Review by Jenny Wu
(CJ Music, May 2007)
When I first laid my ears on this album, all I could think was, “what loveliness!”
Indie bands often fall into the trap of blandness when they take themselves too seriously. I have little patience when it comes to dull tunes. Thankfully, I found no such problem with Donawhale’s debut album. Their music is light, dreamy, and slightly eccentric without ever dipping over into the ‘boring’ category.
The album opens with ‘Close Your Eyes,’ putting me on an otherworldly high. The gentle female vocals seem to echo from a distance creating a dreamlike ambiance. The second track, ‘Hole’ starts off slowly but the song escalates and spreads in volume with it’s expertly controlled drumming. It’s a bit noisier with the heavy drumming and clashing cymbals, but like all their songs, it still maintains a dreamy lightness to it.
Another highlight of this album is track #4 ‘Echo.’ I can’t decide whether to crown ‘Close Your Eyes’ or ‘Echo’ as my favorite song of the album. It starts with caution, but once the second half of the song kicks in, it’s pure love. It’s makes me feel as though I’m being transported to a whole different world.
Those who are fans of the Korean pianist, Yiruma will undoubtedly enjoy the instrumental track #5 ‘Bioneun Bam.’ It’s simply amazing. The story behind the song is that rainy nights will eventually give way to clear morning skies. The romantic (and never flashy) style of this piece just screams ‘Yiruma.’ It would be all too easy to trick someone into thinking this was Yiruma piece if they didn’t know any better. My only complaint is that it feels more like an interlude than a full-blown track at 2 minutes and 21 seconds long.
I was introduced to Donawhale through the next song, ‘Spring Day’ which was first released on ‘Cracker,’ a Korean manhwa soundtrack featuring a huge line up Pastel (label) artists including Misty Blue, Swinging Popsicle (a recent favorite of mine), Bluedawn, and Tearliner, just to name a few. I’m so happy that I gave this album a try because honestly, ‘Spring Day’ did not catch my attention at all. It’s a nice piano lullaby, but that’s about it (see for yourself at Orienkorean’s YouTube channel).
I’m gonna make this post shorter by skipping to the good stuff. Track #9 ‘Akasia,’ like ‘Hole’ is a bit louder than the usual Donawhale song but it maintains a certain airiness that defines the band’s sound. There’s a lot of tinkering with synthesizers in ‘Akasia’ that makes me feel like I’m speeding through time and space. Their music is like a mixture of new age sounds with light alternative rock. A large majority of their songs are like that actually.
The album closes with Jelly Boy remix of ‘Echo.’ The remix doesn’t change the original melody too much. Instead, it blends some electronic elements within the original to create a new song. I’m surprised that I like this remix so much because I’ve tried Jelly Boy and decided that I’m not a big fan. His stuff is either a hit or a miss.
With such a solid debut, Donawhale holds a lot of promise. Give Donawhale a listen if you’re into soft pop or indie rock with an otherworldly touch. They’re not for everyone because their music will totally escape you at first listen if you don’t give it your full attention. This album may take time to appreciate, but with it’s calming effect, it’s the perfect CD to spin after a long stressful day at school or work.
This review originally appeared in Jenny’s own blog, Gravity, and is reproduced with permission