Pastel Music‘s newest rookie fits the agency’s existing image pretty well. Herz Analog (Huh Sung-joon) is a composer by trade who sometimes sings, just like Cha Se-jung; his voice rings deep and poignant, just like Sung Yong-wook‘s; his music is mellow pop and ballad, just like almost every Pastel artist’s. So he’s already sort of facing an uphill battle to distinguish himself.
Alas, distinct is something that Prelude, his debut EP, is not. The opening seconds of Like Tiffany give a short-lived moment of expectation, that perhaps the rhythmic guitar and oceanic sound effects could be setting up something big. Then the synthesizer comes in, and the spell is broken: the rest of the track develops only little upon the initial motif.
The rest of the album follows suit. There are a pair of easy-listening ballads in 이마를 만지다 (Touching Your Forehead) and 내겐 그녀만 있으면 돼요 (She Is All I Need), the former being a 90s-style sweet pop ballad and the latter being more folk-tinged. The harmonics (instrumental and vocal) and leisurely acoustics of 난 그런데 (I’m Like That) are good, but fairly pedestrian fare in 2012. Throughout, the instrumentation plays safe; the performances are good enough; the lyrics are actually sublime, but sometimes hard to notice.
So the EP is not exactly groundbreaking, but Prelude does have more moments like that promising intro to Like Tiffany. Emily, an instrumental track, is genuinely refreshing. Herz Analog’s classical background proves handy here, as he deftly weaves an ebullient back-and-forth of guitars, flutes, and strings developing a recurring theme. There have been some sounds like this (some from Pastel) recently, notably in Lucia and Epitone Project‘s 2011 release, but Emily is more classically influenced and more focused on sound intricacy than those releases. It’s comparable to Second Moon‘s work at its most European.
Prelude’s most ambitious track is lead single 살고있어 (I’m Living), and this provides the emotional punch to Emily’s engaging sound. It’s one of the album’s two songs in which Herz Analog sings, and he opens the track with Kim Dong-ryul-like depth. The track builds slowly, with the piano-led first verse taking a minute to complete and So Su-bin‘s followup taking about as long. The melody is predicated on small bouts of rhythm until this point, but the track abruptly turns to a sweeping duet when the song’s chorus appears for the first and last time. So leads, Huh echoes; the overlap in their rounds, combined with the breathless diffusing of synth strings and the hearty backup sound, makes for an electric atmosphere. It’s a similar technique to that in the final act of Taru‘s 여기서 끝내자 (Let’s End It Here), with much the same effects. It’s a tremendously emotional moment in an album that seems to avoid intensity. In fact, it’s the only such moment.
That eschewing of sharp emotion, the trend that he breaks in I’m Living, is the ultimate reason that Prelude sounds so run-of-the-mill. Low-intensity tracks can make a strong impression too, of course, but the songs that fill this EP do not have that effect. Even if the artist intended this (and I’m certain he did), from a listening perspective, it feels like the album could have tried to be more overtly emotional and been the better for it.
There are enough artists in the indie scene today who cover the most pleasant and easy-listening styles of pop. Even in this undistinguished release, I get the sense that Herz Analog has the ability and perhaps the will to pursue another end. And that potential makes the album seem incomplete. Then again, maybe that’s just the EP doing its job. Remember, this release is called “Prelude”…
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. Like Tiffany
2. 그땐 왜 몰랐었는지 (Why Didn’t I Know Then) – Vocals by Cha Se-jung of Epitone Project
3. 이마를 만지다 (Touching Your Forehead) – Vocals by Kang Hyun-joon
4. 살고있어 (I’m Living) – Duet with So Su-bin
5. 난 그런데 (I’m Like That) – Vocals by Kang Hyun-joon and Be Sweet
7. 내겐 그녀만 있으면 돼요 (She’s All I Need)
8. 이별을 걸으며 (Walking the Parting)
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the individual and not of hellokpop as a whole.
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