Through the Eyes of a DJ – 5 Must-Hear Korean Albums
I have been a long time reader of Wax Poetic magazine which introduces fresh, good, undiscovered and hard-to-find kind of records in my favorite genres like hip hop, funk, jazz and soul. Especially, I love the “Records Rundown” section that they have in every single issue. It basically introduces albums picked by famous DJs or producers and tells briefly what that album is about. They have been not only interesting for me but also useful and informative as well. I believe there are people who would like to find out what is good in the Korean music scene other than the overwhelming flood of music from the K-pop (idol music) scene. This is my first time writing for ATK magazine, so I would like to write about 5 must-hear Korean albums picked by me that you also might be interested in (in no particular order).
1. Garion (가리온) – Garion (가리온) (2004)
This actually changed a lot of things in Korean music scene. B-boying, rap, clubs, clothing, kind of (sub) culture, you name it. So many cultural changes have happened because of Garion’s appearance with this album. Like when 1994 was the US hip hop golden era, when Garion came out with this album, that was Korean hip hop golden era. Hongdae (the most hip street in Seoul in general) at that time was full of hip hop, not like these days. Every club played hip hop saying ‘supporting underground!’ or something similar. Garion was right in the middle of this phenomena. I’ve listened to this album more than a couple hundred times for sure and I’m still listening. Not only are their beats so good (mostly produced by JU who now seems to have disappeared somehow), their lyrics were abstract like A Tribe Called Quest (in US hip hop) so they are on another level compared to others in the Korean rap scene at that time. It’s meaningless to pick one track in their album but try this.
Garion (가리온) – Old Story (옛 이야기)
*For those who want to buy this album, I tried to find it on iTunes but nothing (!?).
2. Asoto Union (아소토 유니언) – Sound Renovates A Structure (2004)
They established the truth that pure underground funky sound can be loved by the public. This album sounds more like it came straight from one of those Philadelphia or Detroit funk bands. But they didn’t forget to add a Korean feeling in there. Funky and skateboarding kind of street spirits can be heard throughout the whole album along with an addictive sexy vocal. It’s really hard to find well-made funk albums throughout the whole of Korean music history. This team broke up right after this album but still their members are doing steady groovy music under WindyCity and Funkafric&Booster. Still they are the best funky, groovy sounds representing Korea.
Asoto Union – Think about’ Chu
*If you want to buy it, you can this album on YesAsia.
3. Han Sang Won (한상원) – Funky Station (1998)
This was impossible. This guy Han Sang Won was just another guy like us. Working a daytime job and doing music as a hobby after work. I remember back in the late 1990’s when there was almost no internet but old-school modems as known as 피씨통신. Me and my buddies from an online music forum used to chat over the 피씨통신 so we knew this guy was working on his album so hard, A to Z by himself. It’s really hard needless to say and requires vast amounts of knowledge, not only about composing but also about sound engineering. He never promoted his album so he only sold his album to people who knew him and to those who asked him to sell it by 피씨통신 like me (He directly sent his CD to my address). 300~400 albums sold the first year. But now what? This album is being referenced by so many Korean funk music people and sound engineers. It’s perfectly well-made sounds just like legendary Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. He still produces music for various artists in Korea such as Monday Kidz (먼데이 키즈), Bada (바다), IU (아이유), T-ara (티아라) to name a few. Interesting thing is, this guy took a music video for his track in Toronto while he stayed in Toronto.
Han Sang Won(한상원) – Your Greed(너의 욕심)
*Too old school to find digital download link.
4. DJ Soulscape – 180g Beats
Park Min Jun (박민준), known as DJ Soulscape (also know as Espionne) is my DJ hero. I used to go this guy’s party (called 360 Party) every month in Hongdae (홍대), Apgoojeong (압구정) and Itaewon (이태원). In his early career (mid-late 1990s), this guy is deeply related to Garion in terms of pioneering Korean underground culture. DJ Soulscape started his musical career as a hip hop DJ with Garion-like hip hop crews. A few years later, he founded his own record label – 360 Sounds – and started supporting Korean sub-culture, with everything from clothing to the music business. He has been introducing fresh music to Korean people since the 1990s. Soul, funk, Afro jazz and hip hop. I am one of those who was strongly influenced by Soulscape too. Due to him, I started to dig deeper into soul, jazz and 3rd world music. Another noteworthy thing is he always uses only real 12 inch and 7 inch vinyl records for DJing, which means he is trying to keep originality. Maybe you don’t understand why he doesn’t use a laptop for DJing but I fully respect what vinyl DJs are doing. These days, it’s really time-consuming to find records that I need so it’s hard to not use a laptop for DJing but sometimes I want to DJ with only vinyls. Anyway, this is a monumental album in the Korean music scene. Picked up by the list “100 Korean Classic Albums All Time” along with above 3 albums. I will introduce you to one track from this “180g Beats” album and also his one hour mix that introduces Korean rare old funk stuff. These sounds are so analogue.
DJ Soulscape – Candy Funk
and his Korean old funk mix on SoundCloud.
*This album is all sold out everywhere.
5. Jinbo (진보) – KRNB
This guy is a super freak. Jinbo the Superfreak is his artist name, really. He has a tendency to have experimental sounds in his productions but he also does know how to satisfy the public. This album “KRNB” was released for free a few months ago and is about revisiting K-pop such as Gee by SNSD, I need you girl by Taeyang and a little bit of old K-pop like Seo Tai Ji and Kim Gun Mo.
Jinbo is doing a solo musical career now but at the same time he associates with the 360 Sounds’ cultural movement.
You can download his free released KRNB album here.
Jinbo – Damn (Gee by SNSD revisited)
**All photos are from Maniadb.com**
– JAYBE –
Jaybe is one of our new writers and a DJ. Stay tuned for his bio and upcoming articles introducing Korean music.