Posted on August 10, 2016
Electronic music’s following is growing. Its influence has spread so widely that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find songs without an electronic influence, though the genre itself has very niche origins. You can find it in many of the latest trends,, as EDM and club-based party culture seem to be at their zenith. To be fair, however, these electronic music trends in Korea did not happen out of nowhere. First, there was the techno boom in the late 90s. Then, in the early 2000s, at the start of the millennium, house music and music of the Japanese Shibuya-kei style became popular amongst Hongdae indie musicians. This ‘historical’ genre developed the idea that “Electronic Music means Club Dance Music” as it bloomed, though I don’t mean to imply that EDM and dance music are inferior to other genres of electronica. To create this music, you only need electronic instruments such as synthesizers and drum machines, so it’s characterized as lacking in rigidity and abounding in variability. Accordingly, I worry about the richness of the electronic music genre and that it’s merely following what’s popular, and therefore narrowed and shallow. Making this list out of concern, I would like to introduce some songs by Korean indie musicians which use various features of electronic music. The title says ‘Top 7’, but this does not refer to any ranking of recommendation, and the selected songs are based purely on my own taste.
If you are an indie music fan, the voice of Kwon Sun-wook, the vocalist of the band Achime (아침), would be familiar to you when listening to Byul Yang’s songs. Kwon Sun-wook is not the only name a fan might recognize as both Kim Soo-yeol and Lee Sang-kyu, who played drums and guitar in Achime, also got together in this three-piece electronica band. Having shown a preference for electronic music on Achime’s second album and in Kwon Sun-wook’s solo work ‘Bad Environment Couple’, they have begun in earnest to show their potential as an electronic pop group. From James Blake’s dub style to the kind of chillwave that’s likely to be playing in certain global fashion stores, they included many genres on their EP, giving the listener quite a bit to expect when they release their full album.
Flash Flood Darlings is a project by Korean producer Jay Song, who spent his childhood in New Zealand. This album is like a gift to anyone who loves electronic music. He shows off his various musical capacities including chillwave, synth pop, shoegaze, disco, etc. His voice is also disguised by the music and his elaborate melodies assist the listener in feeling his music with a deeper or more thorough sensation.
Trampauline, who started out as the one-woman band of Cha Hyo-sun, has been described as a so-called ‘hip artist’. However this album does not aim for mere ‘hip music’. The band is now a trio with Kim Na-eun on guitar and Jeong Da-young on bass. In addition, DJ Soulscape, who is a great Korean hip-hop artist and the icon behind ‘Digging’, participated as producer. Trampauline’s sound has become broader and their album feels sturdier. The bubbling synth pop sound has diminished, but the songs themselves became more colorful with an added disco and punk sounds.
There must be a lot of people wondering why I put this blues artist on this list. In fact, this ambiguous album is half electronic and half blues. Basic guitar riffs and Ha’s vocals and lyrics are the form of delta blues he’s always pursued; but a new electronic drum sound and analogue synthesizer arpeggio have been added. This album is very interesting and creative even though it feels somewhat perverse.
You may recognize the name ‘Yukari’ even if you haven’t heard of Aseul, though it’s the same person as Yukari changed her name when she released this album. Yukari was a singer-songwriter who wrote electronic-based melodic songs, but Aseul’s ‘New Pop’ is totally different from Yukari’s music. There is no catchy melody, and the beat is fast and erratic. It might seem like too much, but considering the ambitious title ‘New Pop’, it’s comprehensible.
“Kirara is pretty and strong. You dance.” Kirara includes this narration at the start of all her gigs. Like she says, Kirara’s music is based on house and backbeat, which are both danceable; however, it’s not immediately obvious from her songs. The sampling beats she uses in her songs are quite different from general house music, but If you listen to the whole mix, you will find yourself induced and dancing to the beat.
Seha Xin, who is making a name for himself on SNS like Instagram, is not just a stylish dresser, but also an electronic musician. The charm of his music is ‘concept-making’. He includes a raw synthesizer sound which has an 80s retro sound to it. The ‘popping’ snare in particular reminds one of 80s music. Its vibe is rather like Vogue and New Jack Swing got delivered to us straight from the 80s. I’m not sure if this album is just a good parody or if it is going to kick off an independent music era of itself, but I cannot deny that he is drawing a lot of attention nowadays.
Written By: J-Myon Kim
English Translation: Song Hee M. Roh
Editing: Rock N Rose