Lee Sora (이소라)
Mnet Media, 2008
Woman knitting a lace
Lee Sora’s new album features Kim Mingyu, Lee Hancheol, Jeong Sunyong, Kang Hyeonmin, Lee Gyuho and so forth. The previous Eyebrow Moon 눈썹달 (2005) featured Kang, Kim, Lee Seunghwan (The Story), Lee, and Jeong Jaehyeong. These names are overlapping or at least giving a certain common impression. They make us to guess the nature of melodies of the record to a degree.
Of course, we can find among these names those who have gone all the way together from Sora’s Diary (2002). But what is between Sora’s Diary and Eyebrow Moon is what is between arithmetic and quantum physics. With Eyebrow Moon, Lee Sora established herself among privileged female vocalists, side by side with Looking Away 바라본다 (1988)’s Han Young-ae, who do not necessarily write songs and melodies but wield complete control of their music (Of course, she wrote all the lyrics and produced). thus her seventh regular album, lacking title and track list, is her sophomore album as Lee Sora ‘the artist.’
The first impression is, it is experimental. But what counts as experimental for a pop artist? Strange sound? Rule-breaking lyrics? At least in this album, it is a self-consciousness about (the process of) music-making. Track 1 and 4 are collages. They juxtapose sound-like-demo singing and dialogs during the recording (Track 1) and different composers’ tunes (Track 4). Track 12 and 13 ‘reprise’ the title track, Track 3, and then return to ‘intro’: here she lets the title track be sung by composers’ casual singing, and repeats the ‘intro’ in a ‘crude’ sound quality. These are ‘betraying (the raw)’ rather than ‘(cleanly) hiding’. The track titles are left empty although they have pictures. As the process of creation is revealed, audience is led to take their parts in it (Some track titles are said to be picked up through public submission). The second impression of the album, which is looseness, comes from these.
The reason why these do not seem a bluff or the excess of self-consciousness is that other parts of the album are really delicately and evenly weaved together. This is the third impression of the album, which last the longest. Tunes move graciously between the triangle punctuated by acoustic, electric and electronic. Track 3 and 8 have a attractive hook; Track 5 brings about cute chaos with hazy electronic sound and clear electric guitar; and the most impressive Track 11, which sounds like a response to “Dune” (in Eyebrow Moon), bridges the last and present albums. In terms of the ‘flow’, this is better: while Eyebrow Moon revealed a wide gap between killers and fillers, the new album keeps dropping nice tunes throughout. Considering that one chronic problem in Korean popular music is the lack of enduring power, this is exceptional.
Fans who were immersed in the dark blue sentiment of Eyebrow Moon might feel the new album ‘too much light, warm and bright’. But it is not light but stripped-down; not warm but not-that-cold; and not bright but clear-of-darkness. Many expected her to show her ecstatic tragic drama of hysterically and spectacularly pounding her forehead into the wall of sound. But the game has just begun. The goal for the one who reached the bottom of ‘the tragic’ might be to treat ‘drama’ without being buried in ‘the tragic’. Lee Sora finally seems to stand outside her own tragedy. Now she brought one of the most beautiful pop albums of the year 2008. This album will not be forgotten in the next winter or in the winter after. Hope global warming doesn’t take too much of the joy provided by this album.
p.s. The review title is from the Korean title of Pascal Laine’s novel, La Dentelliere (Bookie, 2008).
* Originally written in Korean and published in [weiv] at December 24, 2008.
* Related sites
Lee Sora’s homepage