Tuesday, November 24, 2015

U&Me Blue - Cry... Our Wanna Be Nation (1996)

Two years after their debut album, U&Me Blue returned with their sophomore album, Cry... Our Wanna Be Nation, which would also be their final album. The duo did manage to reunite in the late 2000's to perform together and release a single, but this is the last longform recorded work that they released. And two years after Nothing's Good Enough, the duo's sound hadn't dramatically changed, even incorporating a different arrangement of "세상 저편에 선 너" into this follow up album. And this is a good thing, if like me, you enjoyed their first album.

As with Nothing's Good Enough, Bang Jun-seok brings a distinctly British modern rock influenced sound into his work, noticeable instantly in the opening track, "지울수 없는 너", which has a touch of Oasis in its rocking chorus while Bang himself sings a more plaintive song on the verses, which are significantly more restrained than the chorus, providing a nice bit of dynamism for an excellent opening track. Yi Sung-yol takes up the second track with "그대 영혼에" writing and performing the whole thing on his own, so it's no surprise that it sounds pretty much like the kind of rock music he'd produce in his subsequent solo career, except with a touch of 90's U2-esque falsetto on the bridge.

Similarly, Bang Jun-seok also has "나의 다음 숨결보다 더 아름다운 너를 원하고 있어", a pop-rock track that sounds a lot like some of the more pop-like tracks that he's produce for soundtracks under the moniker Blue in Green, especially in the arrangement of the rhythm section, while his melodic composition for this song would be echoed later on "Sunflower" on the soundtrack to the movie ...ing.

And, of course, adding a new studio recorded version of "세상 저편에 선 너" on Cry... Our Wanna Be Nation invites a comparison. The new arrangement pushes more distorted guitars in place of synths and picks up the tempo just a little, which ends up pushing the track deeper into rock territory, dropping the U2-style guitars and falsetto, but while Yi pushes his vocals grittier at times than the original version and occasionally more distorted, it's also his vocal that really lock down the song and keeps it entirely recognizable--it's more of a modification than an actual rethinking of the original composition.

Also, with both Bang and Yi at least semi-fluent in English, they actually have several songs on Cry featuring or entirely written in English, with Yi's "그대 영혼에", his "천국보다 낯선" and Bang's "Moments" all having entirely comprehensible English lyrics.

One of my favorite moments on the album is the song "La La La La Day", which has a jazzier arrangement with its brushed drums and cymbals and piano. Combined with Yi's distorted vocals and touches of singing guitarwork, it actually sounds like a sonic predecessor to one of my favorite 2000's Korean bands, MOT on the intro and through the verses, with a little more Yi-like bombast, obviously. Then Yi takes the song into a rocking overdrive for a bit. Despite ending with a bit of an anticlimax and the mix probably putting Yi's vocals too up front, I really like the alternate song structure and how Yi works outside of the sound that I've been accustomed to hear from his solo work.

All that said, I think it's kind of clear that U&Me Blue was pushing towards inevitable solo careers for each member as each song feels like it more distinctly belongs to either Yi or Bang with Yi being a little more present on the track count. Several of the tracks don't even feature both members of U&Me Blue with just one of the two backed by session musicians. As such it's probably not much of a surprise that the duo split up after this album. But even so, the aesthetic of U&Me Blue is still itself noticeable--yes it sounds like a fusion of the two members distinctive sounds, but some of the tension from that fusion is what makes it aurally captivating at times.

So Cry... Our Wanna Be Nation, being as similar to Nothing's Good Enough, perhaps pushing the rock a little more as well as Bang and Yi's distinct sounds more, will obviously and absolutely appeal to fans of both the duo's first album as well as fans of either members' solo works. But it also won't convince those yet uncompelled by any of those either. But since I do like Bang, Yi and Nothing's Good Enough, I think Cry... Our Wanna Be Nation is a fine album and one that deserves its legacy in modern Korean rock history alongside the band that produced it. 8/10


  1. 지울수 없는 너
  2. 그대 영혼에
  3. 어떻게
  4. 나의 다음 숨결보다 더 아름다운 너를 원하고 있어
  5. 천국보다 낯선
  6. 없어
  7. 그날 1 (original version)
  8. 세상 저편에 선 너
  9. Moments
  10. La La La La Day
  11. U
  12. 언제나 내 곁에
  13. 그날 2 (pseudo live version)
  14. 지울수 없는 너 (beta version)


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cloudancer - Haru (2011)

Here I Am proved to be quite the upgrade on the musical formula that Cloudancer established on its debut album, A Walk in the Clouds, showing up in the same year. Not quite as fast a follow-up, Cloudancer returned in 2011 with what's curiously called an EP entitled Haru. It's curious because although it's called an EP, it is almost the same length as its predecessor and has significantly more tracks altogether, the physical disc going a full nineteen (although three of those tracks are just silence before the hidden track). Of course, this is in part due to the fact that the EP contains a number of skit tracks, but not significantly more than Here I Am.

Regardless of its designation, Haru pretty much takes after its predecessor except in a much more ordered fashion. The skit and interlude tracks are all numerically signed and alternate with tracks proper at least through the first twelve tracks. Like with Here I Am, the skits (mostly) connect with the content of the song they precede although with varying degrees of success. The best example is actually the first pairing of skit and song, with "만나다" being a dialogue between a man and a woman on their first date and the awkward conversation that ensues. The following song "소심남녀" is the internal monologues of the two date-goers as they dissect how they timidly misspoke due to their respective attractions towards each other. The track and the song are both very amusing with Aquibird's Yoo-yeon contrasting quite well with Suda in an appropriately downplayed version of his persona. Yoo-yeon is also tasked with rapping in the track and she performs surprisingly well given that she's primarily a singer.

Interestingly enough, the other female guest performer, Satbyeol, known more for her singing, also ends up rapping her guest spotted medley, "나와 함께 춤을 / 한 걸음 더", which opens as a Suda-focused slow jam before adding in some groove as Suda and Satbyeol trade raps in dialogue. It's a pretty cool track, but of its own specific style in the slower phase of the EP before it all takes off again with the funky light party jam "JUMP : 공중비행".

Yoo-yeon also shows up in the school-based story-rap of "오늘은" on the hook, operating more in her usual parameter against the peppy pop production from DJ Magic Cool J while Suda continues with his more smoother rap style. The other featured guests are rapper Analog Sonyeon and Kingston Rudieska's singer Lee Suk-yul, the latter giving a bit of reggae flavor to the comforting drinking song, complete with steel drums in the arrangement.

The album's ostensible single, considering that it has a music video attached to it, the first and only in Cloudancer's discography thus far, is a wild whirlwind perhaps exceeding its name of "회전목마", a fact that's hinted at by the wild introduction of "안전수칙". DJ Magik Cool J pumps the beat with a relentless rhythm track and adds a sax loop, cutting out here and there with a synth run, but combined with Suda's accordingly relentless rapping, the story of the busy Cinderella waiting for her prince with the glass slipper running around barefoot ends up feeling just a touch unhinged and perhaps contrasts a little too hard with the otherwise more chill nature of the album.

But other than that, everything really fits together well here like on Here I Am. Aside from "회전목마"'s manic deviation, the tunes never push harder than peppy down to the more chill tracks and thanks to DJ Magik Cool J's consistent pop-tuned hip hop productions and Suda playing most of the EP in his cooler mode, it all comes together quite well, even the incorporations of the skit and interlude tracks. And it's actually a complete enough listen, especially when you consider the highly enjoyable hidden track capping it off, that you really could call Haru an album more than the EP it's labeled as.

And whether you consider Haru an EP or an album in EP's clothing, it really is an enjoyable work of highly accessible lighthearted hip-hop fun. 8/10


  1. 춤과 함께 출발
  2. #1 만나다 (skit)
  3. 소심남녀 (feat. 유연)
  4. #2 마을버스 (skit)
  5. 오늘은 (feat. 유연)
  6. #3 안전수칙 (skit)
  7. 회전목마
  8. #4 소주한잔 (skit)
  9. 괜찮아 (feat. 아날로그 소년 & 석율)
  10. #5 Boogienight (interlude)
  11. 나와 함께 춤을 / 한 걸음 더 (feat. 샛별)
  12. #6 Cooldown
  13. JUMP : 공중비행
  14. 밤을 달린다
  15. 꿈과 함께 출발
  16. [unknown]


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

주먹이 운다 (2005)

I love it when two things I like a lot intersect and the film and soundtrack for Crying Fist is one such confluence. The film, one that I appreciate a lot, is directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, a director whose works I appreciate. The soundtrack was produced and largely written by Bang Jun-seok, whose soundtracks for ...ing and Who Are You were instrumental in getting me more deeply interested in Korean music. But whereas those two soundtracks were primarily popular music affairs with bits of score between, the soundtrack to Crying Fist is primarily made of score: interesting, spare, and sometimes curious.

The most prevalent tune in the soundtrack is also the most curious. Bang Jun-seok includes several renditions of the traditional New Zealand tune "Pokarekare Ana" in the soundtrack, which is unusual considering its origins and place as a Maori-language love song. That said, without knowing the lyrics beforehand, it is an affecting tune so I could see why it's been placed at a few strategically dramatic moments in the soundtrack, even resurfacing in a screechy old drunken form as "은메달 연가" later in the soundtrack.

The presence of "Pokarekare Ana" is also a good place to talk about some the common musical elements of the soundtrack. The tune gets a resonator version early on and the soundtrack includes several tunes that are arranged with the resonator, which, when considering its place in blues traditions, also synchronizes well with the down in the dumps nature of both protagonists. Many of these arrangements on the soundtrack are quite spare, with limited instrumentation, which again helps push the isolation and low moments of the characters.

Bang also employs the talents of a few singers on the album, including Lena Park for the primary rendition of "Pokarekare Ana" and the World Vision Children's Choir for another. He also gets Baik Hyun-jin to contribute his distinct voice to a rendition of Han Dae-soo's "행복에 나라로". Lena Park's contribution is acceptable, but she's got the most marquee friendly name, so I understand adding her as a performer, but the World Vision Children's Choir rendition is quite strong thanks to the rich choral arrangement.

Some of the score is a little bit more filled, usually revolving around the actual sport of boxing ("휘두르는 주먹" and "2라운드", the latter written by Lee Byung-hoon) and feature guitars and synth instruments. I think the use of synth instruments is a little cheap sounding at times, like the unison synth strings and horns against the rock band arrangement on "휘두르는 주먹", especially in contrast to the largely more acoustic production of many of the other pieces.

But aside from the cheap substitute synths, the score is quite effective at delivering a musical companion to the film's narrative. Even if the presence of the New Zealand traditional is a little strange, it's still pretty affecting and serves as quite the hopeful contrast to the often spare and bluesy score. I'm not sure that anyone but the most dedicated fans of the film, of Bang Jun-seaok, or one of his guest performers will be particularly interested in this soundtrack, but it works pretty well for its primary function as a soundtrack. 7/10


  1. 파란 하늘에 대한 꿈
  2. 길위
  3. 옥탑방
  4. Pokarekare Ana
  5. 서현광장
  6. 행복에 나라로
  7. Pokarekare Ana (resonator 버젼)
  8. 할머니
  9. 기다림
  10. Pokarekare Ana (합창 버젼)
  11. 분노
  12. 마음
  13. 소리 바람 1
  14. 휘두르는 주먹
  15. 흐름
  16. 단련
  17. 체념 (기타 버젼)
  18. 은메달 연가
  19. 숨소리
  20. 결심의 교차
  21. 링의 모퉁이
  22. 분노
  23. 시작의 분주함
  24. 마음 (노래 버젼)
  25. 2라운드
  26. 소리 바람 2
  27. 지하도에 친 번개
  28. 체념
  29. 행복에 나라로 (one take 버젼)


Friday, November 13, 2015

Cloudancer - Here I Am (2009)

While I enjoyed Cloudancer's debut album, A Walk in the Clouds, I felt that it was a touch bloated. Still, it was good enough that I was interested in hearing more and, had I picked it up when it first came out in 2009, I would have been surprised because the duo released their follow up album in the very same year. And in many ways, this sophomore album, Here I Am, addresses some of things I found unsatisfying about their debut. While the album doesn't boast any truly fetching singles, it's packed tight with solid songs and appropriate interludes, resulting in a well paced and fun hip hop album.

Whereas Cloudancer's debut was about an hour long, Here I Am goes for a dramatically leaner approach with twelve tracks at thirty seven minutes, of which included are an intro track, two interludes, and one alternate version of a song from A Walk in the Clouds. However, the culling of material to just their best tracks results in a consistently engaging, diverse musical travel along the album, one that features a variety of sounds even while reducing the number of guest performers on their tracks.

Here I Am opens well with a contribution from album programming collaborator AID, who provides a glitchy spare beat upon which Suda drops his energetic rhymes. Even in the brief time between their first album and Here I Am, Suda's gained a lot more presence as an emcee and launches the album well. DJ Magik Cool J shows up in the second track, "悲歌", to change things up with melancholy piano lines that his arrangement and Suda transform into a proper background for proper hip hop, one that still dynamically contrasts with the mood of the composition, whispered rapping at the end signifying the elegiac nature of the track.

One of the most interesting compositions on the whole album is the fourth track, "불면증", where Cloudancer works with one of my favorite experimental artists, Itta, who not only contributes nearly ghostlike vocals on the hook, but also contributes to the composition. The arrangement in particular is captivating with the presence of clock sound effects contributing to the texture throughout, capturing the subject matter well.

Another interesting presence on Here I Am is a regular harvesting of DJ Magik Cool J's other works, whether as a solo producer or from Aquibird to contribute to the tracks on Here I Am, sampling those other songs for his arrangements on Here I Am and, in one case, bringing in Aquibird's main vocalist herself, Yoo-yeon, along with a sample for "생일여행". It's quite an successful track, the bright pop production and the horn hits cut up into a head-bob-inducing sonic roll and Yoo-yeon's airy vocals contrasting well with Suda's braggy rap.

You could say that Here I Am is almost an EP due to its length, but the interludes here really play a significant role, instead of just being musical aperitifs. "남겨진 것들" is an appropriate wash of rain to transition away from the melancholy of "悲歌" while "Good News" is a series of amusing voicemails that directly lead to their reply in "축하해". As such, they actually feel like tracks you want to listen to in the course of listening to Here I Am.

The remaining guest performers all contribute to pretty strong tracks, with the handoffs between Suda and Huckleberry P on "A Song of the Love" between charismatic and natural and Junggigo doing his soul-thing on the hook. Jo Hyun-a of Urban Zakapa brings her deeper R&B vocals to the bouncy title track and Soulman overdubs himself into many layers with DJ Magik Cool J in an almost Stevie Wonder-like way on "Hey Ya", creating a bed of vocals for Suda to rap over.

And then, before any of this gets too long, the album wraps up with a more acoustic version of one of their strongest tracks from A Walk in the Clouds. I noted that perhaps Cloudancer hadn't entirely figured out their identity on A Walk in the Clouds, but I think that was because of the dilution of their sound due to the sheer length of the album. When distilled down to a shorter recording length, the sound that Suda and DJ Magik Cool J craft together is apparent. It's actually all anchored on Suda's rap style, which all the compositions account for and Suda himself manages to adjust himself from braggart to contemplative, showing a good amount of range without losing himself in the process.

Yes, no particular track quite reaches the point where it could be a standalone single, but in the context of the full musical ride that Cloudancer takes us on in Here I Am, it doesn't matter. The flow of the album, anchored by Suda's rapping, stays engaging and travels across different moods and points of view, and is also kept aloft by some engaging near-pop compositions and arrangements from DJ Magik Cool J that still stay grounded in hip hop. With Here I Am, I believe that Cloudancer fulfilled the promise made in A Walk in the Clouds and is a commendable album that fans of fun, but not too intense hip hop will want to put in their ears. 8/10


  1. 산책 후의 사색
  2. 悲歌
  3. 남겨진 것들
  4. 불면증 (with 있다)
  5. A Song of the Love (with Junggigo and Huckleberry P)
  6. Here I Am (with 조현아)
  7. Good News
  8. 축하해
  9. 생일여행 (with 유연)
  10. Lunatic Syndrome
  11. Hey Ya (with Soulman)
  12. 당신은 어디 있었나요? (guitar version)


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

U&Me Blue - Nothing's Good Enough (1994)

I'm honestly surprised that I didn't pick up copies of U&Me Blue's albums earlier, considering how both members of the duo were involved in one of the most significant albums that drove my interest in Korean music, the soundtrack to the movie ...ing. Prior to Yi Sung-yol's solo career and Bang Jun-seok's prolific work as a soundtrack producer, in the mid-1990's, the two artists were a band, a band with a small but dedicated fanbase and one of the bleeding edges of the still nascent rebirth of rock in Korea.

U&Me Blue is notable for many reasons, but primary is that they were making startlingly contemporary modern rock music in an age of Korean music dominated by dance pop birthed in the aftermath of Seo Taiji and Boys enormous shake-up of Korean mainstream music. Granted there were other rockers active at the time, including the continuing hair metal antics of Kim Gyeong-ho and the more blended activity of Yoon Do-hyun, but these other rockers were grounded firmly in 1980's rock fundamentals. Putting ear to U&Me Blue's debut album, Nothing's Good Enough, it's immediately apparent that rather than living in the past decade, the duo was producing music that had already absorbed the impact of the post-grunge alternative rock movement like fellow indie rock upstarts Sister's Barbershop and Deli Spice.

And like those groups, U&Me Blue was not interested in simply aping the styles of their alt-rock influences, but crafting their own sonic identity, laying down the kind of sound that still defines the music that each member continues to produce to this day. While both members of the group sing and play guitar, the weight of the album leans a little more towards Yi's baritone on the vox and Bang on the electric guitar. And because how distinctive Yi Sung-yol's singing is, fans of his later work will probably instantly feel home with U&Me Blue's Yi-led tracks, from the opening intro title track and into "세상 저편에 선 너".

That second track, particularly on Bang's guitarwork and falsetto background vocal, bears a noticeable influence from U2, the shimmering guitarwork clearly influenced by The Edge and the falsettos from Bono circa Achtung Baby and Zooropa. However, U&Me Blue show that they're not just U2 fanboys on the following Bang-led track, "", which has Bang's weary tenor against a rockabilly rhythm section crossed with distorted alt-rock singing and production. It's an interesting contrast that somehow works together well.

"고백" and "패션시대" both feature the duo singing in unison and on the former track, it shows that the duo work together well as singers and guitarists, the contrast in their voices making a rich texture across the echoing, broody composition, with muted electronic guitar constantly present from one of the two and the other crashing in with blazing strikes on the other guitar. And while "패션시대" doesn't quite find the focus of its preceding track, these songs that put the emphasis on both Bang and Yi working together in both song and guitarwork are the strongest on Nothing's Good Enough, happening again on "영화속의 추억".

Those that like Bang's later work under the moniker Blue in Green will probably like the angsty-soaring Radiohead influenced "G". It's lovely work and my favorite Bang-focused track on the album.

The album is paced pretty well and the variations in sound and energy across the tracks help it to be a good listen from start to end, but there are times were the different sonic pulls of the duo do keep it from becoming an overall cohesive work. Whether it's because the duo both have strong voices and their more individual focused tracks clash with each other or that their regular experimentation with sounds and influences, both across the album and even within some arrangements themselves, Nothing's Good Enough occasionally feels just scant of being a fully unified work.

That said, it still really does have a lot of what I want from both a Yi Sung-yol and a Bang Jun-seok album and together, the music they make is interesting and alluring, and while they do display some of their influences openly, together they really create a unique sound. And that is probably enough to interest fans of '90's era post-grunge alt-rock verging on Britpop and modern rock to check out this pioneering Korean rock duo's debut. 8/10


  1. Nothing's Good Enough
  2. 세상 저편에 선 너
  3. 고백
  4. 패션시대
  5. 흘러가는 시간, 잊혀지는 기억들
  6. 영화속의 추억
  7. Hey
  8. G
  9. 싫어


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cloudancer - A Walk in the Clouds (2009)

Liking what I heard from Aquibird, I decided to see what else the group's primary songwriter and producer, DJ Magik Cool J has worked on and found that he was the producer half of a hip hop duo called Cloudancer and promptly picked up their first album, A Walk in the Clouds. Of course, being a different project in a different genre, A Walk in the Clouds obviously wouldn't exactly resemble DJ Magik Cool J's work on Aquibird, but he, along with emcee Suda put together a decent, if a touch overlong, album for their debut.

It's pretty obvious from the opening track, "분실의 꿈", that Cloudancer is firmly rooted in hip hop with its beatbox and percussion rhythms, though augmented by a cool synth. Suda accordingly plays it cool this track and while his flow isn't especially memorable, he's certainly an adequate rapper. All said though, I feel like "분실의 꿈" is actually a bit of a weak opening track compared to Jeong Seung-hwan's jazzy contrabass that opens up the following track, "Requiem for a Dream", accented by funky guitar licks from longtime collaborator of DJ Magik Cool J, Lim Jung-woo. Suda and guest rapper Jerry.K make a great contrasting duo with Suda's more spunky delivery contrasting with Jerry.K's deeper voiced charisma.

Overall, that second highlights a fact in the album--Suda works best when contrasted and, fortunately, A Walk in the Clouds is packed full of guest performers, ranging from singers like Soulman and Satbyeol to emcees like Paloalto and Nuck, and even the indie folk-electronica duo Sogyumo Acacia Band. Similarly, DJ Magik Cool J seems in his best element when incorporating elements of funk and jazz into his productions and compositions. In "그 남자 그 여자", which he co-writes with guest singer Satbyeol, DJ Magik Cool J drops in these bright horns in the arrangement, giving a lot of life to the production and alongside the jazzy arrangement and the punchy military drums the music works well to add dynamism to contrast Satbyeol's smoother vocals as well as Suda's direct rapping.

Some of the duo's best tracks without guests are "Slow Life", thanks to the playful piano, guitar, and scatting from session vocalist Park Chan-woo against Suda's relentless flow and the Lim Jung-woo drafted "당신은 어디 있었나요?" because of its cool jazzy roll, including a vocal unison chorus from Suda and Lim Jung-woo recalling early 90's summer g-funk, but mellowed out by jazzy arrangement. A blissfully mellow track for sure.

Finally, I have to compliment the choice to have Kingston Rudieska's horn section come in for the playful, yet chill "봄날의 곰을 좋아하세요?". Sogyumo's Song Eun-ji cutely sings the "lalala"'s of the chorus with the emcees and the same cuteness applies to the light horn blasts during the verses as well as the group laughter at the end.

If there's any other weakness to the album, it's that A Walk in the Clouds is a touch too long. Sixteen tracks at about an hour without being packed with a great deal of dynamism across the album, despite having dynamics present within each track, means that over time the tracks can sometimes blend into each other and, over the whole listen, fail to stick out. By the time we reach "We've Got the Jazz", I'm expecting the album to be over, but it keeps on going. And it's not even that I'm not grateful for the other tracks--aside from the weaker opening track, the rest is enjoyable--but I think the album could have used some cuts and spun the remaining tracks out into an EP.

The other thing that I was hoping for with A Walk in the Clouds, is a notable single, but nothing on the album quite stands out above the album as a particularly hot single to anchor the listen on. This means that while the album is an enjoyable listen, it doesn't quite have any hook that will really stick in your head and I'm afraid that means that I might not remember the album quite as well without that context.

A Walk in the Clouds is still quite an enjoyable album, but it doesn't quite have that spark that DJ Magik Cool J's prior project did with its first album. It doesn't quite have the single it needs to anchor it and the album runs a little long without any real shape to the whole listen, even as the individual tracks are all pleasant, fun, or cute. I think fans of more upbeat jazzy hip hop will still appreciate it and it certainly shows the promise of the DJ Magik Cool J and Suda team, so I'll look forward to listening to their follow-up album soon. 7/10


  1. 분실의 꿈
  2. Requiem for a Dream (feat. Jerry.K)
  3. 가면무도회 (feat. Soulman)
  4. 그 남자 그 여자 (feat. 샛별)
  5. 수다쟁이 (feat. DJ Wegun)
  6. MIC Journalist (feat. Zito)
  7. Slow Life
  8. 어른들을 위한 동화 (feat. Paloalto)
  9. 봄날의 곰을 좋아하세요? (feat. Minos & 소규모 아카시아 밴드)
  10. 구름 위의 산책 (feat. 넋업샨)
  11. We've Got the Jazz
  12. Soul Music
  13. 헤어지자는 말 (feat. Kebee)
  14. 당신은 어디 있었나요?
  15. 그대를 위한 노래
  16. Be With Me (feat. Junggigo)


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Surisuri Mahasuri - 지구음악 (2011)

After hearing Coreyah's Whale of a Time, I became curious about one of their featured guests, Surisuri Mahasuri, a group that seemed to also work with traditional folk music, although of a distinctly non-Korean kind, so I picked up their first EP, Earth Music and gave it a listen. The EP and perhaps the trio as a whole appear to be practicing a kind of fusion world music, blending different kinds of traditional folk music together into an energetic whole. It's a specific sound that they're approaching, but also one that a four track EP can't fully investigate.

Musically, the trio draws from European, North African, and Middle Eastern folk traditions and the trio are all multi-instrumentalists that use a variety of instruments from those regions with Omar Sbitar seemingly the frontman of the group as the lead vocalist. Not being especially acquainted with many of these folk traditions, I can't speak to the kind and type of blending that the group works in, but Earth Music varies enough overall in energy and direction that perhaps there's no consistent approach for the group.

The opening track, "집시 뽕짝", is an energetic dance that opens with Jung-hyun's accordion as Omar comes in with his calling vocals and Minarom supports on her percussion instruments. It's fast and fun, which makes the slower follow-up, "알타이 산맥의 소녀", a bit surprising. It's a slow intro on Jung-hyun's accordion which is joined by Minarom's percussion and falsetto cries from Omar along with the presence of a jaw harp bouncing around. It takes its time, almost five minutes to build up, but the peak of the song, a chorus of vocals from Omar and Jung-hyun chiming in doesn't quite go as high as one might expect from the title and build up on a seven minute track.

The third track, "물레나", starts with Omar's kalimba and Minarom's riq, slowly building a musical pattern before Omar begins his vocals. It's a spare and somber piece sung in what I think is at least in part French with Jung-hyun again chiming in as support vocal, but even after its mid-song transformation to a melodeon solo against the combined rhythms of the kalimba and percussion doesn't quite make its bifurcated nature worthwhile, the latter half being more acoustically interesting than the former.

The EP closes with a didgeridoo on "춤추는 지구", which, against an overtone flute, runs most of the track, accented by percussion before the song hands over its melodic duties to Jung-hyun's piri as the didgeridoo takes up a co-rhythm section role and Omar comes in with short bits of vocals. It's actually quite engaging as an instrumental piece and the group adds a bunch of bird calls in the production to give the song more texture.

But overall, I think the crash and collide of so many different sounds is just a little too much all at once for me. With each track providing a wholly different sound, even with some of them over five minutes long, I don't think I have enough music of a particular kind to really digest what the trio is musically trying to do, aside from channel some vague rendition of a North African/Middle Eastern sound. And perhaps that's all Earth Music is supposed to be, a sampler of what the band wants to so, but it seems too short and too unfocused to be more than just kind of interesting. Maybe it worked because I want to hear a full length from the group to really get a sense of their music, but I think in this case, most will probably be fine skipping ahead to that album rather than starting with Earth Music (unless they're already fans and want these tracks too). 6/10


  1. 집시 뽕짝
  2. 알타이 산맥의 소녀
  3. 물레나
  4. 춤추는 지구