Quick Reviews: Soyou, Dongyang Gozupa, and Reddy & Year of the Ox

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Soyou – RE:FRESH

Release: October 4, 2018
Label: Starship Entertainment
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
Genre: Pop, dance

I think RE:FRESH is an improvement over December’s RE:BORN, but this second half of Soyou’s solo debut album is still a collection of easy-listening and mellow singles (written by a small army of producers – with a bit less star power this time) which seek to complement her understated, moody tone. It’s an improvement in the sense that tracks like “Funny” and “Shadows” bring some tension and excitement that was missing in the safe blandness of RE:BORN, the latter in particular coupling a satisfyingly rich blues setup with a tumultuous melody.

The EP also trades out some of the wintry softness for a little more edge, and that’s felt in moments like “Decrescendo”‘s chorus, which places a clashing note in the last note of each measure to chilling effect. The rest of the album is still too flat, but it is undeniably sleek, lavishly produced (particularly “All Night” – GroovyRoom shows off great touch in the stop-and-go brass and chorus rhythm), and filled with solid Soyou performances.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 까만밤 (All Night) (Feat. Sik-K)
    Written by JQ, Kang Eun-yoo, Mola, Lee Ji-won, Kim Jin (makeumineworks), Sik-K; composed by GroovyRoom and OREO; arranged by GroovyRoom
  2. 무덤덤 (Decrescendo)
    Written, composed, and arranged by Armadillo
  3. 너와 함께 (When I’m With You)
    Written, composed, and arranged by Davii
  4. Funny
    Written, composed, and arranged by Jung Ho-hyun ( and Seion
  5. 멀어진다 (Shadows)
    Written by Soyou and Yoo Jin-kyung; composed by Yoo jin-kyung and Jimin; arranged by Jehwi
  6. 잔다툼 (Little Moments)
    Written by Yoon Hyun-sang; composed and arranged by Yoon Hyun-sang and Soundhood

Dongyang Gozupa – 틈 (Gap)

Release: October 5, 2018
Label: Independent
Distributor: Monday Brunch
Genre: Classical crossover, instrumental rock

Less than a year after the disbandment of Danpyunsun and the Sailors, its bassist Choi Woo-young and percussionist Jang Do-hyuk join forces again. Yanggeum player Yoon Eun-hwa completes the lineup of the new crossover project Dongyang Gozupa, which (naturally) carries over the forceful energy of the Sailors’ acoustic-traditional jams. Choi’s oppressive bass pounds away with nary a rest, crowding the sound space all by itself, and Jang puts in intricate work on the cajon and elsewhere.

The addition is Yoon’s yanggeum, which is a melodic instrument that’s played more like percussion, and fittingly shows off an astonishing versatility: it produces frenetic trills in “Speed of Light” that double up on the rhythm, then turns around to sketch out a ponderous but gorgeous melody in “Rainbow” (the closest thing the EP has to a traditional piece). In title track “Gap”, the yanggeum casts a silky veil over the simmering main melody before launching into a low-pitch solo that would be right at home in acoustic rock – in effect replacing the guitar entirely. Gap is built on these creative compositions and heady atmospheres, and I hope to hear much more from this project going forward.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 검은 사막 (Black Desert)
    Written by Yoon Eun-hwa; arranged by Dongyang Gozupa
  2. 빛의 속도 (Speed of Light)
    Written by Choi Woo-young; arranged by Dongyang Gozupa
  3. 무지개 (Rainbow)
    Written by Choi Woo-young; arranged by Dongyang Gozupa
  4. 각각 (Each)
    Written by Jang Do-hyuk; arranged by Dongyang Gozupa
  5. 틈 (Gap)
    Written and arranged by Dongyang Gozupa
  6. 혼 (Soul)
    Written by Yoon Eun-hwa; arranged by Dongyang Gozupa

Reddy & Year of the Ox – eightyfivesoul

Release: October 5, 2018
Label: Hi-Lite Records
Distributor: Stone Music Entertainment
Genre: Hip-hop

Year of the Ox (Lyricks, JL) is a Korean-American hip-hop duo based out of Virginia, and eightyfivesoul is the second three-way collaboration between this team, Reddy, and producer UGP this year. The EP’s subject matter lies somewhere between boastful and aspirational, as the rappers trade verses over a no-frills atmosphere (the album cover is appropriate like that). We split time between boom-bap and ambience, but I particularly enjoy the simple addictive loop of “No More Parties” and Reddy’s effortless hook.

Otherwise there’s not a ton of lyrical or instrumental staying power to pair with the technical skill. Still, there are things to like about a laid-back production like this. There’s also a sense that they are communicating a bit over a language barrier, as Reddy writes mostly in Korean and YOX mostly in English – a bit closer to the Dumbfoundead and Epik High collabs than to MKIT RAIN – and that could be an interesting angle to explore further.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. No More Parties
    Written by Reddy, Lyricks, JL; composed by UGP and Reddy; arranged by UGP
  2. Knock Knock
    Written by Reddy, Lyricks, JL: composed by UGP and Lyricks; arranged by UGP
  3. Do It (Feat. G2)
    Written by Reddy, Lyricks, JL, G2; composed by UGP and Reddy; arranged by UGP
  4. Take It Slow
    Written by Reddy, Lyricks, JL; composed by UGP and Reddy; arranged by UGP

Album cover images from Bugs Music (1) (2) (3). Lyric translations by author.

Related writing: Soyou & Junggigo – Some (Song of the Year 2014), Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 동물 (Animal) (Album of the Year 2014), Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 연애 (Lover) (Song of the Year 2016), Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 뿔 (Shofar) (Runner-up Album of the Year 2016)

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