This feature by Craig Clemens also ran in Spectrum Culture. You can check out their site here.
A lot of us have that friend, group of buddies, coworker, relative or whatever who you just seem to click with. You’ve been working so long beside them that things like, say, putting together Ikea furniture is magically an efficient and easy process. It’s not a soul-mate; it’s just someone that knows how to work alongside you. When you’re working together, you get the best out of one another.
The new LP from Seoul, I Become A Shade illustrates this perfectly. Friends since kindergarten, Nigel Ward, Dexter Garcia and Julian Flavin created this project, Seoul, in 2013 and created buzz shortly thereafter with their video for “Stay With Us.” After finding label support for this, their debut LP, the result is an album that captures this hazy, electronic but still driving indie-pop sound that seems so polished and effortless that it’s difficult to imagine them having any troubles putting it together.
Musically, there’s a lot going on here, transitioning from glitched out white noises into a disco-synth slow jam on “Haunt / A Light”, or the continued punchy sawtoothed dance track “The Line” that transitions nearly flawlessly into a hazy sort of woozy weed-smoke filled bridge before coming right back with the original feel – these guys, musically, are reminiscent of an art-house version of Chromeo, in the best possible way.
The cunning way this group moves through musical feels, sounds and time lends itself to the sort of nonchalance delivery of the vocals, however the big problem with this record is essentially that the vocals aren’t saying anything. Lines such as “I’ve been living in this miserable city again / Is it just me?” or “All night you lie away / It’s time / We take our own place,” have no context, tell no story and although its simplicity may bend itself back to the introspective nature of the group, it reads, and sounds, like meaningless, druggy sadness.
More and more as you listen though this record are you reminded of other artists and groups; this LP sounds so musically familiar that for a time you’re almost convinced of it’s beauty regardless of it’s ineffective lyrics. I’m reminded of another Montréal act, by way of New Hampshire, Khonnor, who about 10 years ago released his own debut LP, Handwriting to critical and semi-popular acclaim. The world was this mans oyster at the time, but a combination of callousness in his writing, sometimes pointlessness of his lyrics and endless changes of his moniker, he eventually faded away. His music, especially his debut LP, was a beautiful example of teenaged frustration put to mournful yet optimistic guitar loops and almost psychedelic static – but the lyrics meant nothing, Just stupid pubescent journal entries set to music. It seemed like just a waste for such a great album.
This debut LP from Seoul is a most defiantly a promising start for a group that, at times, sound like an amazing mix of sunshine and flowers behind a dark cloud of hazy synths, but great artists truly have something to say and until they find their voice and combine this great musical ability with something of substantial lyrical heft, they may be forever relegated to that artist that is put on to simply fill a sonic space and not to necessarily think about. These guys are too good to be resigned to this fate.