Secret Stories Heard From A Girl In An Opium Den
[Burnt Toast Vinyl; 03/06/2012]
Electronic Blues by a Seoul Art Collective
One way to guarantee that your band stays fresh is maybe to not be in a band at all. Byul.org started out and remains primarily an artist collective of designers, filmmakers, and artists. They do what artists collectives do best: drink, party, and put out a culture magazine — called Vampire Monthly, although it comes out more like yearly. Secret Stories Heard From A Girl In An Opium Den compiles a decade of work that until now had only been released as freebies with each issue.
With this backstory, you might think the album’s charm would be lost to those who listen to music sober. But Secret Storiesis the lightest, purest music I’ve heard in a minute. Now here’s the part where I try and fail to categorize it: the album isn’t exactly electronic, although there are plenty of spacey blips and synthesizer-made riffs. “Dool” does remind me of Aphex Twin at its least terrifying and most luminous.
Another influence is Mazzy Star — as if Hope Sandoval’s Mexican-American blues were reincarnated as fuzzed-out electronica, and then layered with Korean spoken dialogue. Neil Young guitar strums gird the bleary “Bleu Bulb Light” and a droning sitar loop holds together “Beer From Holland.” But it’s not all meandering atmospherics: the energetic “Pacific” is propelled by drum kit, and its 80s synthwave could be on the Drive soundtrack.
Byul.org have left off their most experimental work for this album, allowing their poppier tendencies to surface. But don’t expect 2NE1: “Bug Dance” is a Korean traditional trot song sung through a voice distorter. All in all, it’s a very satisfying debut, with a combination of iconoclasm and effortlessness that we don’t always see from K-music exports. Drinkers and partiers of Byul.org beware — with a record this strong, a career as a band might be in your future.
Watch the video to “Pacific” and join the festivities: