Casker #3: Between

Casker: Between CD cover(Lupin Records, December 2006)

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Review by Jenny Wu

Casker consists of vocalist, Lee Yoong Jin, and producer / composer / arranger / DJ Lee Juno. While their previous albums are just as fantastic, I think their third is a lot better-rounded. There’s a heavier concentration on vocals in this album than their previous albums which concentrated more on beats and kept vocals at a minimum. I don’t know why though… because the Lee Yoong Jin is a wonderful vocalist. Depending on the song, her voice has the ability to morph from soft & sweet to sassy to other-worldly… but they’re always classy. You want great vocals? Check. You want groovy electronic beats? Check. You want low-key bossa nova style tunes? Check. It’s got a bit of everything. Not only is the album very well-rounded, it’s also a lot more accessible to the average k-pop listener in terms of sound than their previous two… which might explain why I fell in love with these guys only after this release. I guess my ears are more in tune with polished sounds rather than raw, abstract sounds.

Casker

No track on this album should be skipped in order to fully appreciate this album. That is why I’m going to cover every single track in this review.

The album starts of with ‘Nuevo Cancion,’ a short intro best described as a mixture of fresh rainfall, guitar strumming, and cat meowing. It sounds odd, but it sparked my interest… Suddenly I found myself immersed in the second track, ‘Inhyeong’ (인형) which can be summed with two words: ‘mellow siesta,’ the same words that appear in the description of their homepage. That’s exactly what this is. They make great use of the accordion in this song as well as throughout the rest of the album. Who knew accordions could sound so good?

After mellowness comes excitement. The third track, ‘Gamyeon’ (가면) is probably the catchiest and most techno-influenced track on the album. If techno music were beer, this song would be wine. Very smooth and slick beats. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks.

I mentioned earlier that Yoong Jin’s vocals are chameleon-like. Tracks #4, ‘Modeun Toyoil’ (모든 토요일) and #6, Jeongjeongi (정전기) are prime examples. Slick and futuristic vocals in the previous track give way to soft and dreamy vocals to match the mood of these two bossa-nova inspired tracks.

Might I add that the person who created the tracklist is a genius? You always get something different with each track. Similarly styled songs are never placed back to back. In between all the dreaminess of #4 and #6 is the frenetic ‘Nabi buin’ (나비부인) (MV below). Lee Juno is at his best here with the mixing.

Of course, with the genius tracklisting, you can expect that after the madness of ‘Nabibuin’, comes cool calmness. Track #7, ‘Dal’ (달) which is engulfed in a very lounge-y, mellow atmosphere… yet it’s also slightly creepy with it’s lyrics, ‘I’m watching you…’ The slow and deliberate beats only add to the ominous feel of the whole song.

Next up are some party beats with #8 Night People – a very sassy yet sophisticated song. Track #9, ‘Nu’ features rapper Kjun. This is the closest you’ll come to hip hop on this album. Despite Kjun’s added vocals, this song is still very Casker-like in style with it’s eclectic mix of beats.

The album slows down once again with track #10, ‘Malhal Su Eomneun Iyagi’ (말할 수 없는 이야기) which is reminiscent of #7 minus the eeriness. The slow, slick beats continue with track #11, ‘Soul:Free’ which is sung entirely in English. Each track flows effortlessly into the next… and you begin to relax. Perhaps Yoong Jin and Juno’s goal is to hypnotize listeners into deep sleep? Track #12, ‘Huyu’ (í›„ìœ ) twinkles with soft, whispery vocals delicate sounds… it just might lull you into sleep with a stupid grin on your face if you’re not careful.

We started with rain, we’ll end with rain. Track #13, ‘Mangbuga’ (망부가 (忘夫歌)) presents more interesting beats and wraps things with the subtle hum of fresh rainfall as the song fades out.

‘Between’ is just an incredible album. Clazziquai is the closest comparison I can come up with in describing Casker’s sound. But even then, I think they’re very different. They’re just too unique. People looking to try something different (but not too different) should check out Casker. I could lounge around all day listening to their stuff.

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Originally posted in Jenny’s blog Gravity, and reproduced with permission.

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