There has been an explosion of South Korean music in recent years but, apart from slick pop, what else is on offer?
Thanks principally to YouTube, South Korea’s videogenic K-pop is reaching a staggering audience around the world. Earlier this year, boy band Big Bang’s EP Tonight received high placings on iTunes charts in various international territories. Whilst the music’s blend of rap, R&B and slick electronic production is well covered by sites like allkpop.com, the language barrier makes it much harder for Westerners to source other styles of South Korean music. Yet there is a tremendous diversity coming out of Seoul. Much of South Korea’s electronic music resembles the 90s Shibuya-kei movement in Tokyo with a heavy influence of lounge styles and bossa nova. The Clazziquai Project, Casker, and Humming Urban Audio are all easy on the ears. We have prepared a sampler of South Korean music that has caught our ears.
01 Goat and Monkey: A jazzy electronica with strong drum and bass overtones, somewhere in the region of Squarepusher or Tusken Raiders/Planet Mu releases. There are three albums available on iTunes: Mommy I Concrete With My Dad (2006), A Weird Popularity (2009) and Random Rebirth (2010). It’s nervy, fantastic music and you can try him out via MySpace. Other than that, Spike doesn’t know anything else about him.
02 Jelly Boy: Pastel Music is a Koren indie label and home to Jelly Boy (who also records as Birdy Bitz Alien). Although styles on the label are very different, much of it is very cute, as this track by Jelly Boy demonstrates:
03 Denci Hinji: Japanese for ‘electronic sheep’, Denci Hinji’s album Day is Far Too Long came out a decade ago on Moonrise Records, but it’s some of a classic with big, loping guitar over a sweet, dreamy melody.
04 Byul.org: A striking thing about Korean pop is how good the videos often are. Each band seems to develop a distinct style as this simple, thrilling promo for ‘Pacific’ by Byul.org shows.
05 Kafka: With shades of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, Kafka have those sluggish trip-hop beats and druggy, almost-goth vocals. There’s something compelling about them though and last year’s return The Most Beautiful Thing brought some industrial elements to the mix.
06 MADmoiselle: Fat, squelchy synths and cartoon images, MADmoiselle seem to have carved out a complete niche of their own.
07 Oldfish: Advertising himself as folktronica (and now based in the UK), Oldfish (aka Soda) is really more indie in tone – the more recent material is a little like early Marine Girls and Tracy Thorn. The videos are all great – this track reminds me of Wannadies:
08 Toxicbiasfleurivy: Abrasive beats and stuttering glitches, tbfi are very different from other Pastel Music bands and probably regret describing their sound as ‘grunge desktop music’:
09 Sister’s Barbershop: Sister’s Barbershop (natively Onnine Ibalgwan) are a K-rock band formed in 1996, however it is the handful of mysterious ‘Daytripper’ tracks that I really like:
10 Bluedawn: Another outfit from the Pastel stable. Although the band split up a few years ago, fans of Mazzy Star will definitely get this:
Much of this music (and more besides) can be obtained from the indefatigable services of Mr Kwang.