Tuesday, November 25, 2014

악마를 보았다 (2010)

I Saw the Devil was a continuously tense and often gruesome examination of the destructive spiral of vengeance. But, helmed by Gim Jiun, it was also a surprising pretty affair, offering a visually sumptuous environment for the horror to happen. The film also supports a rather apt score from Mowg, who would also later score Gim Jiun's The Last Stand, which manages to aurally synchronize with both the elements of beauty and fear present in the film.

The soundtrack is noted as containing "selected music from the motion picture", which is primarily composed of the film's score by Mowg, a few scraps of dialog from its leads and what I believe is the end credits song by Bak Gwanghyeon. Mowg's compositions are varied, opening with the Latin American-influenced "Devil's Bossa", a classical guitar driven piece that is enriched by strings. It's kind of a mysterious tune in that it contains as much warmth as melancholy. This is not as true with the following "Jooyeon's Theme", which is a wall of foreboding strings and an unsettling piano running underneath it all. It's dramatic, epic, and it instantly recalls the horrific opening moments of the film.

This string-driven sound also extends to the overall film's theme as well as "Kyungchul's Theme", helping to paint the darkness of the film, also showing up in protagonist "Soohyun's Theme" after an extended noodling on the piano. The strings are grandly arranged, but subdued in tone, matching the pretty, but dark overall visual tone of the film.

And then, aside from larger character or overall film themes, we have some pieces of score that accompany the actions in the film, the film piece we hear being "River of Death", which accompanies the opening tragedy that sets off the film's series of events. "River of Death" is a little different than the later action pieces because of its inclusion of the aforementioned strings to add tension, much like in the later pieces "Pension" and "Revenge", both of which draw their inspiration from perhaps Bernard Herrman's work on Psycho. The other action set pieces tend to be much more spare, like "잠 못 이루는 도시의 밤" with its flute paired with a what might be a harp plucked violin composing most of the piece. There's also the contrabass and percussion driven "Police & Kyunchul" and "Killer Jam". These works are primarily atmospheric, the spareness of the composition keeping the focus on the action, but underscoring it with unsettling tritones and diminished chords.

In between all this are dialog quotes from the film which actually work well on the soundtrack to anchor the music to different points along the film's chronology. It's a handy way of aurally revisiting the film and give context to what we're hearing, which is mostly presented chronologically. The overall soundtrack is fifty minutes long and isn't a bad way to re-experience the film in part thanks to chronological tracklisting, pieces of dialog to anchor the score, and judicious selection of score. I never felt like I was being overloaded with everything in the film despite the soundtrack running twenty-six tracks long, but part of that is because few of the actual pieces exceed four minutes.

All that said, the soundtrack does have its moments of haunting beauty, especially in the character or overall film themes, but this is strong--not exceptional--film scoring work and so I don't know if this will serve casual listeners as well as it might interest fans of the film. As such, I'd only think it's a must for the biggest fans of I Saw the Devil and perhaps those that like beautiful, but brooding film scores. 8/10.

Tracklist:

  1. Devil's Bossa
  2. Jooyeon's Theme
  3. River of Death
  4. Soohyun's Dialog 1
  5. Soohyun's Theme
  6. 잠 못 이루는 도시의 밤
  7. Soohyun's Dialog 2
  8. Jooyeon's Theme 2
  9. Police & Kyungchul
  10. Catching Taxi
  11. Soohyun's Dialog 3
  12. Killer Jam
  13. Murder
  14. Pension
  15. I Saw the Devil Piano
  16. Kyungchul's Dialog 1
  17. Kyungchul's Theme & Strikes Back
  18. Soohyun's Dialog 4
  19. I Saw the Devil (main theme)
  20. Kyunghcul's Dialog 2
  21. Revenge
  22. Soohyun's Dialog 5
  23. I Saw the Devil 2
  24. I Saw the Devil Piano (version 2)
  25. Soohyun's Theme (version 2)
  26. 사랑하고 싶어

Links:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seo Tai Ji - Seo Tai Ji (1998)

In 1996, a great sadness befell fans of SeoTaiji and Boys. Since their debut in 1992, the group electrified Korean popular music with a heavy dosage of then-modern Western influences and through their four albums, continued to be be one of Korea's most successful and influential music groups. Oftentimes those influences were quite brazen in their mimicry, sometimes being virtual plagiarism like with "Come Back Home" from IV and its near duplication of Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Membrane". But before bandleader Seo Taiji started his pop act, he was actually briefly part of the long-running Korean rock-metal unit, Sinawi and that rock influence also came through on the albums he made with his boys in their last two albums.

After two years in exile in the United Statues, in 1998, Seo Taiji released a solo album. Even without much of a commercial push, it make a huge splash and it demonstrates Seo Taiji dropping most of his pop pretenses with the boys for rock. Rock that sometimes matches the more original tracks from III and IV and sometimes that is about as derivative as the more derivative of those albums as well. However, the degree of focus afforded to Seo in shedding the pop expectations of his previous act results in a much more consistent and possibly authentic work.

That said, it's a bit of a short album. Nine tracks long with three of those tracks being intros or interludes means that it only has six full-length tracks and it tops out at twenty nine minutes, including a chunk of silence before the hidden song shows up. On the other hand, the brevity of the album actually assists the album from sprawling too much and keeps the overall listen as tight as the better songs on the album.

As with the Boys, Seo's work here is still a bit diverse in terms of genre even within rock, spanning alternative rock, rap metal, and punk. Fortunately, the overall album is tied together well by Seo's vocal work and straightforward guitar-and-bass aesthetic. Alternative rock of a post-grunge nature seems to be the strongest element on the album, cover "Take One", "Take Four", and "Take Five". Seo obviously has learned a thing or two from his experience with the Boys as well as "Take Two" retains some of his tricks from before, in terms of his use of rapping and how it blends into the crunchy distorted guitar blasts of his choruses, accentuated with lots of computer tricks and turntable effects.

Seo's vocals throughout the album alternates between a cool, but smooth delivery used in his rap-metal tracks, "Take Two" and "Take Three", and a nasal raspy delivery for many of his singing parts, even when singing clearly like on "Take One", he uses effects to distort his performance to help give it a bit more edge. Interestingly enough, it's these alt-rock tracks that I find the most successful on the album, particularly "Take Four"'s lightweight but energetic rhythm section, blending metal-like guitars with a variety of background samples and upbeat vocal delivery. Similarly, when Seo approaches a similar kind of energy on "Take Six"'s pop-punk track, it's also equally enjoyable, with great bursts of enthusiasm from Seo's overdubs on the explosive verse starts which are often given a bit more punch by draining the production, glancing with feedback and then, when anticipation is at its greatest, returning the gain.

If there's anything disappointing about the album, it's that Seo Taiji is still partially replicating the sounds of other artists that have come before him elsewhere in the world. While some of Seo's fusing, especially how he brings in heavily distorted guitars into everything does give a bit of authenticity to his sound, some tracks sound particularly borrowed. This is most noticeable on album single "Take Five", which essentially borrows the main guitar riff of Smashing Pumpkins's "Today" with a slight modification to drive the instrumental hook. Fortunately, aside from that hook, the more pop-oriented rock track does sound more authentic.

And while it doesn't seem like Seo is yet fully able to escape his influences, this solo effort's push towards solidifying his sound in rock, does help that to some degree, building upon previous sounds, borrowed and original and blending them together fairly well that even the less original sounding tracks on this eponymous solo debut are still generally quite engaging. And perhaps that development is enough for me as I actually like this album more than any of his work with the Boys. 7/10.

Tracklist:

  1. Maya
  2. Take One
  3. Take Two
  4. Radio
  5. Take Three
  6. Take Four
  7. LORD
  8. Take Five
  9. Take Six

Links:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Humming Urban Stereo - Purple Drop (2006)

Humming Urban Stereo's debut album was easily one of my favorite pop releases of 2005 and many of its tracks still get regular listening from me today, so it didn't require much thought from me to pick up Purple Drop when it was released the following year. But while very very nice! and short cake's tracks still get regularly listened to, only a few tracks from Purple Drop get that treatment as the follow-up album hit a little bit of a slump.

Not to say that the album is bad--it's still a relatively enjoyable listen, but nowhere on the same level of engaging listenability as its predecessor. I think part of Purple Drop's problem is one of sequencing, but also one of tone. The album opens on a cooler note with the discofunk tune "Luv Sauce", which uses cool synths alongside its funk guitar, which is a bit different from the warmer piano and acoustic guitar loops used on the first album. The energy stays relatively cool on the following "Simple Life" although the pairing of Humming Girl and Shina-E's vocals is relatively engaging.

It's not really until the album's big single, "Hawaiian Couple" that the album really picks up. This particular single is one of the album's few highlights with a delightful back and forth between I Jirin and Humming Girl and the return of the acoustic guitar combined with Jirin's soft vocals result in a rather warmer approach which is more inviting. Similarly, the latin beats and the saxophone of the following "Stalker" as well as Shina-E's adorable vocals really helps make it the other bright spot on the album.

From there we get back to the cooler dance oriented sounds of "Delight Disco" and "Sugarparty Flow" and those two tracks hold up well with their driving energy. Even the Sin City monologue-fueled "Goldie", with its lumbering rhythms, pianos, and saxophone manage to make for an oddly romantic inclusion that works surprisingly well. And all this, I think, works because of the placement of "Hawaiian Couple" and "Stalker" to help inject the listen with brightness and energy before the album gets to the business of serious party music.

The album fortunately decides to take an intermission from the party music again towards its end, turning on the traditional Japanese sounding "ヤメアツクサ" and "Sakamoto", the latter which blends rapping from YeSLow with its kokyu. The album closes with a callback to the first album's "Scully Doesn't Know" with "Mulder Does Know", solidifying the connection between the tracks and The X-Files.

I actually think if Purple Drop were shortened, dropping everything before "Hawaiian Couple" or perhaps pushing them towards the end of the album or spreading the tracks through the album a bit more, it would be a more enjoyable listen. As it is, it opens up far too cool and detached to really get into and it takes almost twenty minutes before the playfulness that makes Humming Urban Stereo such an engaging listen shows up. The latter thirty-some minutes are actually wholly enjoyable, so I think the weakness with Purple Drop is really a matter of album sequencing and putting too many cool-tempered tracks at the top. That and perhaps the album is a touch too long as even though I was enjoying the last few tracks, I always feel a bit of listening fatigue by the last few tracks, which is why it's a welcome relief that the energy level drops towards the end.

So with two-thirds of the album being the enjoyable Humming Urban Stereo that I remember from very very nice! and short cake, I still think it's a good listen, particularly for fans of Humming Urban Stereo or the indie poptronica sound that he trades in, but because it takes a while for the album to warm up and it runs a little long, I think it's more for those already invested in the artist or the genre. 7/10

Tracklist:

  1. Déjà Vu Synth
  2. Luv Sauce
  3. Simple Life
  4. Salsa Woman
  5. S.P.X
  6. Waltz Sofa #2
  7. Hawaiian Couple
  8. Stalker
  9. Delight Disco
  10. Goldie
  11. Sugarparty Flow
  12. Abuse Girl
  13. ヤメアツクサ
  14. Sakamoto
  15. 찰랑소녀
  16. Melancholy Baby
  17. Mulder Does Know

Links:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

1TYM - One Time for Your Mind (1998)

When Yang Hyeonseok first branched off from Seo Taeji and Boys to form his own entertainment label, YG Entertainment, his first success was with Jinusean and from there, YG Entertainment grounded itself in a blend of hip hop and pop. Their second major success was with the quartet called 1TYM. Like many of YG's earliest albums, it was produced by Perry and Q, resulting in a album full of harder hip hop synth beats matched with pretty pop choruses, and like most of these early YG albums, it works pretty well.

The eponymous opening track for the eponymous debut album establishes 1TYM's sound its its synth bass lines and going straight into a rap handoff from the members before Danny takes name-callout chorus. It's a template and sound that worked well for Jinusean on their Perry and Q produced debut and it works as well for 1TYM here too. Some tracks, like "탈출" and "Falling in Love" are much more pop ballad oriented while other tracks go straight pop, like "Good Love" with its bright horns and song-driven course, punctuated by raps and group-calls. Some of these more ballad and pop oriented tracks do appear to eschew the group's hip hop sound for R&B, which sort of creates a bit of disunity in the the overall listen because as the album goes on, there's less and less hip hop.

While if 1TYM were positioned more as a pop boy band with hip hop elements, I think this would have been more palatable, I think that because One Time for Your Mind opens so aggressive, it makes you have an expectation for a relative balance and continuity of the opening track's sound throughout the album. However, only about half of the album really follows that mold, the rest drifting deeply into the pop and ballad work that's common of pop groups of the era. This makes tracks that balance these elements more interesting and the others just a bit too smooth. What's more, it opens up the album to rightful criticism that perhaps the hip hop present on 1TYM's debut are merely affectations of hip hop rather than coming from an authentic place.

While Perry's production in particular is rather on point and actually fairly original, the callouts by the boys of 1TYM, like "bow wow wow yippi yo" occurs in a vacuum of genuine influence and clearly appear borrowed. If the rest of the album's tracks, including the pop and ballad tracks were at least grounded in hip hop production or balanced with hip hop verses like "널 일으켜" or even "탈출" with its rap verses and turntables, then perhaps the questions of cultural appropriation and using hip hop catchphrases as empty signifiers would have less weight, but 1TYM's debut album doesn't quite have so consistent a grounding. So despite the group's popularity, there is a seeming unnaturalness to the hip hop element as the album goes on.

This is not to say that the pop and ballad tracks are necessarily bad. But the ones that preserve a bit of hip hop element, like "Good Love" with its funk-influenced arrangement and rap verses, are the ones that are much more convincing over the straight sap of "Falling in Love" or "나를 기다려", the latter of which follows just about every pop ballad trope since Solid popularized R&B in Korea. As such, the album is about as disappointing as it can be fun, resulting in a bit of a mixed listen.

However, 1TYM was tremendously successful for YG Entertainment and even after the group's indefinite hiatus, members Teddy and Baekyoung have since grown as songwriters and producers, driving many of the label's biggest hits and groups, so the group is significant in terms of its impact on contemporary Korean pop music. And One Time for Your Mind is where all this started for them. So despite its unevenness and the possibly affected attempts at hip hop legitimacy--and it's entirely possible that such legitimacy was filtered through a pop-demanding music scene or was genuinely later developed--One Time for Your Mind has a bit of historical significance in Korean pop music in addition to a handful of genuinely fun singles mixed in with the filler. 6/10

Tracklist:

  1. 1TYM
  2. 널 일으켜
  3. 탈출
  4. Good Love
  5. Falling in Love
  6. 뭘 위한 세상인가
  7. My Life
  8. Heaven
  9. 나를 기다려
  10. [hidden track] 널 버리지마

Links:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pika - Pika's Metamorphosis (2010)

While Loro's recently returned from a long hiatus with a new album, W.A.N.D.Y., some of the band's members stayed busy during their hiatus including the band's cellist, Jane Ha. Jane worked on a solo project called Pika and in 2010, she released an EP called Pika's Metamorphosis. It sounds nothing like the work of her band, but is instead a comfortable little bouncy electronic bedroom pop collection.

The EP opens with "Dandelion", which instantly introduces the muted electronic sound of Pika's Metamorphosis with its drum machines and synths opening the door after a train clip. Pika's voice comes in soon after, warm and sings in English from the perspective of a dandelion seed. It's a soothing and low-key track that's not far off from the work of fellow bedroom pop producers like Trampauline. It's followed by the more jaunty "Robot Dreams". The second track has a kick-clap two-beat that's just enough of a head-nodder to drive the track as Pika's vocals get more playful, following along to the beat especially when she hits the "tick-tock" observation of humans as robots.

The playfulness of Pika's compositions continues in "Furi Kuri" with Pika's synth continues with a jaunty plucked metallic string synth and Pika's voice following the bouncy curves complete with bits of vibrato. It's a pleasant little tune that gets a more electronic remix from producer PrototypeF on the same EP.

The EP proper closes with "Space Note", which is an appropriately spacey, ethereal synthesizer trip, with layered solo synth driving first half of the track before the drum machine joins. Pika adds little bits of electronic ornamentation as the track goes on alongside her drifting vocals. It's a nice close for the EP proper, which then continues into the aforementioned remix.

Finally, the album quizzically discloses a hidden track on the back cover and names it in the album liner as "Goodbye, Black Bean DooDoo". This one actually features Pika's cello and is a lovely little track with a great deal of warmth both from the acoustic cello as well as Pika's gliding vocals. Interestingly enough, it's my favorite piece on the EP, even though it's brief.

Overall, I think Pika's Metamorphosis is wonderfully comfortable. It plays almost like it's meant for a single audience to experience in a small comfortable space thanks to the small-scaled arrangements and low intensity of the compositions. Pika actually manages a few small hooks in both "Robot Dreams" and "Furi Kuri" thanks to her bouncy voice and synthesizer arrangement, but at the same time, she retains a great deal of intimacy by not going big with her production or her composition, which is a great fit for her more intimate vocal style.

Pika's Metamorphosis isn't going to knock anyone out--that's not the intent of this playful little EP. Rather it's one that can be quietly enjoyed in solitary moments. And those that like simple little bedroom pop albums might appreciate what Pika has going on in her Metamorphosis. 7/10

Tracklist:

  1. Dandelion
  2. Robot Dreams
  3. Furi Kuri
  4. Space Note
  5. Furi Kuri (TypeF remix)
  6. [hidden track] Goodbye, Black Bean DooDoo

Links:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Uptown - Represented ...Now Believe (1997)

While South Korea got its fair share of classic rhythm and blues early on it was only in the 1990's that the country would see an influx of modern R&B, one of the earliest purveyors of which was the R&B and hip-hop trio, Solid in 1993. Following in the wake of Solid's success, several groups would follow, one of which was Uptown, a quartet sharing rap and vocal duties among its members. Debuting in 1997, the group released two albums that year and while I wasn't able to listen to the debut album called Represent, I was able to get a hold of their second album, Represented ...Now Believe.

Overall, the group follows the blueprint created by Solid in pursuing hip hop, R&B, and dance pop, but Uptown leans a little more into hip hop and tends towards a harder sound. Unfortunately, while some of the tracks are decent, the album overall doesn't come across particularly inspired. That's not to say that it's a bad album, but the album runs long and has some rather egregious issues. The most obvious is that Represented gives in to the bizarre proclivity of Korean artists to include melancholy Christmas songs in the middle of non-seasonal albums and "Sad Christmas" is a real buzzkill in the overall flow of the album. The other issue with the album is that it's a bit overstuffed, running over an hour and packed with remixes of singles from the last album and original versions of some of the other tracks on the album, which overdraw the runtime.

That said, aside from a bit of listening fatigue, Uptown doesn't produce a bad album. The quartet actually open with one of their strongest weapons on their post-intro track, "내일을 위해", and that weapon is Tasha. Having Tasha drop the first line is a fantastic play by the group and she even follows up on her fiery spitting with the vocal hook. Each member of the group gets a chance to shine, with each male member of the group going for deeper, more raspy spitting. This track, along with most of the other original tracks on the album, also features Danny from Us on a guest verse. I think the men do a decent job of differentiating their flows from each other, even if no one really proves themselves a spectacular rapper.

The group then illustrates their R&B side with their main single, "내안의 그대". It's not an especially standout track and bandleader Chris's vocals aren't especially convincing. Even Tasha seems to still be finding her voice here. Still, it hits all the basic notes of a modern R&B track with its basic guitar loops and the muted heartbeat bass line, all much in line with American R&B production of the era, perhaps delayed by a couple years in terms of trends.

The final sound that the group works with is the "Dancing Machine"-sample powered dance track of "이밤을 위해". Relying largely on the sample for the track's drive, the group does help transform it a little with several rap passages and group chants, but it's not quite enough to take the track anywhere beyond a merely serviceable dance track, especially as the singing from Tasha and Chris isn't anywhere near as strong as the rapping.

The album also features a couple of English-language tracks in "You Can't See Me" and "Feelin Insane" and that brings to light a secondary problem with Uptown's Represent, which is a seeming inauthenticity to some of the performances and lyrics. This is especially noticeable in the way that a few of the rappers use rap's most common ethnic slur, casually and seemingly without an understanding of its context. It's not a word that non-Black rappers should use so casually and yet both Steve and Carlos drop the word directed seemingly at imaginary Korean rivals. That reveals that perhaps some of the members of Uptown are participating in a bit of cultural appropriating, wrapping themselves in the garb of hip hop with a bit of artificiality, as though merely using the signifiers and the style effectively makes doing so okay. Tasha seems the most immune to this and partially because of her racial makeup and understanding of part of the social messaging of hip hop, made obvious on her verse on "Feelin Insane" where she observes the impact of her race on how she is treated.

But that the group is at least somewhat dressing itself up as a hip hop group does lead a curious listener to wonder just how much of each production is genuinely inspired and what part is just a matter of copy and paste. Is "Feelin Insane" simply trying to capture the same elements as The Fugees's The Score? Or does it come from a genuine immersion and appreciation for hip hop culture? It's not clear, but that the production overall doesn't quite impress and that some of the rappers seem to write and spit lyrics that aren't terribly interesting or even intelligible, I feel like there is some reason to doubt. If you consider that guns don't play a big role in Korean society, it almost seems silly the use of the gun-cocking sound effect on "내일을 위해", as though the group heard it on an American hip hop track and thought it was cool, so they used it too.

Then again, the influx of modern R&B and hip hop to Korea was especially young at this time, having only been firmly in Korean consciousness after Seo Taiji and Boys's success at the beginning of the decade. And perhaps it would take some time for the local plantings of hip hop culture to really make deep roots. As such, it's not to say that the group is necessarily made of posers, they are most certainly enthusiasts for hip hop and Tasha almost certainly is properly rooted in it, but perhaps their enthusiasm for the genre doesn't quite translate yet to a fully lived experience in it.

Finally, Represented suffers a bit from weak production. The album sounds a little distant at times and the recording is thin, although the mixing seems fine. I think part of this is simply due to the limitations of recording technology in Korea at the time, but it does take a little bit of oomph away from the album. Part of this was compensated for by recording and mixing partially in the US and the tracks that seem more organically built with real instruments tend to sound better, but it's hard to complain when this weaker sound was endemic to most Korean music coming from this era.

In the end, I can't say that Uptown's Represented ...Now Believe is particularly memorable when it comes to just music. Tasha when in full rap mode is easily the strongest part of the album, but it's not like any of the production is deficient and even if some of the lyric-writing can be a little weak from the group, the rap deliveries are at least decent. I can't say the same for the vocals, which are a bit uneven, and so I don't know if Uptown really should try to sell themselves too hard on their R&B. Plus the presence of dance pop on the album at all strikes a bit of an unwieldy contrast to the harder edged hip hop sounds they are trying to sell and the schmaltzy pop of Sad Christmas is the worst moment on the album.

I think those interested in the musicological aspect of seeing how hip hop and R&B took root in South Korea will definitely be interested in Uptown here, but Represented ...Now Believe isn't an especially smooth ride, especially looking back to how far Korea has come in embracing these genres and finding genuine voices in them. As such, if you're not already an Uptown or a Tasha fan, Represented is definitely not essential listening, although still definitely tolerable for the curious. 6/10

Tracklist:

  1. Intro
  2. 내일을 위해
  3. 내안의 그대
  4. 걱정하지마
  5. 이밤을 위해
  6. Sad Christmas
  7. 서두르지 말아요 (remix)
  8. 모두 다 내게줘
  9. 나를 잊지 말아 (remix)
  10. You Can't See Me
  11. 망설이지마
  12. Feelin Insane
  13. 내일을 위해 (원곡)
  14. 내안의 그대 (원곡)
  15. 모두 다 내게줘 (원곡)
  16. Out-tro

Links:

Friday, November 7, 2014

TBNY - HI, Side-A (2008)

TBNY's HI has the interesting distinction of being an incomplete, but still released, album. HI is actually designated on the album cover as TBNY's second album, but this album was broken into two EP's, Side-A being the side that was released prior to the duo's breakup. This gimmick extends into the actual physical release, coming with instructions on how to bind the two EPs together into a single, double-disc album. The half of the album we do get is neither terribly inspired, nor is it particular deficient, a blend of more straightforward Korean hip hop and a couple tracks that drift more towards raptronica. Unfortunately, the lack of sonic focus here keeps the EP in an enjoyable, but limited form.

The EP is bookended with a pair of intro and outro tracks, so the first main track we get is the thumping Primary-produced banger, "Hero", giving plenty of space for Topbob and Yankie to go aggressive with its bass-clap rumble-rhythm, highlighted by tight horn hits and female backing vocals. If the whole EP went this way, it'd be pretty fun, but the following track, "Hey DJ", produced with Tablo takes the album in the same electronic direction that his Epik High had also found itself going. It's a much more pop-friendly effort with its gurgling synths and fortunately, the duo acquit themselves where in driving it with their back-and-forth flow, but like on their first album, Masquerade, perhaps because of their collaborations, they don't quite establish a strong identity and this is further hard to fix because of the varying sounds on the album.

The duo bring in Bumkey on "잔상" takes the duo back towards hip hop, although the track utilizes what sounds like a sample from "My Woman" by Bing Crosby, made famous again by White Town's "Your Woman". If that song weren't such a well known one-hit wonder, I think the track would have been more successful, but the sample at this point is a bit dated and while the duo and Bumkey work with it well, I don't know if it can escape its past.

This is followed by yet another drift towards electronica again with vocalist Mellow driving quickly sung hook as the electronics gurgle along. And then the EP goes back to classic hip hop production to close with "Bye Bye Bye", taking the duo back to the golden age of dramatic Korean hip hop. Again, TBNY handle their emcee duties well, selling the dramatic and personal storytelling well, but they are also not quite able to establish what makes TBNY stand out.

This is, again, because of the EP's inability to take a stand on a particular sound or concept, bouncing between electronic leaning raptronica and more classic hip hop styles. I don't know if this is a result of creative differences between Topbob and Yankie, if that's the reason that they ended up splitting up, but the result is a listen that doesn't really have a strong form, even if each of the individual tracks are pretty enjoyable in themselves. I think those that like this duo, as well as their Movement peers, Dynamic Duo and Epik High in particular, will probably still find HI's Side-A to be fairly enjoyable, but TBNY's unexpected swan song isn't essential either. 7/10.

Tracklist:

  1. H.I.
  2. Hello
  3. Hey DJ (feat. 한소현 from 3rd Coast, DJ Friz)
  4. 잔상 (feat. 권기범, DJ Friz)
  5. 천천히 (feat. Mellow)
  6. Bye Bye Bye
  7. Half Time

Links: