If you are patient, you will indeed run into a charmingly freaky (or freakishly charming) release on Bandcamp. Today, I want to introduce you to The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble. They hail from North Korea, of all places, and they have a catalog of at least 85 CDs available. This compilation, release by the Manchester-based Maybles Labels, put a lot of care into curating these tracks. From their Bandcamp website:
Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble – 보천보전자악단 is North Korea’s best known musical group. The group has been active for over 25 years and has released close to 200 albums. It is a household name in North Korea and also enjoys recognition in Japan and China. The ensemble’s recognition in Japan was celebrated with a tour in 1991.
The ensemble is famous for its’ inspired use of electronic instruments including bass, guitar, synthesizer and drums. Additional electronic effects are often created and edited in a sound studio following live recordings in order to achieve the hallmark synth-pop sounds.
The ensemble has written and performed marches, polkas, waltzes, bossanova, cha-cha and ballad pieces during its long history. It has also interpreted countless traditional and revolutionary folk songs from Korea and China as well as several Russian and European tunes.
P.E.E’s music is frequently on the themes of love of ones’ country, ideology and loyalty towards the political leadership of North Korea. Friendship, love and the beauty of nature are other common themes.
Former members of the ensemble have included iconic Korean singers such as Hyon Song‑wol, Ri Kyong Suk, Jon Hye Yong and Comrade Ri Sol-ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
It’s best known melody outside of North Korea is “Whistle’ from 1990, which was covered and released in South Korea by Kim Yeon-ja, to great acclaim and success.
Totalitarian countries have a good reason to release nothing but happy music. If their people actually figured out that their situation wasn’t normal, there would be a lot of officials whose heads would be mounted on pikes, so the need to appease the masses is of critical importance.