Easy-Listening, Hard-Hitting (Rise From The Ashes; Hitch)

Keeping up with new music is a force of habit for me, but there are still seasons when my attention is more limited. And even within the overall bustle of graduate school,  a big looming deadline like I’ve had this semester crowds out the times when I can really sit back and lean into a song.

So these days I’m particularly appreciative of music that immediately, clearly shows me the ways in which it’s good. The kind of stuff that hits like a ton of bricks, argues its own excellence, and stands out equally well in a crowded bus ride and in a focused work session.

Two of my favorite early-2018 releases are both like that, and I want to take brief notes on them before I start wearing them out. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with these in the next couple weeks, continuing to prep for my candidacy.

Rise From The Ashes, the solo debut EP of Lulileela (Lee Ru-ri, quadrupling as a member of Bye Bye Badman, Lee X Lee, and Seoulmoon), is five ethereal tracks driven by instantly memorable riffs. (Lulileela’s YouTube channel has the whole album here.) It’s a synthpop and alternative hybrid much like the recent Seoulmoon singles, and sharing that same ease of listening.

Lulileela’s bass is a key ingredient in each earworm motif, often accompanied by sparkling, breaking synths or electric piano. “선인장 꽃 (Cactus Flower)” is basically an entire song built around this, but the other tracks all feature at least one powerful melody snippet that distinguishes them. There’s something so viscerally satisfying about each – this being the artist’s talent.

The dreamy BBB-like arrangements are so absorbing that I’m not even listening to the words half the time, and after three months of having this in my playlist I still can’t tell you what “Light Beside You” is actually about without looking up the lyrics. But there are some moments of solitude and crystalline clarity, like the opening of “Oasis”, that have stuck with me. Forlorn, desperately seeking; the place between fatalistic and hopeful.

After hearing “안녕 (Hi)” when it came out in March, I only caught up with the rest of Echae Kang’s Hitch a couple days ago. I was already enamored by 2016’s Radical Paradise and subsequent singles, and I think she actually outdid herself with this little EP. It’s freer and more spirited, while holding onto the experimental spirit that made her solo debut great.

The key is in the big, bold movements comprising these compositions, the deep breaths they take in anticipation of the next step, the earnest joy they portend and then express. No filler track here either, which is always appreciated.

Kang’s violin is always soulful, and the lush and upbeat arrangements she tries here are a breath of fresh air. My favorite track, though, is still the heavier “둘 (Two)”, which is mesmerizing in its mysterious pizzicato and explosive groove. One of the best of the year, I think.

(Album available here.)

Works discussed in this post:

이루리 (Lulileela) – Rise from the Ashes (2018, Poclanos)
Peaches Label & Magic Strawberry Sound
1. Light Beside You
2. 깊은 밤 깊은 바다 (Seaside)
3. 선인장 꽃 (Cactus Flower)
4. 나비 (Butterfly)
5. Oasis

강이채 (Echae Kang) – Hitch (2018, Warner Music Korea)
Private Curve
1. HITCH (히치)
2. Foolish
3. 안녕 (Hi)
4. Morning Morning Love
5. 둘 (Two)


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