Best of What's Next: LHASA

Music Features Lhasa
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Hometown: Busan, South Korea
Members: Eric Anderson, Rhylon Durham
For Fans Of: Explosions in the Sky, Radiohead, Daedelus

Some bands can’t handle limitations. Without easy access to practice space, a cornucopia of instruments to play with, and a vibrant music scene in which to try out new material, they fizzle away. Not so with Busan, South Korea’s LHASA. Guitarist/sample artist Eric Anderson and drummer Rhylon Durham have maneuvered their way around a number of obstacles to make their spacey electronica, full of layered loops, head-nodding hooks and South American-inspired drumming, some of the most popular music in the local scene.

“I had been collecting all kinds of musical instruments for a couple years, but then sold just about everything to come to Korea,” Anderson says. “I bought a looping pedal my first month here, and that kind of gave us the idea or format for what we’ve been playing.”

Durham, who has been drumming since age 12, was forced to narrow his focus as well. “Moving here also made me investigate my sampler more, considering I couldn’t very well pack my kit up in a suitcase,” he says.

After being introduced by a mutual friend and playing together a few times, the duo, who both have day jobs as English teachers, realized they were on to something. In spite of a language barrier that can make it difficult even to order a coffee in Korea, they pieced together a practice space and the necessary gear, and began playing shows with other popular local acts. LHASA quickly gained a following among native Koreans and expatriates alike. Late last month, they self-released their first full-length album.

“The recording process for this album was unbelievably self-propelled and flexible,” Durham says. “We recorded at an art space named AGIT, hidden up in an alley on a mountain in Busan. AGIT is an art space, practice space, gallery, and recording studio housed in a converted kindergarten. Everyone at AGIT has been incredibly supportive and inspirational for our music and our lives here. We had loads of help with gear, but recorded everything ourselves.”

Anderson then spent weeks holed up in the studio after work, editing the bands’ eight tracks. He then sent them off to Mariage Blanc’s Josh Kretzmer, for whom he’d done some drumming before leaving the States, for mastering. The result is a dreamy, enchanting collection of songs that marries elements of post-rock, jazz and L.A.’s burgeoning electronic scene.

Whether LHASA will continue beyond its members’ tenure in Korea remains to be seen. Geography may interfere when Anderson returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and Durham to his home in Tennessee. For now, neither of the band’s members are worrying about it. As Durham says, “Life lived in the present is life lived.”

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