of those that we made while exploring ways to add our unique touch to different rhythms.
The inspiration for this track is from an old Korean children’s story where a boy feeds a hungry caterpillar every full moon, and when the caterpillar later becomes a butterfly, it returns its favor.
Kiddo Caterpillar has relatively rich sounds and clear structure compared to our other tracks, and you can also feel some sort of tropical vibe in it which makes this track special.
It’s a mid-tempo minimal dance track with a reasonably trippy vibe that is just about right. Not too much, not too less.
Back to the childhood memories! Catchy vocals and cute melodies that remind you of good old memories of playing with marbles and playing tail tag.
Cold Water Manufacture (*included in Japan-only CD)
This track was created while experimenting with watery textured sounds that we love. It’s also the track that we had to re-work on the most and performed live multiple times.