Byul.org - Nobody's Gold - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Byul.org - Nobody's Gold

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2018-11-23
Byul.org - Nobody's Gold
Byul.org - Nobody's Gold

To most in the West, the music of Korea is barely on the radar, some vague sense of an alternate world of megastars called K-Pop. But that's not all the nation have to offer musically. There's also a healthy avant-garde electronic scene, as evinced by groups like 3rd Line Butterfly and, in this case, Byul.org with their new album Nobody's Gold. First things first: this album is damn unpredictable. It's not just that it wanders through neighboring genres. It leaps around like a rabid panther. Whether that is something tolerable must be decided by the individual. It's tough to settle down into any particular mood, because it feels like two different decks of musical cards were shuffled together. And while both decks are nice, I question whether it could have worked better to group the different styles into clusters rather that having them intermixed.

The set opens with the utterly unnerving 'Lamb with a Wolf Mask', which screeches and moans like a dying amplifier. 'Museum of the Two of Us' continues in the same vein, with the final death of that amp fading away and a schizophrenic piano stumbling around in its place. The pair are pretty nightmarish, such that it's challenging to listen to them. After those two extremely abstract pieces of psuedo-ambient weirdness, suddenly a bubbly splash of electro pop appears in 'Nari Yuko Jin'. A driving, retro-futuristic synth line powers the track, and nicely vocoded vocals, a seeming trademark of the set, make their first appearance. The title track is a delightful slice of analog electronics, what you'd expect if the Future Sound of London and Raymond Scott had worked together: a psychedelic buggy ride on the Moon.

'My Black Jacket' is a brief piece of gauze wrapping sections of the album together, like a cross between a spa and a jazz lounge. Then there's the throwback alt-rock of 'Friendly Enemies', which amazingly might be the craziest song on the album, because I swear it sounds like Smashing Pumpkins in a calmer moment like 'Rhinoceros' or 'Luna'. And then the set fades right out again with 'The End of Metaphor', a minimalistic, sorta beautiful, sorta creepy, sorta piano-centric piece with odd warblings and bass burbles mixed in. It's like inspecting a dusty, long-abandoned old house with a different instrument in each room.

'Dirty Dirtiness' swings back to blunted synth pop loaded with hooks. I really wish I could speak Korean so I could sing along with the robotic voices. But then, yet again, on 'The Place Where Designers Go To Die', we're back in a nightmare. It's liked being locked in the closet of a spaceship that's crashing into the Sun: impending doom mixed with expansive voids. And the ping-ponging continues; 'Bean Tale' is a peppy, sweet tune propelled by skittering synths working in shifts and of course more of those vocoder specials. The competition is tight, but it could be the cutest song in the set.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that the next song goes back to the dark place, this time with a focus on huge, droning pads, eventually reaching an alarming crescendo that feels like being chased through virtual reality by a murderous android. There's a brief interregnum in 'Gangsters, Seoul' with a weird back and forth between a few different voices and an almost conversational synth, then a seemingly calm piece of pseudo IDM almost in the vein of someone like Deep Space Network, where it's not quite spacey and high tech, but more organic and leafy sounding. There's something bizarrely off-kilter here as well that keeps it from getting too monotonous. The album closes on a slightly flabby tune, 'Bats We Are'. It goes back to using a bit of guitar, but it doesn't quite capture the magic of 'Friendly Enemies'. It's more like a throwaway from obscure Dutch weirdos Bauer.

I'm struck by how many electronic luminaries of the West Byul.org manages to mimic. This is a lot like Kraftwerk in places, while in others, it's like Aphex Twin took too much ketamine. And it's such a difficult set. As times, it's completely charming, like an 80s electro-pop band, but at others it's standoffish and brooding. I want to love it, but it's not easy. Since the entire set is sung in Korean, I have no idea what the words mean, so I can't gauge how seriously they're taking themselves. On the other hand, I'm not sure knowing that would help. Still, it's definitely interesting, and worth listening to if you don't mind bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball.

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