A new day means a new subset of bands to introduce of the 99 that made it through the first round of auditions for KBS band survival show Top Band 2. For commenting on batch twelve I have been joined by fellow Korean Indie editor Chris, Lightinthemind of Korean rock is real and Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castles. Feel free to share your own opinion in the comments!
Rock band Black Dogs formed in Hongdae in 2007, but have been on a hiatus because of members doing their mandatory military service. Now they’re making an attempt to start playing together again. The audition video was first shared through Daum’s video service in December 2007.
Black Dogs – “실종”
Anna: Trying to find a Facebook page for Black Dogs I quickly had to realize that it’s far from an original name. I also found it very bothersome to track down any additional videos of them, and when I finally found a website address it was of course on Cyworld so I couldn’t get any extra info out of it. I like what I’m hearing in the audition, but after realizing just how old the video is I’m wondering how serious these guys really are and suspect they aren’t really up for the part..
Chris: I don’t know what this band is trying to do. They’re playing a mixture of blues, rock, and a whole bunch of boring. The vocals range from attempted-metal to really repetitive triplets in the lytics. I think the genre they’re trying to play has either died or moved on.
Dahee: I’m also finding it impossible to find other videos of theirs. Damn name. And how ironic that the title of the audition song is “Disappearance.” It’s a shame, because I actually like the audition video. But it makes me wonder if this is the best that they can offer…
Lightinthemind: For sure can’t understand judges if they are watching only the audition song. How could they make a decision based on this? As for Black Dogs – nothing outstanding, nothing new, nothing intriguing. Next please.
Frida Kahlo belongs to the first generation of indie bands in Korea, having formed already in 1995 with the first album released in 1998. They released another album before going on a hiatus in 2000 but made a return in 2005 with a new bassist, focusing more on the folk elements of their music than their rock’n’roll sound as had previously been the case. With this second comeback only the vocalist and guitarist remains from the original lineup, but for the audition they are performing what appears to have been Frida Kahlo’s most popular song.
Frida Kahlo – “수줍은 아웃사이더”
Anna: Frida Kahlo was before my time so I can say very little about how big or relevant they really were in the 90s, but I do recall quite a few excited reactions when they made a comeback in 2005. I had to give it many listens, but eventually I warmed up also to those parts of their third album I hadn’t really enjoyed at first and so came to like and respect Frida Kahlo too. I actually don’t like the audition track, whether on one of the original albums or in this performance, but then I always preferred their not-so-rock songs more. Maybe Frida Kahlo never made themselves the name they deserved back in the days, but as interesting as it would be to see what they can achieve now I’m disappointed to see them in Top Band. On a side note I find it interesting that the new drummer is also a drummer in the new lineup of Moby Dick–another 90s band making a return in 2012 after an even longer hiatus.
Chris: Attempting a blues voice is impossible. You end up sounding like a jackass. You either have it or you don’t. Unless that singer smoked 5 packs a day and that’s the result, he needs to smoke 20 because I’m looking at one of the most boring audition videos ever. A frontman/vocalist needs to engage the viewer. Standing looking blank doesn’t make me want to listen.
Dahee: I guess I’m lucky to have never really paid Frida Kahlo that much attention, because if I were a hardcore fan I would be gnashing my teeth together right now (well, more than I am, anyway). (Must…not…start…ranting…again…) I really like what I’m hearing now, and am wondering why I never sat down to listen to them in earnest before. I do agree that the vocalist is a little annoying, though. And if they don’t get very far in this show, well, that’s pretty embarrassing…
Lightinthemind: Sorry, maybe I need to give them a listen several times but for now I’m just annoyed with everything in the audition song. Boring and quite confusing to hear this from the band being around since the 90s. The only hope goes to the competition where they’ll need to show all their skills. Maybe we’ll have a chance to listen something closer to previous days.
Clumsy formed a year and a half ago. All members sing and they go all acoustic when they can, though often have to rely on a keyboard rather than an actual piano while performing. Clumsy released two digital singles in 2011 but are auditioning with a new song.
Clumsy – “축구보다더”
Anna: I only learned of Clumsy the other week as I was preparing for a (yet to be completed) post on bands auditioning for this year’s Greenplugged. They struck me as the kind of band that could become very popular, especially with their harmonies, though I do think they need to train their voices more to avoid those occasional awkward vocal breaks.
Chris: Using a soapbox for percussion is stupid and hitting a cymbal barehanded hurts. Beyond that, I think the band makes decent music, but the performance itself looks very arrogant. It reminds me a lot of the mid-90s when these folk/blues/rock bands were popular in the US. Most of them are gone now.
Lightinthemind: Sorry, I see them just as another average indie band performing in the streets without much success. If they find a producer or company and will write a track for some sweet drama they’ll be very popular among Korean girls.
Dahee: Their name sounds familiar to me, but maybe I’m confusing them with a gazillion other bands I’ve passed on the street. They’re okay musically, but I personally find them to be rather boring overall. I mostly just feel the urge to toss them a coin and carry on with my life.
Korean folklore band Coreyah have their base in traditional Korean instruments and vocals, but on occasion fuses the sound with that of traditional instruments from other parts of the world. The band formed in 2010 and took home the grand prize at last year’s Indie Gugak concert. At the end of 2011 Coreyah released their first EP.
Coreyah – “돈돌라리요”
Chris: Coreyah are playing it safe. They’re using traditional instruments to make pseudo-folk music. That’s all good, but that’s kind of boring. There’s really nothing amazing in what they’re doing because they’ve created songs that follow recognized rhythms and arrangements. I think it’s great that they’re doing something kind of original, but there was so much more potential with that many members and that many instruments. Jambinai should have been an influence to explore different sounds rather than play music I hear in the subway on my commute to work.
Anna: After listening to Jambinai it takes a lot to consider any other use of of traditional Korean instruments particularly innovative, but even so I think Coreyah are doing a pretty decent job with what they’re trying to accomplish. I appreciate that they’re re-using familiar traditional elements, the vocal technique in particular, in this manner and can’t recall having heard anything similar coming out of Korea before so I think they may have a future touring internationally as some sort of Korean world music act. I’ve heard that musicians going the traditional-yet-non-traditional route are often viewed with suspicion by other traditionally schooled musicians in Korea, which is why I was particularly excited to learn that there even was something like indie gugak.
Lightinthemind: Am I apologizing in this post quite oftenly? Not? Then again sorry. I can’t even imagine my condition to listen to this for a long time. I’d better go for a traditional musician’s concert than to this.
Dahee: While I am all for the idea of mixing Korean traditional instruments with a more modern sound, this is just…odd. There are flashes when I’m like, “Oh, this sounds kind of cool,” and other times when I’m like, “What be this tomfoolery?”. So much lost potential here. At any rate, I highly doubt that they will make it past the next round of auditions, so I feel little incentive to try to understand exactly what they’re trying to do.